Southern Sites Stories
Mitzpe Ramon is a small town in the Negev region of Israel, some 85 km south of Beer Sheva, overlooking the mighty Ramon Crater (Machtesh Ramon).
The city was founded in the 1950's as a military outpost and then as a waypoint station for local miners and road workers, Mitzpe evolved into a small town when newly arrived Moroccan immigrants were unceremoniously placed there and told that they would "be living an hour and half from Tel Aviv."
Over time, various other groups like part of the "Black Hebrew" community and various strains of the most recent Russian immigration from the early 90's have also been placed in Mitzpe Ramon.
Mitzpe Ramon remains small and somewhat struggling although a smattering of new age hippies and a variety of eco entrepreneurs have, over the past decade and a half, succeeded in turning the ailing town into something of a hip eco, leave-the-city-behind destination.
At the same time, there continues to be dissonance between some of the town's original residents and the more recent arrives.
Today, Mitzpe acts as a stopping point for travelers going from the North of Israel to Eilat as well as catering to some of the soldiers stationed at the nearby military bases.
The town has also developed into a unique eco-tourist destination as it boasts the highest air quality in Israel and a series of breathtaking landscapes.
Mitzpe also provides a haven for various kinds of performance artists, new-age healers and desert enthusiasts.
Ramon Park Complex Maktech Ramon is the ideal venue for the study of geology. The vigorous process of erosion, which swept away the upper strata of the Ramon anticline, penetrated deep into the ground, creating a "window" onto the layers of rock.
Maktech Ramon also contains evidence of long-ago volcanic activity.
Three sites of particular geological interest are the so-called Sawrnill,
where the sandstone crystallized into prism-like shapes; the dykes in Nahal Ardon and the ammonites wall on the southern side of the maketch, a large stone wall studded with the fossils of the large snails known as ammonites.
Flora – Of all Israeli's desert region, the Ramon area has the most varied and lush flora. This can be attributed to the variety of habitats found here and to the difference between the climactic conditions on the Ramon Ridge and those on the Maktech floor.
The high regions of the Ramon Ridge, such as Mizpe Ramon and the Loz Systems, have a steppian climate. Because of the cold desert winters, the flowers here bloom in late winter and early spring, a time when the ridge is awash with color.
The Maktech floor is drier and hotter than the ridge. Saharo-Steppian flora (originating in the Sahara Desert and the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula) are most commonly seen here.
The desert springs and the damp soil near them also give rise to a special habitat. Rushes, whose leaves have needle-like points, cattails and reeds grow near the fresh water. This is evidence that there is groundwater close by, even if none is visible.
Fauna – Thanks to the variety of habitats in the Ramon region, many species of animals choose to make their homes here. Because of the zise and remoteness of Maktech Ramon and stringent nature conservation efforts in the Ramon region, the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority decided this would be an appropriate place for the reintroduction of animals which had disappeared from the Negev Desert landscape.
One was the onager, a wild ass which cannot be domesticated.
The Nubian ibex, once in danger of extinct in Israel, now romps happily on the cliffs of Maktech Ramon.
The Negev highlands also has population of leopards, hyenas, dorcas, gazelles, wolves, red foxes, Afghan foxes, caracals, sand foxes
and syrian hyraxes. The small rodents, golden spiny mouse – these animals are on view at Bio-Ramon.