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September 5, 2010September 5, 2010  0 comments  Geography

The Negev is a paradise for hikers and for those seeking an exciting trek inside Israel's largest desert, local expert tour guide Yoel Oren is sharing his favorites in the post below.


From very short hikes, 2-3 hours long, to 4-5 days of hikng, or even more. If you are trekking the Israel National Trail (INT), then you walk at least two and a half weeks in the Negev! The best seasons for hiking in the Negev are autumn, winter and early spring. During the summer, it is possible to hike early in the morning or in the afternoon, finding a nice shade around noon to keep away from the heat.  In that seaon you rather hike in the more elevated regions, rather than around the boiling rift valley, and you must carry a decent amount of water!

Since we will soon be beginning the best hiking season for Negev, we will provide some suggestions on wonderful hikes.


The East Ramon Trek

This trek begins in Mitzpe Ramon on the west, in altitude of over 900 meters above sea level, and ends in Sappir, in the Arava valley, around sea level. You can easily transport yourself to and from the hike with public buses.

sunset at Ramon makhtesh

Beginning the trek at the Visitors' Center, operated by the Parks and Reserves Authority (NPA), you can get oriented and collect more and updated information. You can also buy here a topographic map, although in Hebrew, but the rangers can help showing you the trail on the map and give you some hints.


The Makhtesh looks like a crater, and sometimes reffered to as one, but actually it is something different. You might simplify it and call it an "erosivic crater". This phenomenon is  unique to Israel and Sinai,  so the geological term comes from Hebrew, meaning a traditional grinding vessel.


The makhteshim (plural...) are created by a very complex sequence of geological processes. To put it in a nutshell, we can determine three stages: 1: Tectonic forces curve ancient "sandwich" layers of limestone, sandstone and limestone, creating an anticline; 2:Ancient rivers shave the whole region, exposing the middle layer of sandstone (imagine an orange that its cap has been removed, exposing the juicy body); 3:lifting of the region as a side effect of the Dead Sea Rift, and bending the flat shaved surface towards the east, causing the erosivic sandstone drift towards the rift, leaving the less erosivic limestone behind (imagination, again: a bucket filled with sand is lifted and diverted, the sand falls leaving the plastic bucket behind).


Now, after standing impressed by the beauty and complexity, it is time to leave civilization behind for the next few days.. We will follow the INT throughout the trek, with its orange-blue-white markings. The first day will be dedicated to crossing the makhtesh to the other edge, on our way we will climb to the "Ramon Tooth" (ignious ancient rocks) and visit the Amonite Wall, where you can find fossils of those creatures that populated the planet during the reign of the dinosaurs, and vanished  with them 65 millions of years ago. We will camp in the Gevanim dry bed, notice that you must camp in the vicinity of the official night camp of the NPA, since we are in a nature reserve. Distance of walking: 15 km.


Nekarot dry river bed

The second day will find us walking up the Saharonim cliff, actually the southrn edge of the Makhtesh. From the top of the ridge, there is a beautiful view of the southern Negev, from the Egyptian border beyond Mt. Karkom on the west, to the Edom mountains of Jordan on the east. going down the cliff we walk through th Nekarot "Horseshue", where the dry wadi Nekarot makes an omega into the cliffs of the Makhtesh, creating a nice gorge. Out of the horseshue, we ascend steeply to the Karbolet Hareirim Ridge (meaning rooster's comb) for a beatiful view of the Makhtesh and of the next sections of the hike. After walking on a flat hamada (stoney surface) we cross Wadi Ma'ok dry bed, where one can find lots of shade under the acacia trees, a good place to rest and have lunch, and a noon siesta. Make sure you wake up at least two and a half hours before darkness! Continuing on the trail, we have some climbing to do, reaching a saddle where you can find some more amonites. Descending on its eastern side, you soon reach a beautiful dry fall, the path bypasses comfortably. At its foot there is a frenzy of curving of the rock layers, this is known as the "Crazy Wall". The next dry bed coming  and joining from the north is significant, because of the very small but permanent spring Ein Geled ("the spring of the leather") which hides there, an attraction for animals and emergency water for desperate hikers. To reach it go up the bed for some 300 meters following a white marking. Back on the main path, a kilometer and a half away, is another impressive dry fall, which the trail bypasses on its right. Under the fall there is a pothole, occassionally filled with water after a decent flashflood, creating a  refreshing pool. Unfortunately, this pool is often dry... The campsite is 500 meters away, a place to rest after walking 16 km today! Look under large tamarisk bushes in the main Nekarot wadi, which we just reached, for bottles of water kindly left for you by hikers, rangers and jeepers. When you sleep, protect your food from the cheaky wolves that tend to grab your bags away and look inside for yummies, you might waste a meaningful amount of time looking for them in the morning, and finding them a little torn... or not finding them at all!


Day three, rise and shine!


The last day of the trek, we go down the Nekarot dry bed, then climbing to Mt. Yahav for a rewarding view (and cellphone signal!). Going down the trail in a most beautiful gorge , opening up to a magical valley of vanilla-chocolate ice cream,  represented by the combination of the chalk and flint rocks. Some lone hills decorate the vally, remainders of the time before the young erosion designed this valley. The number of acacia trees rise, our sign to look for the ascending path  the Tzvira and Eshborn cracks. These are part of the erosion process, a canyon in creation! A stunning view! On with the trail that winds around some more chalk & flint ice cream, passing an ancient caldera, a real volcanic crater. You can define the ancient crater only by tracing the volcanic rocks you pass by. A volcanic dyke next to a saddle sign the end of the trek: Once on the saddle appears the village of Sappir, and after walking 19 km, we're back in civilization... Have a cold beer at the grocery, and look for the bus on the main Arava highway!


Authored by:  Yoel Oren, a licensed tour guide specializing in desert tours.


July 7, 2014July 7, 2014  0 comments  Geography

You've been planning your Holy Land tour for a long time and you'll making your long awaited summer pilgrimage to Israel. You've packed your sunscreen, walking sandals and hat as well as all the appropriately cool clothing - after all the last thing you want is to be dressed too warmly when you are outside hiking around.


But what most people under pack - is water! And a bout of dehydration can truly ruin a trip.


What is dehydration? Dehydration occurs when the body looses so much salt and sugar it can no longer retain water causing a potentially dangerous physical condition that, in its most serious state, can be deadly. Symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision, quick heart beat, vomiting, headache, shivers, and exhaustion. Keeping your body filled with water, salt and sugar will keep you feeling strong and help you stay hydrated.


Travelujah has prepared 10 tips for you to help keep you safe from the summer sizzle. We highly recommend you read each of these so that you can be properly equipped for backpacking in Israel or hiking in and around Israel.


1) Wear a hat - Not only is direct sun bad for you but it can cause sunstroke. Keep your head covered will keep you cool and provide protection from the sun.

2) When to hike in Israel - There is a reason why the local population takes a rest between 2 and 4 pm - that is when the suns rays are the hottest. You should do your hiking in the early morning hours or alternatiavely, after 5 pm in the afternoon. Thankfully we have light until 8:00 pm so its quite easy to hike in Israel during the late afternoon hours.  

3) Drink a lot!   At a minimum, you should be drinking four liters of water. If your hike is especially difficult you need to be drinking more. You don't need to be thirstyto drink!

4) Carry iodine or water purification pills -make sure your hiking route has springs or other water sources along the way in case you need more water.

5) Don't forget to eat - As your body sweats it releases salts which need to be replaced therefore packing salty snack foods like nuts, dried fruit, granola bars and trail mix is highly recommended.

6) Keep your clothing loose and on  - You might think you are staying cooler by removing your shirt you're your clothes provide protection from the sun and heat. Loose fitting clothes are the rule.  

7) Have emergency numbers with you (100 for police, 101 for ambulances, 102 is fire)

8) Take a first aide kit Along with your other medical necessities make sure your first aide kit includes a salt pouch as well as sugar with lemon juice. Mixing 2 tsp of salt, 2 tsp of sugar and 1 cup of lemon or orange juice into a   1.5 liter bottle of water  can offer critical relief.

9) Recognize the symptoms of dehydration  - Symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision, quick heart beat, vomiting, headache, shivers, exhaustion. If you or anyone in your party starts to get a headache at night, or any other symptom - begin treatment by providing liquids slowly, using a wet towel, removing excess clothing, and rest.

10) Beware and be aware! -  Dehydration is serious so make sure you stay alert. Keep close tabs on how you are feeling and stay informed as to how those around you are feeling.


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Elisa L. Moed is the founder and CEO of Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on  Holy Land  tours. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.



August 8, 2012August 8, 2012  0 comments  Nature

A secret pleasure on any Holy Land tour is discovering a place which is largely overlooked by the crowds but offers a unique atmosphere or experience not found anywhere else. Nazareth is certainly significant for any traveler seeking follow in the footsteps of Jesus and, of course, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a favorite stop for most Christian travelers; but have you ever heard of Nahal Amud? If the answer is, "what the heck is nahal amud," then you are like virtually every other tourist to the Holy Land (and even many native Israelis).  And that's a shame, because Nahal Amud is one of the most beautiful places in the Galilee and in all of Israel.  It is a great a place to meditate in nature and to experience the holy land in much the same way Jesus experienced it.

Part of the Israel Trail

Nahal Amud is actually part of the larger Israel Trail,  a national trail that runs from north to south, beginning in the upper Galilee and ending in the mountains just north of the southern port city of Eilat. The Israel trail is rather long and those who do hike the entire trail typically take more than a month to do so. However, if you just want to "get your feet wet," both literally and figuratively, then Nahal Amud, with its variety of trail options ranging from a couple hours to a couple days is  a great place to start.

So What Is Nahal Amud Anyway?

Nahal Amud is 15 mile long nature trail that runs from the base of Mt. Meron (the second largest mountain in Israel) between the Galilean mountains southeast to the Sea of Galilee. With its flowing streams, waterfalls and natural pools (in the upper part), combined with its ancient flour mill, fig trees and Neanderthal caves, it is a favored hike by  Israelis who have heard of it from friends or family since it usually doesn't make it into the popular guide books. Unlike many other Israel parks, Nahal Amud is not that crowded, and thats only because to visit the nature reserve and enjoy its natural water pools one must be able to walk somewhat of a distance.


Experience the History

However, for the Christian tourist, some of the things that will be most exciting are the fact that there are a number of running streams where one can swim or even baptize themselves in waters that Jesus himself may well have traveled through. There are also a number of caves carved into the mountainside which aside from being the ancient home for Neanderthals some 70,000 years ago, may well have been used by ancient Jews or Christians as hiding places when they were running from the Romans.

Come for the Quiet

The thing that I loved the most however was the peaceful quiet of the place. Located less than an hour's drive from Nazareth and about 30 minutes from Tiberias, Nahal Amud is the perfect place to simply get out of the city and away from the tourists. Set in a valley between the mountains the shorter 3 - 4 hour upper hike involves a steep walking path down into the canyon as well as back up at the conclusion or the mostly circular route.

Stay for the Beauty

The area is also alive with wild flowers and tall cliffs which rival some of the great national parks in the United States. While certainly not as big and nowhere near as famous, the beauty of the place truly shows God's greatness in providing a place of unparalleled beauty. The truth is though that words really fail to capture the majesty of the place. You have the streams where you can dip and you have the trees and caves, but put them all together and it defies simple words to describe what the place looks like.

Getting Started

Those who drive to Nahal Amud can take one of two entrances to the trail. It starts out near the mystical city of Safed and ends near the city of Tiberias, about 25KM (about 15 miles) away. You don't have to hike the whole trail though. When I went, we did just a portion of the trail in an afternoon. And the best part is, unlike many other more frequented areas, this place is not the least bit crowded.

There are actually several entrances to Nahal Amud. I entered from Route 8077, which is a small side road on the way to Kibutz Hibikuk. From that entrance, there is no proper parking (we simply parked along the side of the road) and the entrance is merely a small fenced off entryway which is free to enter. Those feeling a bit less adventurous may choose to go in from the other side of the trail, which is an official park of the State of Israel. There is a small entrance fee to get in, however that part of the park may feel a bit more "civilized" for those who want an easier trek. It has a proper washrooms, maps and other necessary supplies for purchase.

What's Nearby

Nahal Amud is located 10 minutes from Safed, the city widely known for its Kabbalistic origins and about 25 minutes from Tiberias and can easily be combined with an afternoon in either city or a visit to the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth or in Haifa, which are popular sites for  tourists as well. Anumber of small kibbutzim (collective farms) in the area which often have boutique shops, wineries and or farmers markets open to purchase locally produced products.


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