When in Israel for the first time, or the second, or fifth, one tends to visit the same ol’ places: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Safed, Caesaria… and there is nothing wrong with that. Great places, wonderful experiences.
However, I invite you to begin exploring a truly extraordinary region, a desert unique in its beauty, its geology, wildlife, history and increasing importance in facing today’s global challenges… the Negev.
Monotheism and the Jewish People were born in the Negev when Abraham chose to settle here so many years ago. The Israelites wandered through on their way from bondage in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. The nomads crisscrossed these rocky sands, so did the Nabateans with their incense-laden, camel caravans journeying from southern Arabia to the shores of the Mediterranean. The Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the founding fathers of the early Christian Church, hermit monks in search of God…
Today the Negev is a desert region that encompasses almost two thirds of Israel’s land area and includes cities, towns, kibbutzim, communities, farms, Jews, Arabs and Bedouins, a world class university and colleges, desert studies and agricultural research centers, military facilities, and industrial parks.
It is an arid and semiarid, rocky desert of breathtaking beauty, incredible landscapes, fascinating ancient cities and archaeology, unique geological formations… but don’t only take my word for it.
Lonely Planet, the world famous travel magazine, picked the Negev as the second most desirable world region to visit for 2013. They write:
”Look closely between the rocks of the wadis (valleys) and you will find water and even wine. The Negev Highlands region is also home to so many vineyards that it now has its own wine route. Today, ecologists from all over the world come to the kibbutzim of Sde Boker and the Arava to study solar energy and water treatment. But this isn’t new. Two thousand years earlier, the Nabataeans cultivated grapes and practically invented desert irrigation, which can still be seen at the ancient ruins of Shivta, Mamshit and Avdat.
This region, comprising 62% of Israel’s land mass, may seem sparse but it offers a world of adventure, including mountain hikes, camel treks, 4WD desert drives and Red Sea diving.“
In the next few posts I will introduce you to some of my favorite sites in the Negev. Stay tuned…