Following a visit
to Palestine in 1867, Mark Twain
described the Negev Desert in
his book "The Innocents
Abroad" as "a
desolation that not even imagination
can grace with the pomp of life
Rarely does one
find a country so small with landscapes so varied
as in Israel.
In this tiny country of approximately 8,000 square miles
(a little smaller than the state of New Jersey), it takes
a few hours to drive from the snow-capped mountains in
the north to arid desert expanses in the south.
Hebrew means south. Israel's
Negev Desert, where Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob tended their flocks, comprises 66%, over
6,700 square miles, of Israel. Triangular in shape, with
the resort town of Eilat at its southern apex and Beer
Sheva as its northern base, the Negev has an arid and
semi-arid climate, defined according to average rainfall
(2 - 6 inches), type of soil and natural vegetation.
ecological regions fall within
the area of the Negev::
- The Northern
Negev, with 12 inches of rain annually, is called the "Mediterranean
Zone", with fairly fertile soils.
- The Western
Negev is characterized by 10 inches of rain per year,
with light and partially sandy soils. Sand dunes can reach
heights of up to 90 feet.
- The Central
Negev, with the city of Beer Sheva in its midst, has
an annual precipitation of 8 inches 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 stands 1200 – 1800 feet above
sea level with extreme temperatures in summer and winter.
The area has only 4 inches of rain per year, with inferior
and partially salty soils.
- The Arava Valley
along the Jordanian border stretches 111 miles from Eilat
in the south to the tip of the Dead Sea in the north.
Defined as very arid with barely 2 inches of rain
annually, the Arava has inferior soils in which little
can grow without irrigation and special soil additives.
Having such poor
conditions, the Negev was largely
undeveloped and sparsely populated during Israel's first
five decades. In spite of this, Israel has succeeded
in becoming a world leader in combating the desert and
preventing desertification of fertile lands. Through
responsible water and soil conservation programs, Israeli
techniques have become models in sustainable land management,
with worldwide implications. The Negev Foundation, wishing
to follow in the footsteps of David Ben-Gurion, has recognized
the potential of the Negev and
actively promotes desert agricultural innovation in all
its spheres, so that not only will the region become
economically viable, but also be attractive for settlement.