Negev: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Zin valley as seen from Midreshet Ben Gurion, at the location of the tomb of David Ben-Gurion.

The Negev (also Negeb; Hebrew: נֶגֶב‎, Tiberian vocalization: Néḡeḇ) is a desert and semidesert region of southern Israel. The indigenous Bedouin inhabitants of the region refer to the desert as al-Naqab (Arabic: النقب‎). The origin of the word Negev is from the Hebrew root denoting 'dry'. In the Bible the word Negev is also used for the direction 'south'.



Wadi in Nahal Paran, Negev, Israel.

The Negev covers more than half of Israel, over some 13,000 km² (4,700 sq mi) or at least 55% of the country's land area. It forms an inverted triangle shape whose western side is contiguous with the desert of the Sinai Peninsula, and whose eastern border is the Arabah valley. The Negev has a number of interesting cultural and geological features. Among the latter are three enormous, craterlike makhteshim, which are unique to the region; Makhtesh Ramon, Makhtesh Gadol, and Makhtesh Katan.

The Negev is a rocky desert. It is a melange of brown, rocky, dusty mountains interrupted by wadis (dry riverbeds that bloom briefly after rain) and deep craters. It can be split into five different ecological regions: northern, western and central Negev, the high plateau and the Arabah Valley. The northern Negev, or Mediterranean zone receives 300 mm of rain annually and has fairly fertile soils. The western Negev receives 250 mm of rain per year, with light and partially sandy soils. Sand dunes can reach heights of up to 30 metres here. Home to the city of Beersheba, the central Negev has an annual precipitation of 200 mm and is characterized by impervious soil, allowing minimum penetration of water with greater soil erosion and water runoff. The high plateau area of Ramat HaNegev (Hebrew: רמת הנגב‎, The Negev Heights) stands between 370 metre and 520 metre above sea level with extreme temperatures in summer and winter. The area gets 100 mm of rain per year, with inferior and partially salty soils. The Arabah Valley along the Jordanian border stretches 180 km from Eilat in the south to the tip of the Dead Sea in the north. The Arabah Valley is very arid with barely 50 mm of rain annually. The Arava has inferior soils in which little can grow without irrigation and special soil additives.


The whole Negev region is incredibly arid, receiving very little rain due to its location to the east of the Sahara (as opposed to the Mediterranean which lies to the west of Israel), and extreme temperatures due to its location 31 degrees north.

The average rainfall total from June through October is zero.[1]

Climate data for Beersheba
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average high °C (°F) 17
Average low °C (°F) 7
Source: [1]




Nomadic life in the Negev dates back at least 4,000 years [2] and perhaps as much as 7,000 years.[3] The first urbanized settlements were established by a combination of Canaanite, Amalekite, and Edomite groups circa 2000 BC.[2] Pharaonic Egypt is credited with introducing copper mining and smelting in both the Negev and the Sinai between 1400 and 1300 BC.[2][4]


According to the Hebrew Bible, the northern Negev was inhabited by the Tribe of Judah and the southern Negev by the Tribe of Shimon. The Negev was later part of the Kingdom of Solomon and then part of the Kingdom of Judah.

In the 9th century BC, development and expansion of mining in both the Negev and Edom (modern Jordan) coincided with the rise of the Assyrian Empire.[5] Beersheba was the region's capital and a center for trade in the 8th century BC.[5] Small settlements of Israelites in the areas around the capital existed between 1020 and 928 BC.[5]


Ruins in the Negev.

The 4th century BC arrival of the Nabateans resulted in the development of irrigation systems that supported at least five new urban centers: Avdat, Mamshit, Shivta, al-Khalasa (or Elusa), and Nitzana.[5] The Nabateans controlled the trade and spice route between their capital Petra and the Gazan seaports. Nabatean currency and the remains of red and orange potsherds, identified as a trademark of their civilization, have been found along the route, remnants of which are also still visible.[5]

Nabatean control of southern Palestine ended when the Roman empire annexed their lands in 106 AD.[5] The population, largely made up of Arabian nomads and Nabateans, remained largely tribal and independent of Roman rule, with an animist belief system.[5]

Byzantines and Romans

Byzantine rule in the 4th century AD introduced Christianity to the population.[5] Agricultural-based cities were established and the population grew exponentially.[5]

The Bedouin: population and history 1000 A.D to 1948

(See section on Changing Ways of Life)

Nomadic tribes ruled the Negev largely independently and with a relative lack of interference for the next thousand years.[5] What is known of this time is largely derived from oral histories and folk tales of tribes from the Wadi Musa and Petra areas in present-day Jordan[6]

The Bedouins of the Negev historically survived chiefly on sheep and goat husbandry. Scarcity of water and of permanent pastoral land required them to move constantly. The Bedouin in years past established few permanent settlements, although some were built, leaving behind remnants of stone houses called 'baika.' [3] In 1900 The Ottoman Empire established an administrative center for southern Palestine at Beersheba including schools and a railway station.[6] The authority of the tribal chiefs over the region was recognized by the Ottomans.[6]. A railroad connected it to the port of Rafah. By 1922 its population was 2,356, including 98 Jews and 235 Christians.[7]. In contrast in 1914 the Turkish authorities estimated the nomadic population at 55,000.[8]

Prior to 1948 Censuses mentioned five major tribes in the Negev; the Tayaha, Tarabn, Azazma, Jabarat and Hanajra.

The tribal culture and way of life has changed dramatically recently, and today hardly any Bedouin citizens of Israel are nomadic.[9]

The Bedouin in Israel 1948-present

Rahat, the largest Bedouin city in the Negev.

Between 1948 and 1967, the new State of Israel imposed a military administration over Arabs of the region and designated 85% of the Negev "State Land." All Bedouin habitation on this newly-declared State Land was retroactively termed illegal and "unrecognized." Now that Negev lands the Bedouin had inhabited upwards of 500 years was designated State Land, the Bedouin were no longer able to fully engage in their sole means of self-subsistence – agriculture and grazing. The government then forcibly concentrated these Bedouin tribes into the Siyag triangle of Beersheba, Arad and Dimona [2]. Today, at least 75,000 citizens live in 40 unrecognized villages.

Northern rim of Makhtesh Ramon on the road between Beersheba and Eilat.

In order to reinforce the invisible Siyag fence, the State employed a reining mechanism, the Black Goat Law of 1950. The Black Goat Law curbed grazing so as to prevent land erosion by prohibiting the grazing of goats outside one's recognized land holdings. Since few Bedouin territorial claims were recognized, most grazing was thereby rendered illegal. (Both Ottoman and British land registration processes failed to reach into the Negev region. Most Bedouin who had the option, preferred not to register their lands as this would mean being taxed.) Those whose land claims were recognized found it almost impossible to keep their goats within the periphery of their newly limited range, and into the 1970’s and ‘80’s, only a small portion of the Bedouin were able to continue to graze their goats. Instead of migrating with their goats in search of pasture, the majority of the Bedouin migrated in search of wage-labor.[3]

In 1979 Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon declared a 1,500 square kilometer area in the Negev, a protected nature reserve, rendering a major portion of the Negev almost entirely out of bounds for Bedouin herders. In conjunction, he established the 'Green Patrol,' [4] the ‘environmental paramilitary unit’ with the mission of fighting Bedouin ‘infiltration’ into national Israeli land by preventing Bedouin from creating facts on the land and grazing their animals. During Sharon’s tenure as Minister of Agriculture (1977-1981), the Green Patrol removed 900 Bedouin encampments and cut goat herds by more than 1/3.[5] Today the black goat is nearly extinct, and Bedouin in Israel do not have enough access to black goat hair to weave tents. Denied access to their former sources of sustenance, severed from the possibility of access to water, electricity, roads, education, and health care in the unrecognized villages, and trusting in government promises that they would receive services if they moved, in the 1970s and 80's, tens of thousands of Bedouin resettled in 7 legal towns constructed by the government.(Falah, Ghazi. “The Spatial Pattern of Bedouin Sedentarization in Israel,” GeoJournal, 1985 Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 361-368.) However, the towns lacked any business districts and the urban townships have long been rife with the social breakdown resulting from near-total joblessness, crime and drugs.[6]

Contemporary Negev

Today, the Negev is home to some 555,000 people 380,000 (68%) are Jews and 175,000 (32%) are Bedouin. At least 80,000 Bedouin citizens live in unrecognized villages under threat of demolition; these citizens are subject to removal at any time via the Removal of Intruders Law. [7]

The region's largest city and administrative capital is Beersheba (pop. 185,000), in the north. At its southern end is the Gulf of Aqaba and the resort city of Eilat. It contains several development towns include Dimona, Arad, Mitzpe Ramon, as well as a number of small Bedouin cities, including Rahat and Tel as-Sabi. There are also several kibbutzim, including Revivim and Sde Boker; the latter became the home of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, after his retirement from politics.

The desert is home to the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, whose faculties include the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research and the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies, both located on the Midreshet Ben-Gurion campus adjacent to Sde Boker.

Today, the Negev has an enormous Israeli military presence and is home to many of the Israel Defense Forces major bases.

Contemporary Environmental Issues

85% of the Negev is used by the Israel Defense Forces for training purposes.[8]. In the remaining portion of the Negev available for civilian purposes, a large number of citizens live together in close proximity to a range of types of hazardous infrastructure, which includes a nuclear reactor, 22 agro and petrochemical factories, an oil terminal, closed military zones, quarries, a toxic waste incinerator Ramat Hovav, cell towers, a power plant, several airports, a prison, and 2 rivers of open sewage. [9]

People lounging on the grounds of Midreshet Ben Gurion.

The Tel Aviv municipality dumps its excess waste in the Negev Desert,[10] at Dudaim Dump. In 2005 the Manufacturers Association of Israel established an authority to begin marketing a project to move 60 of the 500 industrial enterprises currently active in the Tel Aviv region, to the Negev.[11]

The Ramat Hovav toxic waste facility was planted in the area of Beer Sheva and Wadi el-Na'am in 1979 because the area was perceived as invulnerable to leakage. However, within a decade, cracks were found in the rock beneath Ramat Hovav.[10] From its inception, the facility developed a history of accidents and closures; in the past, regional councils regularly discovered that the evaporation pools of Ramat Hovav's Machteshim chemical factory had overflowed or that waste was leaking from drainage pipes into their reservoir. Nearly ten years after its establishment, outcrops of the chalk under Ramat Hovav showed fractures potentially leading to serious soil and groundwater contamination in the future. [11]

In 2004, the Israeli Ministry of Health released Ben Gurion University research findings explicating the health problems in a 20 km vicinity of Ramat Hovav. The study, funded in large part by Ramat Hovav, found higher rates of cancer and mortality for the 350,000 people in the area, amounting to a public health crisis. Prematurely released to the media by an unknown source, the preliminary study was publicly discredited;[12] however its final conclusions – that Bedouin and Jewish residents near Ramat Hovav are significantly more susceptible than the rest of the population to miscarriages, severe birth defects, and respiratory diseases – passed a peer review several months later.[13]

A community of Blueprint Negev mobile homes.

The Jewish National Fund introduced its Blueprint Negev in 2005, a $600 million project aimed at attracting 500,000 new settlers to the Negev and constructing new settlements to accommodate them. The project says it will increase the Negev's population by 250,000 new residents by 2013, improving transportation infrastructure, adding businesses and employment opportunities, preserving water resources and protecting the environment.[14] The Blueprint Negev's planned artificial desert river, swimming pools and golf courses raise concerns among environmentalists given Israel's water shortage.[15][16] The main thrust of critics' argument is that the appropriate response to overpopulation is not to recruit hundreds of thousands of additional settlers, and the answer to over-development in the north is not to build up the last open spaces in the second most-densely crowded country in the developed world; rather what is required is an inclusive plan for the green vitalization of existing population centers in the Negev, investment in long-awaited service-provision in Bedouin villages, clean-up of its many toxic industries (such as Ramat Hovav), and the development of a viable economic plan focusing on creating job options for the unemployed rather than promoting an influx of new immigrants and creating jobs for them.[17][18][19][20]

Solar power

David Faiman of the National Solar Energy Center in front of the world's largest solar parabolic dish.

The Negev Desert and the surrounding area, including the Arava Valley, are the sunniest parts of Israel and little of this land is arable, which is why it has become the center of the Israeli solar industry.[21] David Faiman, a world expert on solar energy, feels the energy needs of Israel's future could be met by building solar energy plants in the Negev. As director of Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center, he operates one of the largest solar dishes in the world.[22]

A 250 MW solar park in Ashalim, an area in the northern Negev, was in the planning stages for over five years, but it is not expected to produce power before 2013.[23] In 2008 construction began on three solar power plants near the city; two thermal and one photovoltaic.[24]

The Rotem Industrial Complex outside of Dimona, Israel has dozens of solar mirrors that focus the sun's rays on a tower that in turn heats a water boiler to create steam, turning a turbine to create electricity. Luz II, Ltd. plans to use the solar array to test new technology for the three new solar plants to be built in California for Pacific Gas and Electric Company.[25][26][27]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Beersheba, ISR Weather". MSN. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  2. ^ a b c Mariam Shahin. Palestine: A Guide. (2005) Interlink Books. ISBN 156656557
  3. ^ a b Israel Finkelstein; Avi Perevolotsky (Aug., 1990). "Processes of Sedentarization and Nomadization in the History of Sinai and the Negev". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (279): 67–88. 
  4. ^ J.M. Tebes (2008) Centro y periferia en el mundo antiguo. El Negev y sus interacciones con Egipto, Asiria, y el Levante en la Edad del Hierro (1200-586 A.D.) ANEM 1. SBL - CEHAO.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mariam Shahin. Palestine:A Guide. (2005) Interlink Books. ISBN 156656557
  6. ^ a b c Mariam Shahin. Palestine:A Guide. (2005) Interlink Books. ISBN 156656557
  7. ^ Palestine, Report and General Abstracts of the Census of 1922, October 1922, J.B. Barron, Superintendent of the Census, page 10.
  8. ^ ibid, Census of Palestine 1922,'Explanatory note',page 4 .
  9. ^ Kurt Goering (Autumn, 1979). "Israel and the Bedouin of the Negev". Journal of Palestine Studies 9 (1): 3–20. doi:10.1525/jps.1979.9.1.00p0173n. 
  10. ^ Gali Berger. "Sin of waste / Municipal garbage that's out of sight, out of mind"; Haaretz, October 12, 2005
  11. ^ Hadas Manor."Manufacturers promoting transfer of 60 factories to Negev"; Globes - August 11, 2005
  12. ^ Rebecca Manski."The Bedouin as Worker-Nomad"; Bustan, 2005
  13. ^ Sarov, Batia, and peers at Ben Gurion University: “Major congenital malformations and residential proximity to a regional industrial park including a national toxic waste site: An ecological study;” Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 2006, 5:8; Bentov et al., licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
  15. ^ Daniel Orenstein."When an ecological community is not"; March 25, 2007
  16. ^ Water use concerns
  17. ^ Daniel Orenstein and Steven Hamburg."The JNF's Assault on the Negev"; The Jerusalem Report, November 28, 2005
  18. ^ Rebecca Manski.A Desert Mirage: The Rising Role of US Money in Negev Development;News from Within October/November 2006
  19. ^ Ohalah resolution
  20. ^ Neohasid's Save the Negev Campaign
  21. ^ Head of Kibbutz Movement: We will not be discriminated against by the government, Ehud Zion Waldoks, Jerusalem Post, March 10, 2008.
  22. ^ Giant solar plants in Negev could power Israel's future, John Lettice, The Register, January 25, 2008
  23. ^ The solar vote, Yosef I. Abramowitz and David Lehreer, Haaretz, November 2, 2008.
  24. ^ Solar energy could raise electricity prices Haaretz, 6 August 2008
  25. ^ Calif. solar power test begins — in Israeli desert, Associated Press, June 12, 2008; accessed December 23, 2008.
  26. ^ Israel site for California solar power test, Ari Rabinovitch, Reuters, June 11, 2008.
  27. ^ [1]

External links

This article is about the southern region of Israel. For the light machine gun see IMI Negev.

Coordinates: 30°30′00″N 34°55′01″E / 30.500°N 34.917°E / 30.500; 34.917

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Asia : Middle East : Israel : Negev
Moonscape inside the Machtesh Ramon crater
Moonscape inside the Machtesh Ramon crater

The Negev [1] is a large desert that covers the entire southern half of Israel. The least populated area in Israel, it is a home to (among others) the nomadic desert people known as the Bedouin. The Negev offers some truly breathtaking scenery and is home to some fascinating sites and places.

  • Arad — lively modern town on the edge of the Negev.
  • Beer Sheva (Beersheba) — the Biblical City of Abraham and de facto capital of the Negev.
  • Dimona — the third largest city in the Negev
  • Eilat — the southern-most Israeli city, located on the Red Sea coast, a major centre for domestic and international tourism
  • Lehavim
  • Mitzpe Ramon — a small town overlooking the Machtesh Ramon crater
  • Netivot — small city, home (and now gravesite) of the Baba Sali, a famous rabbi
  • Ofakim
  • Omer
  • Rahat — a Bedouin city
  • Sderot — small city, known for its contribution to the Israeli music scene, and more recently as a target for Palestinian rocket attacks
  • Tel Sheva — a Bedouin town
  • Yerucham — settlement located near the Large Crater
  • Avdat — the largest ancient Nabataean city in the Negev, now a National Park
  • Yotvata, a large open Natural Reserve north of Eilat and a Kibbutz with the same name.


The Negev is the southern region of Israel, covering 55% of the state's territory and inhabited by some 379,000 Jews and 175,000 Bedouins (Bedouin is an ancient word reffering to the term Desert Man). Contrary to the usual view of a "desert," the Negev is not covered with sand. Rather, it is a melange of brown, rocky, dusty mountains interrupted by wadis (dry riverbeds that bloom briefly after rain), and deep craters. The area was once the floor of a primordial sea, and a sprinkling of marine snail shells still covers the earth here. Aside from the natural wonders, the Negev plays host to a great number of ancient sites, displaying the rich history of this crossroads of trade between Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Get in

By plane

Domestic flights to Eilat fly from Ben Gurion airport or Tel Aviv's Sde Dov airport. There are seasonal charter flights to Eilat from several European cities.

By train

Frequent trains connect Tel Aviv, Haifa and Ben Gurion airport to Beer Sheva, with an extention to Dimona, but no further.

By bus

Be'er Sheva is served by bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Buses to Eilat travel from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. Towns and villages throughout the Negev are connected by bus to Be'er Sheva, but service could be infrequent.

If you're flying into Ben Gurion Airport and want to head straight to Eilat, you would better get on a short train ride to Tel Aviv Hagana station and board a bus to Eilat from nearby Tel Aviv central bus station. Advance reservation is available on buses to and from Eilat, and there are also night buses.

There are no laws concerning the number of people allowed on buses, so drivers will often pack the bus as full as possible, and you may end up with a young soldier sitting on the floor next to you, with his large semi-automatic poking you in the leg. It is recommended that you call and book your seat in advance in order to avoid standing for your whole ride. Booking is also available by internet [].

You better avoid the busiest travel times, in particular Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons (when soldiers travel to and from weekend vacation).

Get around

By car

Three main highways cross the Negev from north to south:

  • The eastern Jordan Valley route (Route <90>), from Jerusalem past the Dead Sea to Eilat
  • The central route (Route <40>), through Beer Sheva and Mitzpe Ramon, merging with the eastern route near Yotvata
  • The western route (Route <10>), running along the Egyptian border from Gaza Strip to Eilat, built primarily for military purposes and the least used of the three

The two-lane highways are generally in good shape. The distance across the Negev from Tel Aviv to Eilat is around 360 kilometers, covered by Egged express bus in 5 hours.

  • Ein Avdat - spectacular desert gorge, accessed by trails, and preserved as a National Park
  • Mamshit Ruins - Nabatean ruin, more accessible and well ordained then Avdat, also a National Park
  • Machtesh Ramon - largest erosional crater on earth, near the town of Mitzpe Ramon
  • Sde Boker - large Kibbutz north of Mizpe Ramon on Route 40, has several attractions, and also the "Field School of the Negev" hostel and tourist information center, which advises on trails and tours in the area.
  • Midreshet Ben Gurion (also known as Midreshet Sde Boker) - large midrasha (educational center) with Institute for Solar Energy Studies, a trail to Ein Avdat, The Ben Gurion Heritage Institute and the tomb of Ben Gurion, Insitute for Desert Research, High School for Environmental Education and a pre military Mechina (preparatory program) - Mechinat Hanegev.
  • Mifgash Nello, Gas Station South, Gedera, +972-88591510. Romanian food  edit
  • Casa De Brazil, Eilat. Many kinds of meat  edit
  • Chan HaShayarot (Caravan Inn), Rte. 40, between Sde Boker and Mitspe Ramon, +972-8-653-5777 (, fax: +972-8-653-5888), [2]. This traveler's khan (a traditional Middle Eastern inn) consists of a glorious, gigantic and very authentic Bedouin community tent for dinner parties and communal sleeping, plus a group of modern, very simple but bright and clean motel-like private units, for those who may not want to sleep in the tent. The Bedouin tent is an ecological wonder-warm in winter; cool, and catching every possible desert night's breeze in summer. The inn can be a quiet experience of semicamping in the desert, with a simple Bedouin breakfast, lunch, and dinner available; or it might consist of party groups and a Bedouin feast that you can join up with-barbecue, tons of Arabic specialties, plus music and dance. There are central restroom and shower facilities for those who overnight in sleeping bags provided by the Chan in the tent. The Chan also offers a range of activities, including tours with camels and off-road vehicles, mountain biking, and Bedouin entertainment and hospitality day or night. A possible favorite for kids who may be dazzled by the view of the galaxies and falling stars; and a favorite for everyone who will be charmed by the hospitable Bedouin. Call to see what booking conditions will be before making a reservation. 24 private units, all with bathroom. $95 double, private indoor unit; $55 double in tent. Rates include breakfast. MC, V.  edit
  • Levehad, Moshav Ein Habsor, +97289982146 or Cell Phone. +972-548014541 (, fax: +972-89982146), [3].  edit
  • The Desert Olive Farm, P.O.Box, Halutza 85515, +972-525583065 or Cell Phone. +972-525583521 (, fax: +972-86571533), [4].  edit
  • The Orlyya Farm, Medreshet Ben Gurion, POB 67, +972-509800069 (), [5].  edit

Most of the kibbutzim on Highway 90 have guest houses and offer inexpensive and charming rooms, and meals in their common dining rooms.

Stay safe

Nearly all of the Negev is an extremely arid desert that sees rainfall at most a few times a year. While winters can be pleasant, with temperatures hovering around 20°C, summers can be fierce with temperatures commonly over 40°C. Bring a large amount of water and register your plans at the nearest police station before going offroad for your own safety, as flash floods are likely to happen if rain does fall, and some parts of the Negev serve as the IDF's main training area.

When hiking in the Negev dehydration can be a problem, this is a hot arid area, Drink at least 1L of water per person per hour.

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Simple English

The Negev is a desert that covers about 60% of the current state of Israel. Only about 10% of the people that live in Israel live there. The negev is delimited by the border with Egypt and the Gaza Strip to the west, the Arabah in the east, and a line connecting Gaza city to Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea to the north.


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