From the Lotz Pits to the Eilot River
We will encounter remains of ancient agriculture, rich and unusual vegetation, spectacular vistas and the last signs of the vanishing Bedouin presence between the peaks of the high Mt. Negev near the Egyptian border.

General Information:
How to get to the starting point?
Route Description:
General Information:
Length of walking route: 6 km.
Duration of route: about 3 hours.
Recommended age of walkers: all the family.
Preferred season: all year round, preferably in the spring.
Essential equipment: water canteen, hat, and, if possible, binoculars. Warm clothing in fall and winter.
Maps: Mt. Lotz - 1:50,000 - Map of Israel, southern section, - 1:250,000 walking map with path markings, Mt. Negev.
Security and medical assistance: IDF military base on Mt. Harif, Mitzpeh Ramon.
Nature preservation: the walking route passes through a fragile area with protected natural resources and special landscapes.
Please preserve the wildlife, vegetation and mineral life.
Additional information may be obtained from the Sdeh Boker Field School; Tel: 08-6532016

How to get to the starting point?
The main axis - via Mitzpeh Ramon. We will leave Be'ersheva and travel in the direction of Mitzpeh Ramon along route 40 via the Negev junction, Tlalim junction and Halukkim junction. About 7 km. before Mitzpeh Ramon, near the army camp, the asphalt road turns east. We will take this road for about 30 km. as far as a sign which directs us to a good dirt track to: "the Lotz Pits Site".

After about 1.5 km. we will reach a parking lot and we will start our walk.

The other alternative - we can reach the start of the route via Nitsana and along the western border. We will leave Be'ersheva and travel along route 211 towards Nitsana (70 km.). We will turn south at the border terminal and travel for 58 km. along the border, as far as the Mt. Harif junction. There the road splits and we will continue eastwards towards Mitzpeh Ramon. After about 5 km. we will reach a sign directing us to: "the Lotz Pits Site". We will leave the road and continue along the dirt track for about 1.5 km. as far as the Lotz Pits parking lot (1).

Here, we will find water, bathrooms with running water (also for physically disabled people) and a garbage collection point. The parking lot is located near a tributary of the Eilot River which we will walk along within a few minutes. First, however, we will note the other walk alternatives:

There are two main routes. One is a peripheral roue (marked) which leads around the flat hill to the east of the parking lot (altitude 978). This route is about 4 km. long and its main features is the water holes. It begins with the sign next to the eastern stone area at the overnight stop site.

The second route, which we will take, also starts at the sign. However, this route descends along the Eilot River and returns along a different tributary. This is a more varied route, and slightly longer, and we will encounter several elements which are specific to the high Mt. Negev. The explanations herein refer to this route.

Route Description:

  1. The Water Holes
    Our first stop is a water hole (2 on the route map) which can be seen from the parking lot. It is only 200m. from here in a northeasterly direction. The water hole can be distinguished by the light-colored piles of clay which surround it on the south. It is open and, from close up, we will be able to see that the hole was dug out of sealed rock. An interior wall of stones was also constructed to prevent collapse of the interior walls. Two channels link with the pit and they bring water to it from the hill above it - one channel leads from the southeast and the other from the north east. Water can normally be found in this pit all year round.
    The pit is part of a series of 17 pits which are known as the Lotz Pits (on some maps they are known as "the Lots Reservoirs"). Most are dated to the Israeli Era - the reigns of King David and King Solomon, during the tenth to eighth centuries BCE. However, remains were found on the site which attest to continuous habitation of the spot throughout numerous and early periods. The pits probably provided drinking water for herds and, in any case, not for irrigation of cultivated plots.

  2. Agricultural Terraces in the River Course
    Here we leave the route and continue along the slope and descend along the river course. We will walk about another kilometer down the course of the Eilot River. Along the way we will pass a large system of agricultural terraces (3) which dam the width of the river course - remains of ancient agricultural activity.

    Figure: Terraces and Agricultural Cultivation Plots in the Eilot River Course

    The method of irrigation in this region was based on utilization of top drainage water which flowed along the rocks after rain. The water on the farm in which we are situated drained naturally from the river banks to the bottom of the river course. The river course was dammed across its width with parallel and stepped terraces with level cultivable plots between them (see sketch). The flat terraces stop the drainage water. Most researchers believe that the land of the terraces is silt which accumulated over the years. However, a new theory recently proposed that the soil was brought to the spot artificially in order to begin agricultural activities there. Recent experiments show that the this method of irrigation is successful for the cultivation of crops and growing of trees.

  3. Atlantic Terebinths
    We will continue our walk from the pits down the Eilot River and, after 20 minutes, we will encounter the first Atlantic terebinth trees along our walking route (4).
    The Atlantic terebinth tree (Pistacia Atlantia) originates from the heights of central Asia. Here, between the peaks of the high Mt. Negev, is the largest concentration of this species of tree in Israel.

    The tree grows throughout a large area in the Middle East - from Iran to the Atlas Mountains (from which the tree derives its name), although not in a continuous chain. When the climate in the Middle East was cooler and more humid this species of tree, like other species which originate in the Central Asian plains, covered large and unbroken areas of the Middle East. The icebergs receded from Europe around this time and the climate in the Middle East also became warmer and drier and the Arava species became extinct in most areas. Some trees survived on these high, humid and cool peaks, such as Mt. Negev, Mt. Edom and the peaks of the Sinai and Mt. Hermon.

    The terebinth is mentioned in the Bible several times: "And they offer sacrifices on the hills, under oaks and poplars and terebinths, because their shadow is good." (Hosea 4, 13). The terebinths growing in river courses with larger amounts of water reach a height of 15m. and their trunks are up to 2m. in diameter. These trees can survive for hundreds of years. Their blossom and grow leaves in the spring. At that time, the terebinth is conspicuous because of its reddish colors. In the winter, the tree loses its leaves. The gall-nuts are a swelling in the bark and are generated by the laying of insect eggs in the bark.