Negev (Hebrew: הַנֶּגֶב, Tiberian vocalization:
han-Néḡeḇ ; Arabic: النقب an-Naqab) is a desert and
semidesert region of southern Israel. The region's largest city and
administrative capital is
Beersheba (pop. 205,810), in the north. At
its southern end is the
Gulf of Aqaba
Gulf of Aqaba and the resort city of Eilat. It
contains several development towns, including Dimona, Arad and Mitzpe
Ramon, as well as a number of small Bedouin cities, including Rahat
Tel as-Sabi and Lakyah. There are also several kibbutzim,
Revivim and Sde Boker; the latter became the home of
Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, after his retirement
The desert is home to the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, whose
faculties include the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for
and the Albert Katz International School for
Desert Studies, both
located on the
Midreshet Ben-Gurion campus adjacent to Sde Boker.
In October 2012, global travel guide publisher
Lonely Planet rated the
Negev second on a list of the world's top ten regional travel
destinations for 2013, noting its current transformation through
1 Etymology; other names
3 Flora and fauna
Nabateans and Romans
5.5 Islamic empires
5.6 Ottoman era
5.7 British rule
5.8 Israeli rule
7 Economy and housing
7.1 Development plans
7.2 Solar power
8 Environmental issues
9 See also
11 External links
Etymology; other names
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';
some English-language translations use the spelling "Negeb".
In Arabic, the
Negev is known as al-Naqab or an-Naqb ("the [mountain]
pass"), though it was not thought of as a distinct region until
the demarcation of the Egypt-Ottoman frontier in the 1890s and has no
traditional Arabic name.
During the British Mandate it was called
Nahal Paran, Negev
Negev covers more than half of Israel, over some 13,000 km²
(4,700 sq mi) or at least 55% of the country's land area. It forms an
inverted triangle shape whose western side is contiguous with the
desert of the
Sinai Peninsula, and whose eastern border is the Arabah
Negev has a number of interesting cultural and geological
features. Among the latter are three enormous, craterlike makhteshim
(box canyons), which are unique to the region;
Makhtesh HaGadol, and Ha
Negev is a rocky desert. It is a melange of brown, rocky, dusty
mountains interrupted by wadis (dry riverbeds that bloom briefly after
rain) and deep craters. It 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 here.
Home to the city of Beersheba, the central
Negev has an annual
precipitation of 200 mm and is characterized by impervious soil,
known as loess, allowing minimum penetration of water with greater
soil erosion and water runoff. The high plateau area of Negev
Negev (Hebrew: רמת הנגב, The Negev
Heights) 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
the south to the tip of the
Dead Sea in the north. The
is very arid with barely 50 mm of rain annually. It has inferior
soils in which little can grow without irrigation and special soil
Flora and fauna
Spring blooms in the Negev
Vegetation in the
Negev is sparse, but certain trees and plants thrive
there, among them Acacia, Pistacia, Retama,
Urginea maritima and
Thymelaea. A small population of Arabian leopards, an endangered
animal in the Arabian peninsula, survives in the southern Negev.
Negev Tortoise (Testudo werneri) is a critically endangered
species that currently lives only in the sands of the western and
Negev Desert. The
Negev shrew (Crocidura ramona) is a
species of mammal of the family
Soricidae found only in Israel.
Hyphaene thebaica or doum palm can be found in the Southern Negev.
Evrona is the most northerly point in the world where this palm can be
Negev region is arid (
Eilat receives on average only 24 mm of
rainfall a year), receiving very little rain due to its location to
the east of the
Sahara (as opposed to the Mediterranean which lies to
the west of Israel), and extreme temperatures due to its location 31
degrees north. However the northernmost areas of the Negev, including
Beersheba, are semi-arid. The usual rainfall total from June through
October is zero. Snow and frost are rare in the northern Negev, and
snow and frost are unknown in the vicinity of
Eilat in the
Climate data for Beersheba
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average precipitation days
Israel Meteorological Service
Climate data for Eilat
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average rainfall mm (inches)
Average rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm)
Israel Meteorological Service
Of the three
Acacia species growing in high plateau of the Negev,
Acacia pachyceras is the most cold-resistant.
Nomadic life in the
Negev dates back at least 4,000 years  and
perhaps as much as 7,000 years.
The first urbanized settlements were established by a combination of
Canaanite, Amalekite, Amorite, Nabataean and
Edomite groups circa 2000
Pharaonic Egypt is credited with introducing copper mining and
smelting in both the
Negev and the
Sinai between 1400 and 1300
In the Bible, the term
Negev only relates to the northern, semiarid
part of what we call
Negev today, located in the general area of the
According to the
Book of Genesis
Book of Genesis chapter 13,
Abraham lived for a while
Negev after being banished from Egypt. During the Exodus
journey to the promised land,
Moses sent twelve scouts into the Negev
to assess the land and population. Later the northern part of
Negev was inhabited by the
Tribe of Judah
Tribe of Judah and the southern
part of biblical
Negev by the Tribe of Simeon. The
Negev was later
part of the Kingdom of Solomon (in its entirety, all the way to the
Red Sea), and then, with varied extension to the south, part of the
Kingdom of Judah.
In the 9th century BC, development and expansion of mining in both the
Edom (modern Jordan) coincided with the rise of the Assyrian
Beersheba was the region's capital and a center for trade
in the 8th century BC. Small settlements of
Israelites in the
areas around the capital existed between 1020 and 928 BC.
Nabateans and Romans
Archaeological ruins in the Negev
The 4th century BC arrival of the
Nabateans resulted in the
development of irrigation systems that supported new urban centers
located along the
Negev incense route
Negev incense route at Avdat, Mamshit, Shivta,
Haluza (Elusa), and Nitzana. The
Nabateans controlled the trade on
the spice route between their capital
Petra and the Gazan seaports.
Nabatean currency and the remains of red and orange potsherds,
identified as a trademark of their civilization, have been found along
the route, remnants of which are also still visible. Nabatean
control of the
Negev ended when the
Roman empire annexed their lands
in 106 AD. The population, largely made up of Arabian nomads,
remained largely tribal and independent of Roman rule, with an animist
belief system.[dubious – discuss]
Byzantine rule in the 4th century AD introduced
Christianity to the
population. Agricultural-based cities were established and the
population grew exponentially.
Negev saw a flourishing of economic activity during the
8th to 10th or 11th centuries. Six Islamic settlements have been
found in the vicinity of modern Eilat, along with copper and gold
mines and stone quarries, and a sophisticated irrigation system and
road network. The economic center was the port of Ayla
Tel Arad inhabited since 4000 BCE
Nomadic tribes ruled the
Negev largely independently and with a
relative lack of interference for the next thousand years. What is
known of this time is largely derived from oral histories and folk
tales of tribes from the
Wadi Musa and
Petra areas in present-day
Jordan. The Bedouins of the
Negev historically survived chiefly on
sheep and goat husbandry. Scarcity of water and of permanent pastoral
land required them to move constantly. The Bedouin in years past
established few permanent settlements, although some were built,
leaving behind remnants of stone houses called 'baika.' In 1900
Ottoman Empire established an administrative center for southern
Beersheba including schools and a railway station. The
authority of the tribal chiefs over the region was recognized by the
Ottomans. A railroad connected it to the port of Rafah. In 1914
the Turkish authorities estimated the nomadic population at
A map considered by the British Cabinet in 1918 suggested that the
Negev could be included in either Palestine or Egypt.
Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France placed the
Negev in Area B, "Arab state or states" under British patronage.
Negev was taken from the Ottoman army by British forces during
1917 and became part of Mandatory Palestine.
In 1922, the Bedouin component of the population was estimated at
72,898 out of a total of 75,254 for the
The 1931 census estimated that the population of the Beersheba
sub-district was 51,082. This large decrease was considered to be
an artifact of incorrect enumeration methods used in 1922. An
Arabic history of tribes around Beersheba, published in 1934 records
23 tribal groups.
Rahat, the largest Bedouin city in the Negev
In 1948 the
Negev came under Israeli rule. In the early years of the
state, it absorbed many of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries,
with the Israeli government setting up many development towns, such as
Sderot and Netivot. Since then, the
Negev has also become home
to many of the
Israel Defense Forces major bases - a process
accelerating in the past two decades.
As of 2010, the
Negev was home to some 630,000 people (or 8.2% of
Israel's population), even though it comprises over 55% of the
country's area. 470,000
Negev residents or 75% of the population of
Negev are Jews, while 160,000 or 25% are Bedouin. Of the
Bedouin population (a demographic with a semi-nomadic tradition), half
live in unrecognized villages, and half live in towns built for them
by the Israeli government between the 1960s and 1980s; the largest of
these is Rahat.
The population of the
Negev is expected to reach 1.2 million by
2025. It has been projected that the Beersheba
metropolitan area will reach a population of 1 million by 2020, and
Arad, Yeruham, and
Dimona will triple in size by 2025.
Economy and housing
Blueprint Negev mobile homes, 2009
Blueprint Negev is a
Jewish National Fund
Jewish National Fund project introduced in 2005.
The $600 million project hopes to continue Israel's past environmental
successes in 'making the desert bloom' and attract 500,000 new Jewish
residents to the
Negev by improving transportation infrastructure,
establishing businesses, developing water resources and introducing
programs to protect the environment. A planned artificial desert
river, swimming pools and golf courses raised concerns among
environmentalists. Critics oppose those plans, calling instead
for an inclusive plan for the green vitalization of existing
population centers, investment in Bedouin villages, clean-up of toxic
industries and development of job options for the
Israel Defense Forces training base is being constructed in
Negev to accommodate 10,000 army personnel and 2,500 civilian
staff. Three more bases will be built by 2020 as part of a plan to
vacate land and buildings in Tel Aviv and central Israel, and bring
jobs and investment to the south.
Main article: Solar power in Israel
Solar troughs in the Negev
This article needs to be updated. Please update this article to
reflect recent events or newly available information. (June 2014)
Desert and the surrounding area, including the Arava Valley,
are the sunniest parts of
Israel and little of this land is arable,
which is why it has become the center of the Israeli solar
industry. David Faiman, an expert on solar energy, feels the
energy needs of Israel's future could be met by building solar energy
plants in the Negev. As director of Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy
Center, he operates one of the largest solar dishes in the world.
Technically, however, the Arava is a separate desert with its own
unique climate and ecology.
A 250 MW solar park in Ashalim, an area in the northern Negev, was in
the planning stages for over five years, but it is not expected to
produce power before 2013. In 2008 construction began on three
solar power plants near the city; two thermal and one
The Rotem Industrial Complex outside of Dimona, Israel, has dozens of
solar mirrors that focus the Sun's rays on a tower that in turn heats
a water boiler to create steam, turning a turbine to create
electricity. Luz II, Ltd., plans to use the solar array to test new
technology for the three new solar plants to be built in California
for Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
Yatir Forest 2005, produced by
Yatir Winery in the Negev
Vines have been planted in the
Negev since ancient times. In modern
times, vineyards have been established in the northern
using innovative computerized watering methods for irrigation. Carmel
Winery was the first of the major wineries to plant vineyards in the
Negev and operates a boutique winery at Ramat Arad. Tishbi has
Sde Boker and Barkan grows its grapes in Mitzpe
Yatir Winery is a boutique winery in Tel Arad. Its
vineyards are on a hill 900 meters above sea level on the outskirts of
Yatir Forest. Carmey
Avdat is Israel's first solar-powered
Negev is home to hazardous infrastructures that include Negev
Nuclear Research Center nuclear reactor, 22 agrochemical and
petrochemical factories, an oil terminal, closed military zones,
quarries, a toxic waste incinerator at Ne'ot Hovav, cell towers, a
power plant, several airports, a prison, and 2 rivers of open
Campus of Midreshet Ben Gurion
In 2005, the Tel Aviv municipality was accused of dumping waste in the
Negev at the Dudaim dump. The Manufacturers Association of Israel
established an authority in 2005 to move 60 industrial enterprises
active in the Tel Aviv region to the Negev.
This article needs to be updated. Please update this article to
reflect recent events or newly available information. (January 2015)
In 1979, the
Ramat Hovav toxic waste facility was established in Wadi
el-Na'am because the area was perceived as invulnerable to leakage.
However, within a decade, cracks were found in the rock beneath Ramat
Hovav. In 2004, the Israeli Ministry of Health released Ben Gurion
University research findings describing the health problems in a
20 km vicinity of Ramat Hovav. The study, funded in large part by
Ramat Hovav, found higher rates of cancer and mortality for the
350,000 people in the area. Prematurely released to the media by an
unknown source, the preliminary study was publicly discredited;
However, its final conclusions – that Bedouin and Jewish residents
Ramat Hovav are significantly more susceptible than the rest of
the population to miscarriages, severe birth defects, and respiratory
diseases – passed a peer review several months later.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Negev.
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Sde Boker archive of articles on the Negev
Negev Information Site
Photos of Negev
List of deserts
List of deserts by area
Rub' al Khali
Cabo de Gata
Gran Desierto de Altar
Great Salt Lake
Jornada del Muerto
North American Arctic
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Southern District of Israel
Beersheba metropolitan area
Other sub-divisions: Central District
Judea and Samaria Area
Tel Aviv District
Coordinates: 30°30′00″N 34°55′01″E / 30.500°N
34.917°E / 30