Updated: May 5, 2021
Life in the desert isn't exactly what you would think -- find out about the complexity of Israel's deserts!
Ben Gurion had a vision of what he wanted for the desert when he helped establish Israel. He wanted to make it bloom. The desert makes up a whopping 60% of Israel's land. That's a huge amount of space to not be used in a rapidly growing country, but there are people trying to utilize that land.
The desert is actually shrinking because Israelis have managed to turn parts of it into green, productive fields. Drip irrigation in the desert was invented by the Israeli Simcha Blass in the '60s, and from there, agriculture has flourished. Tomatoes, olives, fruits and veggies, and even fish farms can be found in the Negev now!
In the Judean desert, minerals leftover from the Dead Sea make for special soil that yields incredible onions and basil, and of course, dates. You can see the date trees on the horizon, like an oasis. If you haven't tried a date from the desert...you must!
Besides farms, kibbutzim, and the occasional moshav, Bedouins largely inhabit the Negev. Traditionally they live nomadically, but some have settled. Then there is the city of Be'er Sheva, which is home to Ben Gurion University. This has made the city more of a hub for young people.
There are other initiatives to encourage Olim (new immigrants) to move South, like the Nefesh B'Nefesh "Go South" Program, which offers financial incentives and tax breaks for those who decide to make their home in the south.
The desert includes Mitzpe Ramon, Masada, Eilat, which makes for some incredible hiking! There are hidden gems and oases of water dotted throughout the desert too and some very unique wildlife. Our favorite part of the desert is the clarity of the stars in the vast sky.