From the Hawwar River to the Tsin River
Information:
Maps: 1:250,000 - Israel, southern section - topographical map.
1:50,000 - Sdeh Bokker.
1:50,000 - walking map with path markings - northern Negev, map no. 15.
Path markings: blue.
Length of walking route: 3 km.
Duration of route: 2 hours.
Recommended age of walkers: for all the family.
Preferred season: all year round.
Essential equipment: map, water canteen, hat, comfortable walking shoes.
Equipment for geology enthusiasts: nail, 5% salicylic acid, geological hammer.
Vehicle access: the route starts about 2 km. south of the Ben-Gurion Academy on the road to Mitzpeh Ramon next to the sign which reads the Hawwar River.
Collection point: on the way which descends from the Ben-Gurion Academy to the Ein Ovdat canyon, at the end of the bends, next to the sign which reads To the Hawwar River.
Medical assistance: on Kibbutz Sdeh Bokker, at the Ben-Gurion Academy.
Nature preservation: please preserve the wildlife, vegetation and mineral life, and follow the nature reserve rules.
Additional information may be obtained from the Sdeh Boker Field School; Tel: 08-6532016

Area of the walking route:
We will walk through the Hawwar river course which flows along the northern fringes of the Ovdat Heights. The river forms a narrow and twisting canyon which is about 3 km. long. It begins at the southeastern edge of the Halukkim Ridge near the Ben-Gurion Academy, and drains into the Tsin River. Along the route we will see an ancient water pit and encounter a variety of plants and rocks commonly found in the Negev.


How to get to the starting point?
We will continue about 2 km. south of the Ben-Gurion Academy along the road to Mitzpeh Ramon as far as a sign at a bend in the road which points east to the Hawwar River. We will leave the vehicles here and descend to the river course.


Route Description:

  1. Cistern
    We will encounter a Nabatean cistern at the beginning of the walk. The Nabateans (nomads from south Arabia from between the third century BCE and the first century CE) were engaged in leading desert caravans carrying spices and goods from south Arabia to the Mediterranean ports and the countries across the sea.
    Various historians provide much information about the Nabateans. Hyronimus writes:
    "The desert has no water
    and none other than them can traverse it
    because they prepared subterranean cisterns lined with lime
    and, thus, only they are protected by the desert."

    The cistern is mostly square and has a supporting pillar in the middle. The pit is quarried out of the soft chalk rock and is lined with clay lime to achieve full sealing. Part of the ceiling (made of hard chalkstone) has collapsed. The steps which descend to the pit were used to clean out the silt which accumulated in it and there is a wash heap at the mouth.

    The main channel leading water to the cistern is cut by the paved road but the restored direction channel which leads rainwater from the slopes is visible. The cistern has a capacity of about 300 cu.m. Today, the cistern fills after flooding but the water seeps away quickly.

  2. Shaar Hatsor
    We will continue along the river course to Shaar Hatsor ("The Flint Gate") (two walls of dark brown rock which form a sort of large gateway. The flint was laid down here about 80 million years ago in a sea which covered the area. The flint strata later underwent buckling which gave it its present incline. During prehistoric times, the flint served as raw material for the preparation of vessels, blades and axes. If you take two flint stones and hit one hard with the other in the dark you will see sparks. You can smell smoke. The flint rock is mentioned in the Bible: "Then Ziporah took a flint and cut off the foreskin of her son" (Exodus 4, 25).
    There are phosphorite rocks with many fossils on the other side of the gateway. Northeast of here are the Oron and Tsin production facilities which produce phosphates from this stratum.

  3. The Yellow Hill
    Further along the route we will climb a yellow-colored hill (map ref. 1266.0284). From its peak we will se a spectacular view of the Halukkim Ridge slopes and the peaks of the Ovdat Heights and the Tsin River. The soft and impervious hawwar rock, which is also found in this hill, forms the special landscape of the Hawwar River.
    We will continue east from the hill along the path which follows the flint stratum below us as far as the main course of the river.

  4. The River Course
    The vegetation in the river course is rich, and includes: The yellow colutea - a bush with butterfly-like yellow flowers, and fruit shaped like swollen pods. When they are dry you can shake the fruit and make a rattling sound. The desert broom plant is a bush with thin, green and scored branches. The small, elongated leaves break up at the end of the winter and drop off after a short time. In spring the broom produces white scented flowers. The broom has a special roots system adapted to the desert environment: it has depth roots with narrow tubes which maintain the plant during the dry summer months, and wide surface roots which mainly absorb water in the winter. Our forefathers greatly valued coal made from the roots of the broom bush. A Midrashic commentary of Psalms states: "All types of coal go out from inside, but the broom bush coals continue burning from within even though they have been extinguished outside." One can add that the Bedouin insert another root in the coals to keep the fire going until the following day.
    The broom bush is considered to be an important remedy for miscarriages, stomach pains and tooth ache, as well as for a variety of wounds. Another plant commonly found here is the salt wort. This bush grows in river gorges in the desert and in saline ground. It has green-gray leaves shaped like a rolling pin with a rounded head. Its leaves can be eaten raw and used to garnish salads. They can also be fried like French fries. The salt wort is mentioned in the Bible as food of the poor: "who pick the leaves of the salt wort" (Job, 30, 4).

    We will continue along the winding river course. We will see smooth, sparkling gypsum crystals in the cracks of the hawwar wall of the river. Giant rocks which broke away from the walls during flooding are scattered along the river course. At one of the river bends we will see a canyon-like channel which drains from the north. This is one of the cracks. We can enter the crack and walk several dozen meters into it and then return to the main course.

    The river widens here and we will continue walking about another kilometer to the Tsin River. We will reach the road between Ein Ovdat and the Ben-Gurion Academy where the vehicle will await us. From here we can continue walking along the Ein Ovdat canyon or walk to Ein Akeb via Maaleh Davshon.

Bibliography:

  1. Ze'ev Rehess, The Geology of the Northern Negev, Sdeh Bokker Academy Publications, 1975.
  2. Avinoam Dannin, Vegetation of the Negev, Sifriat Hapoalim.
  3. Naomi Spector and Amir Idelman, The Halukkim Ridge and Hawwar River, Sifriat Yehudit, Nature Protection Society, 1981.
  4. The Israel Guide, vol. 4, Keter Publishing.
  5. David Palmach and Ori Moran, The Water Pits of Mt. Negev, Nature Protection Society and Ben-Gurion Academy, 1985.