Over 40% of the territory of Israel is a desert. And the biggest one is Negev, which covers all the South of the country. It was Negev, much more fertile than it is today, where the Patriarch Abraham settled at the Promised Land. It was Negev where the most famous Spices Route was laid by the Nabateans. Then abandoned for almost 2,000 years, Negev came to life again, after the State of Israel was established.
One of my most beloved tours is that of Negev. After two hours' drive from Tel Aviv, we arrive to Sde Boker. Back in 1953 David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli prime Minister, who was a living symbol of the new-born State, choose the remote Kibbutz as his home. He lived in Sde Boker all the rest of his life, and also is buried here.
Visiting his barrack at the Kibbutz shows how modest this first Israeli leader was. Here everything is small - tiny bedroom, miniature kitchen, where Pola Ben Gurion made their healthy vegetarian dishes, simplest bathroom.
And only the library, with a thousand books in all possible languages is really big. All this represents the Old Man, who the Farther of the nation used to be called, in his best.
Our next stop is at the Avdat. Today a World Heritage Site, this city once was a capital of the Nabatean Kingdom. Nabateans a desert tribe, used to rule the Spices Route, extending from Yemen to the Port of Gaza. There are five Nabatean towns excavated in Israel and one – Petra, in Jordan.
At the 1st Century BC, Nabatean King Obodas I, managed to defeat both the Jews and the Syrians, and to celebrate the victory, he ordered to build a new town in his name, Avdat. And, to be at the safe side, he also declared himself a God and built a beautiful temple in his own name. Today the fortress and temples of Avdat are fully restored and stand above the breathtaking desert landscape in all their ancient beauty.
And, finally, we drive from Avdat to Makhtesh Ramon. Makhtesh is an international name for the unique natural phenomenon of the gigantic erosion craters existing only and Negev and Sinai deserts.
As we stand on the rim of the Makhtesh Ramon, the most beautiful scenery is spread deep under ours feet. Red, yellow and brown stones, black volcanic eruptions and green dried rivers beds – all that creates an absolutely breathtaking picture.
After enjoying the fascinating views of the Makhtesh, we turn back to Tel Aviv, choosing an alternative highway this time. Now we drive north along the cultivated areas and beautiful towns of the Northern Negev and Mediterranean Plane – the heart of modern Israel.