Most of the Negev is a wilderness, actually a desert. It covers the Southern third of the State of Israel; yet, it is the gateway to the Red Sea.
More than 60 years ago Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion had a vision of Israel’s future in the Negev, and his dream is being realized. He proclaimed: “The essential need of Israel’s very existence – both economic and military – is to go south”. In Israel “to go south” means going to the Negev. Gurion’s vision of a flourishing Negev with cities, farms and agriculture has been achieved.
It was settled in the past by the tribes of Israel, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah Monarchies, by the Nabataeans and the Byzantines. Archaeological remains can be found throughout the Negev.
The Negev offers wild landscapes, Jeep and Camel tours, archaeological sites, impressive Geology, hikes and adventures, and even wineries.
The capital of the Negev is Be’er Sheva; a large metropolis with plenty to offer. In the 19th century the Ottomans built a regional police station here, which is now a major attraction together with the Ottoman era Great Mosque. Other attractions in Be’er Sheva include Abraham’s Well, Mandate era buildings, art museums, restaurants, archaeological remains and the weekly outdoor market frequented by locals from the city and Bedouin settlements.
Kibbutz Sde Boker is the former home of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, he retired here at the end of his political career and his home is now a museum.
Ein Avdat is a canyon with gorgeous waterfalls and dramatic cliffs. It is the site of archaeological findings from the Nabataean civilization and there is evidence of Byzantine cave dwelling monks. Avdat is a UNESCO site due to the unique 3rd century Byzantine church discovered here and the part Avdat played on the ancient Incense Route. Mamshit is another archaeological site in the Negev which was an important stop on the Incense Route, during the Nabataean period.
Mitzpeh Ramon is a town on the edge of the Ramon Crater, an enormous naturally formed crater. There is a Visitor Center on the cliffs overlooking the crater, where you can learn about the geology of this unique site, through interactive exhibits and information about the local flora and fauna. The center also shows a moving presentation and memorial, for the Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon.
A visit to the Negev would not be complete without enjoying the stark, dramatic landscape of the desert; discovering the unique flora and fauna and meeting the people who have made the desert bloom.