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The Negev Desert

A trip to the Negev desert is an opportunity to wonder at the variety of terrain in Israel. Visit the Negev’s most unusual geological site, the craters, which are a geographical land-fold characterized by sturdy walls that surround a sunken valley. Both the Small and Large craters, as they are commonly called, are physically beautiful and considered to be Israel’s version of the Grand Canyon.

Consider the Negev’s prominence in the Bible while on your Jewish heritage tour and the many years the Israelites spent in the desert. The Negev Desert’s name is derived from the Hebrew word for dry, and is referred to in the Bible as an arid region where nothing shall grow, according to the will of God.

The Bedouin

The Bedouin, a nomadic desert tribe, are believed to have descended from what is present-day Jordan to the Negev region thousands of years ago. Their main form of income, both historically and today, is sheep and goat herding. At the same time, the Bedouin lifestyle has evolved and most Bedouin tribes today are no longer nomadic and have built permanent settlements, such as Rahat, Tel as-Sabi and Lakiya, housing more than 175,000 of their people.

The Bedouin are recognized as Israeli citizens, though their settlements are often regarded as illegal by the state. A sizable part of the Bedouin population in recent years serves in the Israeli army, and many more Bedouin have deserted their traditional herding incomes in favor of jobs in bigger cities throughout the Negev.

Hospitality is an important element of Bedouin culture and a fascinating adventure for the visitor to Israel. Pre-arranged visits to Bedouin settlements can be arranged, and can include having coffee and even a meal and entertainment. Be prepared to go shoeless in a Bedouin tent and to sit on low cushions on the floor.

Beersheva, the Capital of the Negev

The sixth largest city in Israel, Beersheva is also the central city of Israel’s southern desert region. Beersheba is home to several important institutions including Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Soroka Medical Center.

Beersheva’s history as a city dates back to the fourth century BCE when it marked the southernmost tip of Israel’s tribal borders. World War One marked a period of development for the city, as the Turks built a railroad station in Beersheva in the hopes of disabling the British from reaching the Suez Canal. The Turks were ultimately routed in what is sometimes called ‘The Battle of Beersheva,’ when Australian and British cavalry soldiers charged and overran the Turkish soldiers in their trenches, possibly one of the last military cavalry charges of the British Army on record.

Due to unrest between the Arab and Jewish population of the pre-state period, most Jews left the city for safer areas. Beersheva didn’t become a Jewish city until after the War of Independence when it was captured from the Egyptians. The 1950s brought new populations and development of the city but some of its more explosive growth has been in the last two decades with the arrival of the Russian and Ethiopian immigrants.

Related Links

* Israel Tours
* Bar / Bat Mitzvah Tours
* Jewish Heritage Tours

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