Other than Jerusalem, the desert is my favorite place in Israel. So much of Israel’s history takes place in the desert. Having seen Hollywood’s movies of the soft granules of desert sand, I was surprised by the size of the rocks that make up much of the Negev desert. I wondered what it was like to walk over this kind of terrain for so many years. How did they sleep? Or more intimate activities? Amazing.
The desert is very important to Israel’s future:
Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? (Song of (Solomon 8:5)
I will punish her For the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot,” says the Lord.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2:13-15)
On the edge of the Ramon crater (the largest one of the three Negev craters containing geological formations unparalleled elsewhere in the world), at a height of some 300 meters above it, sits the town of Mitzpe Ramon.
Mitzpe Ramon (Hebrew: , lit. Ramon Lookout) comes from the Arabic “Ruman” meaning Romans. It is situated on the northern ridge at an elevation of 860 meters (2,800 feet) overlooking a sizable erosion cirque known as the Ramon Crater.
This pleasant, quiet town, built in the landscape of the largest of the Negev craters, between paths and cliffs, mountains and springs, has recently become a thriving tourism town. Mitspe Ramon was founded in 1951 as a camp for the workers building the road to Eilat. The town’s first permanent residents, immigrants from North Africa and Romania, settled there in the 1960s, and it became the southernmost of the Negev’s development towns offering visitors lodging in lovely guest rooms and many other tourism services. Today Mitzpe Ramon is an important stop for desert tourists. The southern part of town has a wide variety of hotels, hostels, campsites and a Bedouin inn. It is the starting point for jeep, bicycle or camel tours. Here one can rappel down the steep cliffs and get a real adrenaline rush.
The visitor’s center on the edge of the crater offers an amazing view of the crater’s beauty and its treasures. The zoological garden houses local desert animals, including snakes, lizards and mammals. In the eastern part of Mitspe Ramon there is a large sculpture park, and to the west is a one-of-a-kind alpaca farm and a desert archery center. The crater itself is full of fascinating geological phenomena, charming nature spots, ancient historical sites, easy and difficult hiking paths and endless expanses of breathtakingly beautiful desert.