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The Negev *

Archaeological ruins in the Negev Photo: Leif Knutsen

The Negev is a is a desert region of southern Israel which comprises approximately 12,000 square kilometers (4,633 sq mi), more than half of Israel’s total land area. Geographically it is an extension of the Sinai Desert, forming a rough triangle with its base in the north near Beersheba, the Dead Sea, and the southern Judean Mountains, and it has its apex in the southern tip of the country at Eilat. Topographically, it parallels the other regions of the country, with lowlands in the west, hills in the central portion, and the Arava valley as its eastern border.

The origin of the word ‘negev’ is from the Hebrew root denoting ‘dry’. In the Bible, the word Negev is also used for the direction ‘south’.

The Negev’s largest city and administrative capital is Beersheba. At its southern end is the Gulf of Eilat and the resort city of Eilat.

Israel’s South District, which includes the Negev

Adobe Illustrator עם‎‎ נוצרה התמונה – This file was uploaded with Commonist

A map considered by the British Cabinet in 1918 suggested that the Negev could be included in either Palestine or Egypt.
Public Domain

Negev Part 1

Aerial photography of important Biblical sites in the Negev: Beersheba, Gerar, Ziklag, Arad and the Besor River.

Negev Part 2

The southern area of the Land of the Bible, including the Wilderness of Zin, Paran and Sinai. The location of the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, Mt. Sinai and main Israelite Wilderness camp.


Prehistorical nomadic life in the Negev dates back at least 4,000 years and perhaps as much as 7,000 years.

The first urbanized settlements in the Bronze Age were established by a Canaanite, Amalekite, Amorite, Nabataean and Edomite groups circa 2000 BCE. Pharaonic Egypt is credited with introducing copper mining and smelting in both the Negev and the Sinai between 1400 and 1300 BCE.

Ecological Regions

The Negev can be split into five different ecological regions: northern, western and central Negev, the high plateau and the Arabah Valley.

  • The northern Negev, or Mediterranean zone, receives 300 mm of rain annually and has fairly fertile soils.
  • The western Negev receives 250 mm of rain per year, with light and partially sandy soils. Sand dunes can reach heights of up to 30 metres.
  • The central Negev has an annual precipitation of 200 mm and impervious soil, known as loess, allowing minimum penetration of water with greater soil erosion and water runoff.
  • The high plateau area of Negev Mountains/Ramat HaNegev stands between 370 metres and 520 metres above sea level with extreme temperatures in summer and winter. The area gets 100 mm of rain per year, with inferior and partially salty soils.
  • The Arabah Valley along the Jordanian border stretches 180 km from Eilat in the south to the tip of the Gulf of Eilat in the north. The Arabah Valley is very arid with barely 50 mm of rain annually. It has inferior soils in which little can grow without irrigation and special soil additives.

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