The land expanse from Beer Sheva to Eilat forms the Negev Desert triangle. The north and northwestern region may have limited rainfall but are excellent for agriculture and support many of the farms, whether the kibbutz collective type or the semi-collective moshav style most of which were established over the past 60 years. During winters with average rainfall or beyond one can watch the greening of the parched fields. We recommend visiting this area on your next trip to the Holy Land.
About half of the area of Israel is desert. There are two deserts in the country: The small one, is known as the Judean Desert, is created by the mountain ridge of the Judean Hills while the second and much larger desert, the Negev, is the main desert of Israel. It covers all of the southern half of the country, and it is part of the worldwide deserts expanses which are found around the 30 degrees latitude north and south of the equator.
Today, the ancient city of Beer Sheva is a thriving city with some 200,000 residents and serves as the Negev capital. The city boasts the Soroka Medical Center, Ben Gurion University and a well developed industrial infrastructure. Sixty years ago, immediately after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence this former Bedouin trading post town was earmarked for major development by Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion who believed the Negev was the gateway to the future success of the Jewish State. Much of the massive immigration of the 1950s, in particular Jews from Arab/Muslim countries settled in and developed the town. Through the 1970s and again in the 1990s Russian Jews arrived as did Ethiopians in the last two decades.
Places to visit:
Tel Arad is an ancient archaeological site located near Beer Sheva in Israel. This historical mound holds the remnants of a Bronze Age Canaanite city and later, an Israelite fortress. The site boasts well-preserved structures, including a temple complex with two distinct chambers, thought to be used for worship.
Sde Boker – Kibbutz home of Israels first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion who worked the earth with his own hands to fulfill his dream of making the desert bloom. He and his wife, Paula, are buried on the kibbutz grounds. Visit the gravesite and loo out over the expansive breaks in the rock that form the Zin Valley.
Ein Avdat National Park – beautiful desert canyon hike
Ancient Avdat – a UNESCO World heritage site, is was a strategic Nabatean site along the ancient spice trading route
Tel Beer Sheva – a UNESCO World Heritage site, Tel Beer Sheva features a 3,000 year old settlement including an advanced water system, an ancient well and many other important antiquities like hewn-stone alter and 200 foot deep cistern.
Mizpe Ramon – the home of Israel’s largest crater, or machtesh. This crater developed as a result of an unusual geological process where erosion caused the collapse of heavy limestone that covered the softer sandstone underneath. There are only six in the world and three of them are in Israel. The crater is 40 km long, between 1 and 15 km wide and over 500 meters deep. Jeep rides, desert biking, rappelling, stargazing, desert hospitality are some of the many activities that can be arranged in and around Mizpe Ramon
Nahal Hauverim – one of the most popular desert hikes, this walk is particularly impressive on a full moon. Go with a private guide, good walking shoes and well equipped with head flashlights.
Ein Afek – a beautiful water spring deep in the Zin valley. This is a lovely hike (4 – 5 hours by foot to get there or, go by desert jeep).
Hatzerim Air Force Museum – This open air museum tells the story of Israel’s elite Air Force.
Ilan Ramon Visitors Center – located on the edge of the Ramon crater, the center tells lan Ramon’s story about his service in the Air Force, through his training with NASA and ending with the tragic crash of the Columbia shuttle on Saturday, February 1, 2003. The visitors center at Mitzpe Ramon tells Ramon’s story alongside the story of the unique geological crater known as Mitzpe Ramon Ilan Ramon’s son, Captain Assaf Ramon, who followed in his fathers footsteps and graduated the Air Force flying course with honors, is also commemorated within the center. He lost his life as well during a training flight. His plane crashed on Mount Hebron. The visitor center offers numerous photos, as well as large replicated model of the Columbia shuttle.
The visitor center over looks the beautiful desert landscape and attracts travelers passing through the area on their way to Eilat and back or who may be visiting the city as part of rest and relaxation at one of the hotels in the area.
Kornmehl Farm – Family owned dairy is known for its cheeses, and its lovely restaurant.
Nana Winery – This boutique winery is situated in Mizpe Ramon and is well worth a visit.
Carmey Avdat Winery – This family owned winery is situated just north of Mizpe Ramon.
Ramat Negev Winery –boutique winery located in Sde Boker, next to the Kedma hotel.
Be’ersheva is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Genesis of the Hebrew Scriptures (Tanakh) where Abraham and Isaac dug wells and formed alliances by oath with the Philistine King Avimelekh. Seven sheep were set aside, hence the term “beer” meaning “well” and “sheva” which is the same root for “oath” and “seven”. Other references to Beer Sheva are made throughout the Biblical narrative.
Eilat and the Negev Desert:
One traverses the entire Negev from north to south arriving at Eilat (pop. 47,000), Israel’s southern port city on the Red Sea established in the mid-1950s and serving as the gateway to Africa and the Far East. Eilat is mentioned in the Bible, and in particular the region was known for the development of Etzion-Geber, King Solomon’s southern port whose archeological remains straddle the border region with Jordan. The port was used by later conquerors of the Land of Israel. Situated between the Elot Mountains and the sea, one can go hiking north of the city, take a boat ride, swim and scuba dive or enjoy the hotel and night life in this seaside resort.
There are three major makhteshim or “craters” with wonderful hiking paths as exist throughout much of the Negev. Development towns established in the 1950s are scattered throughout the landscape in especially in the north with Sderot, Netivot and Ofakim situated between Beer Sheva and the Gaza Strip while Arad, Dimona and Yerucham are to the east. In the south central Negev overlooking Makhtesh Ramon we find Mitzpe Ramon. Except for the mainly agricultural communities lining the Arava highway bordering Jordan there is little human habitation from Mitzpe to Eilat as rainfall drops to several centimeters annually and summer temperatures soar to 40 – 44 degrees centigrade (104 – 111 degrees Fahrenheit).
Places to visit:
Timna National Park- Located 25 km to the North of Eilat, this National Park has been mined since 5th century BCE for copper. There are both archaeological sites and great hikes to walk. Just be sure to bring enough water!
Machtesh Ramon- The world’s biggest machtesh- or “valley surrounded by steep walls and drained by a single wadi” (jewishvirtuallibrary.com) . It is 25 miles long and 5 miles wide at its longest point. Located by the city of Mitzpe Ramon, this site is a must see.