Israel’s very own Painted Desert


As you travel around Israel, you are bound to pick up some sweet souvenirs, the best ones being the ones you either make with your own hands or dig from the Holy ground yourself.


Here in the Negev we have the Makhtesh HaGadol, the Big Makhtesh, our own version of the American Southwest’s Painted Desert, with its gorgeous, colorful sandstone walls. You already know what a makhtesh is from my previous post about the Makhtesh HaKatan


This Big Makhtesh is found in the mountain range adjacent and a little to the west of the Small Makhtesh, and is, true to its name, the bigger of the two.


The drive into the Makhtesh (thanks to the College of Wooster’s Geology Department) is quite spectacular, as one enters this gigantic basin with its colorful walls.


These hills, created hundreds of millions of years ago by ancient rivers that deposited their quartz and feldspar laden silt, have been eroded through time and now bare their colorful sands to us. The oxide concentration in the sand changes their color; green, orange, purple, white, red, yellow and tan are among the most prevalent.


My favorite site is the Colored Sands, where visitors collect sands of different colors and create for themselves a fun, handmade souvenir to take home. This is especially fun for the youngsters, but also great for the young at heart!


For 2 shekels (about 60 cents), a local entrepreneur will sell you an empty glass bottle out of his ice cream truck. You can then spend a good hour or more walking the hills in search of just the right colorful sand combination for your painted-sand art project. If you bring a straw or a small funnel, you can combine colors and designs in a delightful pattern. When done, that same ice cream seller/ glass bottle vendor will seal your masterpiece with some clay and you’re done.


From here you may also depart on a couple of lovely hikes to the rim of the makhtesh, choosing the easier hour long walk or the more challenging three hour trek.


If rest and food is what you desire after your adventure in the painted sand hills, you may lounge in the shade of a tree or partake of a packed lunch at one of the picnic tables.


All in all, a fun way to spend some time in our very own Painted Desert.