To Mt. Tsror and the Tsror River
Maps: 1:250,000 - Israel, southern section - topographical map.
1:250,000 - Israel, southern section - geological map.
1:100,000 - Sdeh Boker.
1:50,000 - Sdeh Boker.
1:50,000 - walking map with path markings - northwest Negev, map no. 15.
Length of walking route: 4.5 km.
Length of walking route up Maaleh Tsin: 2 km.
Duration of route: Mt. Tsror - Tsror River - 2.5 hours; Maaleh Tsin - 45 minutes.
Recommended age of walkers: 6 years old and over.
Preferred season: all year round.
Essential equipment: map, hat, comfortable walking shoes.
Medical assistance: on Kibbutz Sdeh Boker, at Midreshet Sde Boker.
Security approval: via the Walk Coordination Office, Be'ersheva.
Nature preservation: the route passes through unique nature and landscape spots. Do not harm wildlife, vegetation or mineral life.
Starting point: at Sdeh Tsin, about 2.5 km. east of the Ben-Gurion Academy, or about 2 km. south of Kibbutz Sdeh Bokker.
Collection point: bottom of Maaleh Tsin, next to the Mt. Tsror sign located about 2 km. from the start of the descent.
Passability: a dirt track at Maaleh Tsin can be navigated by high buses and 4-wheel drive vehicles. On rainy days the route becomes muddy and impassable. Inquiries should be made at the Sdeh Boker Field School and the Ben-Gurion Academy regarding field conditions before departure.
Additional information may be obtained from the Sdeh Boker Field School; Tel: 08-6532016
Area of the walking route:
We will walk through the southwest slopes of the Hatira Ridge. We will start from Mt. Tsror, from the spectacular observation point which looks out over the ridges of the northern Negev and the Ovdat Heights, and we will descend along the Tsror River as far as the Tsin Valley and the Tsin River.
How to get to the starting point?
We will start our walk from the southern end of Sdeh Tsin which we will access from the Kibbutz Sdeh Bokker-Ben-Gurion Academy road. There is an orange sign which reads "Maaleh Tsin" on the road about 2.5 km. south of the kibbutz. We will descend a dirt track with black markings and travel east for about 4 km. We will drive around the solar energy research facility (a coordinated visit to the site is recommended) and cross Sdeh Tsin and pass by the landing strip, which was used by former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion while he lived at Sdeh Boker, and continue to the top of Maaleh Tsin.
- Maaleh Tsin
Maaleh Tsin lies along part of an ancient route - Darab El-Sultan - from Ein Yahav in the Arava, via the Tsinnim Cliffs to the Negev coastal plain. According to the researcher Nelson Glick, this route was in use as far back as the Chalcolithic Era about 3,500 BCE. This was an important traffic route between the Arava and the Mediterranean Sea.
Today, there is a dirt track which was made when the first oil pipeline between Eilat and Ashkelon was laid in 1957. The Bedouin call the slope Nakeb El-Arab, which means: "the ascent of the Euphrates poplar trees". The Euphrates poplar is a rare tree which is found at Ein Zik and Ein Ovdat.
Near the top of the ascent, to the southwest, there are the remains of an ancient pill box which was probably built in the Roman Era and which controlled the ancient route which passed through here. Near the pill box there is a monument to one of the groups of walkers who set off for Petra in the 1950s and never returned. The group included Eitan Mintz, who was a member of Kibbutz Sdeh Bokker.
We have two choices of route: one descends to the Tsin Valley (black markings), and the other climbs to the dark flint flats and leads to Mt. Tsror (blue markings). We will walk eastwards with the blue markings along the route which leads to Mt. Tsror. The collection vehicle will go down to the Tsin Valley and after about 2 km. will wait by the sign for the Tsror River.
- On the way to Mt. Tsror
After walking about 800 m. we will see a feeding station for animals just south of the route. Following a decrease in sources of food for animals the Nature Preservation Authority began to provide animals with food. The carcasses attract birds of prey and other hunter animals. During the daytime one can see eagles, bustards and crows and, at night, wolves, hyenas and foxes (use of the observation point at the feeding station should be coordinated in advance with the regional authority supervisor).
We will continue along the sheep fence about another 1,300 m., as far as altitude 541 m. Along the way we will see moss on dark flint stones. This is mostly Ramlina moss which grows on flint. The moss is made of algae and mushrooms which live together in a symbiotic existence. This moss is active only where there is humidity. They go into a sort of state of hibernation in the arid season. Desert dew provides the humidity they need to become active and their color becomes a darker green at this time.
We will descend from altitude point 541 m. along the path with blue markings to a narrow white chalk ridge and then climb 250 m. to a spectacular observation point at the peak of Mt. Tsror.
- Mt. Tsror Observation Point
Mt. Tsror is a tableau mountain. At its peak there is a horizontal layer of durable hard flint laid on soft chalkstone which comprises the mountain slopes. The flint and chalk are marine sediment rocks and are widespread in the Negev. 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).
Mt. Trsor is located at the southwest end of the Hatira Ridge. The rivers drain to the Arava and the Dead Sea to the southeast of the ridge. The rivers drain to the Mediterranean Sea to the southwest of the ridge.
From Mt. Tsror to the west we can see Sdeh Tsin and Kibbutz Sdeh Bokker.
- Kibbutz Sdeh Boker
Kibbutz Sdeh Bokker was founded in 1952 and was named after the nearby mountain, which is called ?? Al-Bakkar in Arabic. The main area of activity on the kibbutz is the adhesives plant which manufactures adhesive strips for the industrial and commercial sectors. The main area of agricultural activity are: deciduous orchards, a chicken house and field crops. The Kibbutz contains the residential hut used by David and Paule Ben-Gurion. Since Ben-Gurion's death in 1973 the hut has been open to visitors.
South of the kibbutz is the Ben-Gurion Academy which was established in the 1960s based on Ben-Gurion's vision of acting as a research, teaching and education center for the Negev.
There are two university research facilities here: the Desert Research Institute, which researches desert phenomena based on means required to develop and inhabit the desert; the Ben-Gurion Heritage Center, which documents, researches and teaches subjects relating to the history of Zionism, establishment of the State of Israel, Ben-Gurion heritage and the habitation of the Negev. The graves of Paula and David Ben-Gurion are here and an impressive sound and light show about the life and work of David Ben-Gurion is put on near the graves. Entry to the site must be arranged in advance.
There are a number of unique educational facilities, including a high school for environmental education, a field school, an environmental education unit, a regional center for gifted students, a regional communications center etc.
To the south is the Tsinnim Cliffs reserve with the Ovdat Heights and the Tsin River. The Ovdat Heights, which is part of the middle Mt. Negev, is one the largest continuous heights in Israel. It has an average height of about 800 meters above sea level. Most of it comprises intermittent horizontal strata of limestone and chalkstone.
The heights ends in spectacular cliffs at its north and northeast ends facing the Tsin Valley (altitude of 150-200 m.).
The chain of cliffs which surrounds the Ovdat Heights was formed by intensive erosion by the Tsin River of the soft hawwar which forms the base of the heights.
The hard limestone and chalkstone over the hawwar stop the process of erosion and form the cliffs. Here, the main rivers are: Davshon, Zik, Nahash Tsama and Hawa which spill out in spectacular waterfalls from the Ovdat Heights into the Tsin Valley which, in turn, drains the Ovdat Heights via several spectacular waterfalls.
The Tsin River flows below us and, here, forms the geographic border between the central and northern parts of Mt. Negev. We are at the southwest corner of the river course. The river is one of the largest in the Negev. It is about 120 km. long and has a catchment area of around 1,550 sq.km. It starts at the northwest edge of the Ramon Crater and flows in a northerly direction to the Ein Ovdat canyon. The river turns to the east at an angle of almost 90 degrees below the Ben-Gurion Academy.
Thousands of years ago the Tsin River flowed by Sdeh Tsin in a northwesterly direction and drained into the Bsor River and the Mediterranean Sea. When the Afro-Syrian Rift Valley was formed and the Arava Valley was developed as a low drainage base, the course of the river changed to the east of the Arava.
From this point, the Tsin River expanded into a wide valley due to erosion of the soft hawwar rocks by the river. The Tsin River drains into the dehydration pools in the southern part of the Dead Sea.
- The Tsror River
We will descend Mt. Tsror along the ascent path as far as the chalk ridge and turn east to descend along the path to the Tsror River. Take note that the vegetation is relatively more dense from the start of the gorge. We will see the desert wormwood, the desert anabasis, pungent varthemia and daphne. In the fall one can see the blossom pillars of the squill and, in the winter, the moricandia which is noticeable for its purple flowers.
After descending the river course incline for about 350m. we will come across another river course from the east. This river course contains a granary. The Bedouin used to use natural niches and caves to store food and equipment which they did not use during their nomadic periods. They blocked the mouth of the niches or caves with a stone wall. These storage spaces are no longer in use.
The Negev digitaria, from the ?? species, grows here. This is an endemic Negev species and is only common in the Negev. It is similar in shape to the cactus. Its stems are fleshy, thick and short and look like fingers - hence the name ( the Hebrew name is "etsboa" - "etsbaot" in Hebrew means fingers). It is a tropical plant which originates from Africa and its fleshy leaves enables it to survive the heat and aridity of the desert. Sheep do not eat digitaria as its leaves contain poison and have a bitter taste. However, some groups of Bedouin use it as a medicament for barrenness among women, kidney stones and stomach aches.
We will return to the main course of the Tsror River and continue along it for about 450m. as far as the Tsror River waterfall.
There is a cistern at the bottom which fills with water in the winter and attracts many animals to it.
The waterfall was formed by the difference in height between Mt. Tsror and the Tsin River (into which the Tsror River drains), and due to the difference in hardness of the various strata of rock. It is safe to assume that the water was formed in relation to the Tsin fault (one of the lateral fault lines in the Negev) which passes at the foot of the waterfall. From the top of the waterfall we will be able to see the dissected landscape which forms the Tsin River and the Ovdat Heights. We will walk round the waterfall from the east (take care!) and descend the Tsror River gorge at the foot of the waterfall. Near the waterfall we will see numerous fossils in the lime rock. These are rudists which are a sort of asymmetrical shell in the shape of an elongated cone (like an ice cream cone) with a round top cover.
- From the waterfall to the end of the route
We will continue along the gorge of the Tsror River for about another 1,200m. to reach the Tsin River and the foot of Maaleh Tsin. The vehicle will be waiting for us there. Along the way we will see the desert ?? bush with its yellow bloom and the coiled acacia tree. The desert ?? grows along river courses in warm desert areas and along pathways. There it benefits from the surplus water which washes off the pathways. The ?? is pollinated by the eastern hornet and its seeds are distributed by birds. Bedouin cure rheumatism by taking baths with the leaves of the plant.
"And you shall make the boards for the tabernacle of acacia wood, standing up." (Exodus, 26, 5).
"And you shall make a table of acacia wood." (Exodus 25, 23).
The coiled acacia tree is a spiky tree from the Mimosoideae family which mainly grows in river courses in the Arava and Negev. It is assumed that this is the most common type of acacia tree which was used by our forefathers during their sojourns in the desert. The Bedouin attach great importance to the acacia tree. The leaves, flowers and fruit also develop in years of drought and are used a source of nourishment for goats.
The fruit - a coiled pod which gives the tree its name. It is distributed by animals which feed off its shell and excrete the seeds with their excreta, or via the mouth when they chew the cud, like the deer. The acacia tree has two flowering cycles - in spring and at the end of summer.
Our walk ends here. We will return by car to the top of Maaleh Tsin. If your vehicle is elsewhere you can climb to the top on foor (about 2 km.).
Other possibilities: good walkers can continue from the foot of Maaleh Tsin to Hod Akeb and Ein Akeb (see walking map with path markings - northwest Negev).
- The Israel Guide, Mt. Negev and the Eilot Region, Keter Publishing, Ministry of Defense Publications, 1979.
- Ze'ev Rehess, The Geology of the Northern Negev, Sdeh Boker Academy Publications, Ben-Gurion Academy, 1975.
- Avinoam Dannin, Vegetation of the Negev, Sifriat Hapoalim, 1977.
- Encyclopedia of Wildlife and Plants, "Flowering Vegetation" volumes A and B, Ministry of Defense Publications.
- David Palmach and Yaakov Eini, From Mt. Tsror to Ein Akeb, Daff Yehudit no. 78, the Nature Protection Society.