Israel’s southern desert region–the Negev–has long been a wild and mysterious part of Israel. People have struggled to comprehend or utilize its present and potential future value over the course of time. However, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, made it his mission to promote popularizing the Negev. His dream was to make the desert bloom with plants and life so that it could be a valuable resource for both Israel and all of mankind. Ben-Gurion proactively led the way himself by settling in Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the central area of the Negev, towards the end of his life. Despite the fact that Ben-Gurion, a giant in Israeli and Jewish history, saw the immense value that the Negev offered, many are quick to dismiss the region because of its difficult arid climate. With little rainfall from June through October and more empty than inhabited space, it’s easy to discount the Negev’s role in Israel’s success and attraction. However, you won’t find a region as exciting, challenging, or surprising as the Negev. This vast desert, which is dependent on the rainfall that comes from September through May in order for the crops to succeed and for the springs and riverbeds to be filled, offers all sorts of people tremendous excitement and opportunity.
As soon the first rain of the year hits the desert in late October/early November, people from all over Israel become storm and flood chasers, flocking to the Negev to swim and enjoy the rare site of the riverbeds and springs filling up. This phenomenon is incredible to witness first-hand. People often spend days checking the radars so that they can post up along the riverbeds and catch the very moment that the water suddenly bursts through the previously dry and cracked riverbeds. The picnics, coffee, and company that usually accompany the views make this a fun activity to do with friends; as soon as the waters hit, many hop right into the pools and rivers for a swim on hot days.
Another reason for the excitement surrounding the rare floods is that the water that spills into the rivers and springs ends up staying in the area for the rest of the year. It serves as a water source for native animals and plants while also becoming a perfect place for hikers to cool down on a hot, sunny day.
If you enjoy the rush of chasing storms and would like to watch a phenomenon that most Israelis don’t get to see, go to http://amudanan.co.il/ in order to track the storms and see if you’ll be able to catch any floods in the time that you’re in the area. It’s highly likely that you’ll have to go to a few different spots before settling down and finding the perfect location to watch a flood, but the experience is definitely worth a full day of driving and chasing.
Make sure to be careful, though, as the storms and floods take many people by surprise every year and have led to casualties and, in some cases, deaths in the past. Check the storm radars throughout the day so that you know where the water is coming from and which areas are safe to go check out.
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Adam Schrag 2015