David Ben-Gurion, founder of the State of Israel, loved the vast desert covering the southern half of his country. Called the Negev, he made a point to be buried here (in Sde Boker, to be exact), and spending some time exploring this desert’s stunning scenery makes it easy to see why he loved it so!
On the recent Taglit-Birthright trip that I was on, we got up close in personal with one particularly stunning part…the geological wonder known as Makhtesh Ramon.
Just what is a Makhtesh? It’s an enormous formation similar to a crater, but its steep walls are created by erosion rather than an impact of meteorite or something. It’s also something that’s unique to the Negev. There are many of them, though Makhtesh Ramon is the most famous, with pricey resorts overlooking it in the town of Mitzpe Ramon (literally, “Ramon Overlook”). But we weren’t staying in no fancy resort…
A Night “Under the Stars”
Oh no, we camped…in the desert. And despite their daytime heat, deserts get very cold at night. And the sleeping bags we were provided with were nowhere near suitable for the frigid temperatures we’d experience. Mind you, this was the same day that we’d been up before dawn for a sunrise hike up Masada and floated in the Dead Sea, so we were beat! But few of us would sleep at all thanks to shivering the night away.
An Early Morning Hike
It was 6:00am when the wake up call came. And, by call, I mean shouts as there were no phones in out tents. Or electricity that wasn’t otherwise provided by the generator that allowed them to make us a light breakfast. We were groggy and all half-asleep and the concept of hiking after the sleepless night we’d just experienced was not a good one. But we were promised impressive scenery, which started materializing as we climbed the hill out of our campsite…
We wouldn’t stay on the well-trodden road for long for things were about to get a whole lot more interesting. We turned onto a section of the Israel National Trail, a hiking trail that runs the length of Israel, some 940km (580 miles). It was a trail that stretched along hilltop ridges, up and over boulders and offered some truly stunning vistas, making for the best hike we took the entire trip!
The Beauty of Makhtesh Ramon, in Photos
You can see why this was such an amazing hike!
After all these soaring vistas, we were bursting with energy. And as we arrived back on the base of the makhtesh, and the soaring peaks calmed down a bit, two abnormal signs of life in the desert stood out to me. A little pool of water…an oasis, perhaps? And a lone tree, a seeming anomaly among this barren landscape that really stood out to me!