Negev Desert
David Ben Gurion's dream was to populate the Negev...

The Negev desert is the southernmost region of Israel occupying a great portion of the whole country. It stretches from the coastal plains on the west and the Judean Mountains on the East, all the way south to Eilat Israel on the shores of the Red Sea.

In Hebrew, the word Negev comes from the root of the word dry. It is a correct name, since it has an arid and semiarid climate. The annual rainfall is very low and the vegetation is according to the temperatures and dryness of the desert.

The landscapes of the Negev Desert are a surprise to the visitors

There are several areas in which the Negev Desert is divided


  • Northern Negev – This is a Mediterranean zone with around 350 mm of annual rain. It is mostly inhabited and you will see how green it is.
    When you hear how Israel converted the desert into agricultural fields, this is the place to look for. The area is full with Kibbutzim and Moshavim surrounded by town and cities.

  • Western Negev
    With only 250 mm of rain it has many sand dunes, some of them as high as 30 meters.This portion runs parallel to the Egyptian border to the west.

  • Central Negev
    This is the area where the city of Beer Sheba is located. It is more arid than the northern region. The area is very dry because the soil does not retain the water causing much erosion. When there are big rains, the water runs down the wadis (dry rivers) and seldom stays to fertilize the area.

  • Ramat Ha Negev
    In English the High Plateau with altitudes ranging from 300 to 600 meters above Sea level. Temperatures are extremely different between day and night.
  • Arava Valley
    This is a valley running along the Jordanian border from the tip of the Dead Sea in the north to the city of Eilat in the south.
    The area is very arid and only the courage and work intensity of the local farmers, and the use of irrigation and soil additives, have been able to achieve some green areas and progress in the agricultural fields. The Arava Products are consumed all over the world and Israel.
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The Sapir Park on the Arava Valley on the way to Eilat

Ben Gurion's Dream

Now you see why Israel has become a world leader in desert irrigation and cultivation. Many techniques have been introduced worldwide.

Comes to mind the irrigation by dripping that saves water and goes direct to the area that wants to be cultivated. David Ben Gurion, the father of the country, Israel’s first Prime Minister had a dream that the Negev will be fully populated.

Even though he himself set the example by moving to Sde Boker in the Negev with his wife Paula, the Negev is still barely populated. There is a trend now to go and live in the Negev. The possibilities of young and retired couples to live with a lower budget are much higher than those in the Central regions of Israel.

The Negev Foundation actively promotes any new developments in agricultural in order to promote new settlement in the Negev.

Not all is dry here. In the spring you may see this field of Kalaniot

The Makhteshim – Crater like formations

  • Ramon Crater
    In Hebrew, Makhtesh Ramon is the largest of the three Makhteshim in the Negev. Those are geological formations, some of them with no equals anywhere in the world. The Ramon natural Reserve comprised of the crater and the surrounding mountains is the largest nature reserve in Israel.

  • Makhtesh Gadol
    In English the large Crater, is the second largest of the five Makhteshim in Israel. There are a total of seven in the world.

  • Makhtesh Katan
    In English the small crater is the third largest of the five. They are all considered to be the Israeli version of the Grand Canyon in the USA.

The renowned Machtesh Ramon Crater a unique natural formation

The Bedouins

What used to be nomadic tribes through millennia are starting to be less nomadic and settle in permanent villages and small towns.

In Israel’s Negev the examples are Rahat, the largest Bedouins settlement in Israel and the only one considered a city; Tel As Sabi founded in 1968 as part of the government’s efforts to settle the Bedouins in towns and Lakiya, home of the Lakiya Waiving Rugs.

The Bedouins are Israeli citizens and many serve in the army. A pre-arranged visit to one of the Bedouins settlements is an unforgettable experience.

Hospitality and welcoming visitors is part of their culture. The visit may include having coffee in their company and even meals and entertainment.

Israeli Bedouins of the Negev are an integral part of the State of Israel
Honoring those serving in the Israel Defense Forces

Beer Sheba, the Capital of the Negev Desert

This is one of the top ten cities in Israel. It is mentioned in the Bible since the times of Abraham. Today it’s a thriving city home to Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka Medical Center.

The last two decades have seen an important growth of Beersheba due to flocks of immigrants mainly from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. But Beer Sheba is actually a melting pot. As you walk the streets you may hear as many languages as in the Tower of Babel.

Eilat is becoming the main Riviera on the Red Sea

Eilat Israel

Everyone remembers the first trip to Eilat. After a long drive through the Negev desert and the Arava, when one finally sees the red mountains and the waters of the Red Sea it is such an unforgettable view.

But if it is summer and you come with an air conditioned vehicle, the moment you open the door is also unforgettable. The hot temperature of 40 C sometimes hits you as a slap in the face. Then you get used and you see that it was worth the drive or flight, because Eilat is just divine.

I hope that one day Ben Gurion’s dream will be fulfilled and the Negev Desert will be highly populated with lots of wild areas and many cities.

Image Credits:
negev mountain by alon strasman
kalaniot field by yehuda elimelech
sapir park by avishai teicher
machtesh ramon by avi yotham
eilat beach by avishai teicher
israel bedouins by idf

All courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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