Pundak 101, referred to as “Kushi’s 101 Km” by most Israelis, is a peculiar roadside attraction with a rich history and unique founder. Just 101 km from the popular city of Eilat, former Israeli Defense Force commando, Shimon “Kushi” Rimon, opened this pit stop in 1981.
Notoriously known among locals as a war hero gone rogue, Kushi once served in Unit 101 (a special forces crew commanded by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon). After his service, Kushi had a run-in with the law when he was arrested on drug charges in Germany.
Upon his release, he ventured back to Israel. Local legend says Kushi pitched a tent in the middle of nowhere and dreamt of building a home and a desert retreat.
At first, Kushi opened an inn. But quickly he started expanding the grounds. An amphitheater, spa, and swimming pool were built—turning the lonesome inn into the retreat Kushi dreamed it would become. The retreat was open to all, and any travelers taking the Arava Highway could easily stop and explore the unique destination.
Today, Pundak 101 is open 24 hours. It offers restrooms, a restaurant, dated arcade games, sculptures, and most famously a small zoo. From guinea pigs to peacocks, this eccentric collection of animals is enough to spark any visitor’s curiosity and make them feel as if they might be hallucinating from the heat.
Sadly, an electrical fire almost destroyed the reptile exhibit in recent years. But Kushi rebuilt and expanded the exhibit which still stands today, even adding newly built wooden cabins and a flower garden.
Visitors can pick up an ice cream, roam around at their leisure, and marvel at this strange site as long as they wish. One might even see the legend himself, as it is believed that Kushi still lives on the premises.