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Eilat Free things to do Hiking in Israel

Hiking in the Eilat Mountains to Beautiful En Netafim

On the last day of the Passover holiday, my family and I drove up to the Eilat Mountains to try one of the many hiking trails, which we haven’t tried yet. We chose to hike the circular trail to En Netafim, which partly overlaps the Israel National Trail. It’s a 3.5-km trail, that takes you down to the small and beautiful Netafim Spring, called En Netafim in Hebrew (“En” means “Spring”), and then back up to the starting point. I really loved the view of the desert around us and am not surprised that part of this trail was combined in the Israel National Trail. The hike takes about 2 hours and includes some descends and ascends which are a bit challenging, especially for those who are afraid of heights.

Before I start telling you about the trail itself, let’s go over safety instructions and general notes:

* The hike is under your own responsibility, so please be careful, especially when you are standing next to the cliff that’s along the trail.

* Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 2 liters of water and wear a hat. It is recommended to also pack snacks if you want to stop somewhere, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you.

* Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM) and begin your hike at least 4 hours before sunset.

* During the rainy season, check for flood hazards after every rainfall. If there is a flood hazard, do not hike in the mountains area. Also, do not attempt to hike this trail right after rainfalls, as it can be slippery.

* The water in the spring basin is not good for drinking or bathing.

* This trail involves many climbs and descends, so if you are not fit for this kind of hiking, don’t attempt to hike the trail.

* Those afraid of heights might get afraid at some points along the hike.

* The phone signal is bad in the mountains area and sometimes non-existent. Though, I was able to get a phone signal down at the spring.

* Do not camp next to the spring. Camp only in designated areas (Mount Yehoram Camping Site). If you camp next to the spring, this might frighten the animals in the area and prevent them from getting to the water at their time of need.

Before the Hike – A Bit About En Netafim:

En Netafim is a special point in the Eilat Mountains, as it is the only spring in the area, which flows all year round. Many desert animals stop by the spring to drink and refresh themselves during the early morning and twilight hours.

In 1906, when the British and the Ottomans decided where the border line will pass between their two empires, the British insisted that the spring will be in their territory. That border line from 1906 eventually became the border line between Israel and Egypt, and En Netafim stayed in our territory, as Israel is based on the British mandate territory.

How to Get to the Head of the Trail?

The easiest way to get to the head of the trail is by car. We used our car to get to the trail and parked next to its head. But if you don’t have a car or don’t have enough budget for renting one, you can get on Egged bus number 392 from Eilat Central Bus Station and get off at the forth stop, called “Ma’avar Netafim” (מעבר נטפים). It should take about 15 minutes by bus. Make sure to tell the driver you want to get off at this station. Keep in mind that the bus does not operate on Fridays and Saturdays (there’s no public transportation on Shabbat). From this station, you can walk south along road number 12 for about 1.5 km – about 20 minutes – until you reach the trail end. It should be to your left and there should be a road sign pointing towards it, saying “En Netafim” (עין נטפים).

The way from Ma’avar Netafim (Netafim Passage) to the trail as shown by Google Maps
Standing at the head of the trail, looking back at Mount Yoash

The Hike:

The map of the trail (based on a map from the Amud Anan website)

The trail begins opposite of Mount Yoash (1) as a wide dirt road, that descends down towards Wadi Netafim. Every trail in Israel is marked by a specific color. This part of the trail is marked by the black color and also by the orange-blue-white mark, which is the color combination of the Israel National Trail.

The beginning of the trail…

We continued along this trail for about 1 km until we got to a big sign, warning about the cliff up ahead and prohibiting the lighting of fire in the area. A few steps ahead there’s a crossroad of trails (2). We continued straight on the green marked trail, which is also part of the Israel National Trail. 

The sign before the crossroad
The crossroad

We continued a few steps along this trail and then got to the cliff’s edge (3), where a horizonal bar is blocking the wrong way down the cliff. There are two narrow descends here that require using some step bars, which have been installed into the rocks. We climbed down carefully through the narrow opening, passed one descend and continued right away to the second, which is actually a pile of stone boulders, which have collapsed from the cliff and created a convenient way down the cliff.

Climbing down the cliff through the narrow opening…

After the descend, we continued on the green marked trail until reaching a shady spot (4), where we stopped to drink water. My father looked at his map, looked around and said: “This is supposed to be the place of the spring.” Then he pointed at a wet spot on the ground and said: “Well, this is the spring. It’s supposed to be small.” I said: “It can’t be. Do you really think any animal can drink from this tiny spot of water?” “Maybe it’s dried up,” he shrugged and then pointed at the green foliage at the base of the cliff: “Look, it’s enough for the plants.” I saw an opening in the cliff, right where the foliage was situated. “Maybe the spring is inside the opening?” I suggested and started climbing up to the base of the cliff. A few steps up and I already spotted the artificial basin, which was created here by the British in the 1930s to keep the water of the spring and repaired by the Eilat Field School staff in 1968. The animals which live in the area, amongst them the ibexes, come to the basin to drink water. Though, for us, the water is not good for drinking. In the 1980s, the spring’s water turned suddenly very salty. It’s also not good for bathing. The source of the water in the basin is from the En Netafim spring, which emerges as little drops of water from the rocks of the cliff. “Netafim” in Hebrew means “drops”.

Where’s En Netafim?!
Here it is!

Happy we’ve found the spring, we continued on our way along the green marked trail until we got to another crossroad of trails (5). The green marked trail continues from this point straight, but we took the red marked trail, which turns right, back in the direction of the starting point. The red marked trail ascends upwards. There’s also a point where you need to climb up using a few bar steps, which were installed into the wall.

The climb up

After finishing the climb, we continued on the red marked trail until we reached another crossroad of trails (6). Here, the red marked trail meets the black marked trail. You can either turn right or left on the black marked trail. If you turn right, you arrive back at the same spot where you descend down to the spring. We decided to take the longer and other way back and turned left. The sign at the crossroad indicates that left leads to Mt. Yehoram.

Another crossroad…

The black marked trail continues along a quite wide dirt trail, that is very exposed to the sun. To the right, you’ll see part of Wadi Netafim, which is almost always dry but still quite beautiful. After a while, the trail begins to ascend towards the top of a saddle (7). The ascend is quite steep, but goes on for only about 300 meters. At the top of the saddle, the wind is very mighty. We took a few minutes to rest at the top and then continued downwards. The descend is also quite steep, so we walked down step by step.

The view from the top of the saddle

We continued on the black marked trail, which continues on a rather flat surface, until we got to the Mount Yehoram Camping Site (8). From there, we took the dirt road that turns right and walked along it until we reached road number 12 after about 200 meters (9).  We crossed to the other side of the road and continued right in the direction of the trail head, where we left our car. We continued along the road for about 600 meters until we reached the point where we started.

The meeting with road number 12

It was a very nice trail, with beautiful landscapes and some nice climbs. We were sorry it didn’t last a bit longer!

Optional Additions:

  • Hiking in the Eilat Mountains from Mount Yoash to Mount Zefachot. Instead of using public transportation back to the city, you can take hike the last segment of the Israel National Trail, from Mount Yoash to Mount Zefachot. Since it’s a long hike, I’d recommend you spend the night at the Mount Yehoram Camping Site and then wake up early and begin the trail.
  • You can also continue along the Israel National Trail towards the north.

How much time does the trail take? About 2-3 hours.

Difficulty: Mid to high level of difficulty due to the steep descends and ascends, which sometimes require climbing.

It is a 3.5-km circular trail with some steep descends and ascends along the way.

When is the best time to hike? Spring (March to May) or Autumn (October to December), when temperatures are mild.

I wish you a great hike in the Eilat Mountains.

More hiking trails that might interest you:

Hiking Around Eilat: Beautiful Red Canyon

Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat

Hiking Near the Dead Sea: Lower Nahal Og

A Beautiful Hike in Upper Nahal Darga – Dead Sea Area


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Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Eilat Trip Planning Tips

3 to 5 Days in Eilat: Travel Ideas

Soon flights will start landing in the new Ramon International Airport, which is situated about 20 km north of Eilat. Until then, flights are still landing in Ovda Airport, 60 km away from Eilat, which only makes it a little bit longer to reach the sunny city at the southern tip of Israel.

Eilat lies between the colorful mountains, the flat yellow Arava and the beautiful turquoise Red Sea. I’ve spent much of my childhood in Eilat and still visit the area once in a while, so I can assure you, there’s lots to see there! If you only have 3-5 days and want to experience the Israeli desert and the sunny city of Eilat, here are some travel ideas which could help you plan your trip.

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(Almost) Only Hiking:

Planning to come on the tightest budget and to hike through the beautiful landscapes of the Eilat Mountains and Arava? Make sure to come with a good tent, sturdy hiking shoes, a sunhat, sun screen and enough water (at least 3 liters a day in winter and at least 5 liters a day in summer). And do not attempt to hike after rainfall, because there’s a flood hazard. Here is my suggestion for a few days of hiking and having a fun time in Eilat and the area:

 

Day 1: Hike from Eilat Field School to Mount Yoash

Wake up early and start the first part of the Israel Trail – or the last part, depends on how you look at it – from Eilat Field School to Mount Yoash. Expect a long hike through the beautiful Eilat mountains, around 8 hours of hiking, about 14 km. Before you start hiking, read more about this trail in my post: Hiking in the Eilat Mountains: From Mount Yoash to Mount Zefahot. It shows the trail if coming from the opposite side, but it still gives you the overall feel.

At the end of the trail, you can set up your tent at the Mount Yehoram Campground. There are no facilities in the campground, so you should make sure you have enough food and water for the night and the next day. There’s an option of paying for someone to bring you water to the campground or for someone to hide water for you in advance. Check out the list of water caching service providers here.

View of the Eilat Field School from the beginning (or end) of the trail

Day 2: Explore the Red Canyon

Wake up early, before sunrise, and climb up Mount Yoash, which is a very short walk from Mount Yehoram Campground. From the top of the mountain you can see a beautiful view of the Red Sea, the mountains of the area, Jordan, Egypt and even a bit of Saudi Arabia, and the view is even more magical at sunrise. It should take you around one hour to climb up and down. If you want, you can pack something to eat on top of the mountain.

Afterwards, you can start your way to the Red Canyon. You can try hitchhiking, but there are times when this road is quite empty. It takes about 3 hours to hike along the road to the Red Canyon. Please be careful and don’t walk in the middle of the road! You can read my post: Hiking Around Eilat – Beautiful Red Canyon for all the details.

After hiking the Red Canyon, you can catch bus number 392 back to Eilat (not on Shabbat). Last bus leaves around 7:30 PM, so make sure not to miss it. If you do miss it, you can camp near at the Red Canyon Campground. If you get to Eilat this day, you can set your tent on one of the southern beaches or in the Eilat Field School (at a cost). Read more about camping options in the area in my post: Camping Sites in and Around Eilat.

The Red Canyon

Day 3: Discover the Underwater World

This day is meant for a bit of relaxation, away from the mountains and into the underwater world. If you chose to camp in the southern beaches area, then you can wake up and walk to the Coral Beach Reserve, which is situated right in front of the Eilat Field School. It’s a lovely beach, where you can rent a mask and a snorkel (ID needed) and snorkel above the most northern coral reef in the world! The entrance is at a fee (35 ILS per person), as the place belongs to the INPA, but it’s worth the price. You can easily spend there around 3-4 hours.

Watch a bit about coral reef conservation in Eilat by GoEco:

Afterwards, you can sit down and relax on one of the nearby beaches, such as the Migdalor Beach or the Village Beach, or you can take a bus (number 15 or 16) to one of the more northern beaches. One of the most popular beaches in Eilat is Mosh’s Beach. It’s also one of the southern beaches, but is much nearer to the city center, north to the Eilat Port. The service on Mosh’s Beach is perfect, the music is fun and there’s a lot of food and drink options. You can relax here for the rest of the afternoon.

Day 4: Hike Through the Arava to Schoret Canyon

This day will have the longest hike, around 18 km. Unlike day number 1, you won’t have to climb up and down mountains, but you’ll still have to walk this long distance on a trail that has no piece of shade along it, so get ready for it, pack enough water and snacks, and wake up as early as you can. If you’re coming from the southern beaches area, you can wait for the first bus to the starting point, bus number 16. It leaves the Eilat Field School area around 9:00 AM and gets to the Ice Mall around 20 minutes later. From there, you can begin the hike along the Arava towards Schoret Canyon, passing by a number of interesting points along the way. You can read more about this hike in my post: Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat.

After visiting the Flamingo Pools, you can hike back to the path junction that led to the pools and turn towards road number 90. You’ll have to cross the road to the other side to get to Schoret Canyon. Lately, they’ve put a road barrier in between the two lanes, so please cross very carefully and make sure there’s no car coming your way. This is under your responsibility! After crossing the road, continue according to the signage until you reach Schoret Canyon Campground. There, you can set up your tent. The campground is without any facilities, so make sure to pack enough water for the day and the day afterwards.

Near the Schoret Canyon

Day 5: Schoret Canyon and Back Home

On the fifth and final day, you can take a hike in beautiful Schoret Canyon (the Black Canyon). There are some really nice lookouts along the way, as well as an interesting ancient leopard’s trap. From the Schoret Canyon Campground continue on the green-marked trail until you enter the canyon. This is also part of the Israel Trail, so you might see the orange-blue-white marking on some stones as well. After about 1.2 km you will get to a fork in the trail. Choose the red marked trail. After an easy climb and about 1.5 km, you’ll get a point where the red trail meets a black trail. Turn right on the black marked trail and continue along it until you get back to the campground. It’s an easy and very nice trail, that is about 4 km long and takes about 2-4 hours to complete.

*If you want, you can make your hike longer by hiking to Amram Pillars and back. Instead of turning right on the black marked trail, turn left and hike about 4 km until you reach a trail junction. Continue straight on the red marked trail until you reach the blue marked trail. Turn right and follow the signs to Amram Pillars. Those pillars are a beautiful example of erosion in the desert and are very similar to the Solomon Pillars in Timna Park.

Schoret Map

After the hike, you can continue hiking back to road number 90 on the same trail you hiked yesterday. If you want to catch a bus, you’ll need to walk a bit further south from the place where the road to the Canyon meets road number 90. Walk about 4 km south to Schoret Industrial Area (in Hebrew: אזור תעשיה שחורת) and try to catch any bus driving south. That will take you to Eilat and from there you can catch a bus to Ovda Airport. If you want to get to Ramon International Airport (still not open for international flights in the time of writing – February 2019), then you can walk to Schoret Industrial Area and try to catch a bus driving to the north. The airport is just one stop afterwards, but it’s a 11 km walk from the Schoret road junction.

Another option is to hike along the Israel Trail throughout your 4-5 days.

 

With a Rented Car:

With a rented car you can make the most out of your trip, but at a bit higher cost. Renting a car can cost around 100 ILS per day, not including fuel costs. Two of the major car rental companies in Israel are Shlomo Sixt and Cal Auto. Check out this deal for a better price. The roads are very easy to navigate and most are paved.

Let’s say your starting point is Eilat. I recommend you use a navigating app like Google Maps or Waze.

Day 1: Explore Timna Park and its Surroundings

Drive from Eilat to Timna Park, 30 km north of Eilat. It is open from 8:00AM, so it would be best to come as early as possible to avoid the warmer hours. There is no shade in Timna Park. The entrance fee is around 50 ILS.

You can either drive between the different sites with your car or rent a bike from the entrance to the park or from the park’s shop near the artificial lake and ride along 14 km of bike trails that have been marked throughout the park.

Highlights of the park include Solomon’s Pillars and Hathor’s Temple, the Arches Site and Ancient Mined (the most ancient copper mines in the world!) and the Mushroom, a unique formation in the red sandstone.

Solomon Pillars in Timna Park

You can easily spend here the entire morning. You can eat lunch near the park’s lake (either buy food from the park’s restaurant or bring your own) and then move on to Elifaz, the kibbutz that is situated right beside Timna Park. In the kibbutz plantation you can taste different types of vegetables grown in the Arava (if the season permits). The entrance to the plantation costs 30 ILS per person. For more info about Elifaz’s plantation and how to get there, you can call the kibbutz at: 08-6356230 (You’ll need to add the international dial code +972 if you’re not calling from an Israeli number).

Then, you can continue northwards. If you have time and are interested, you can pay a short visit to Samar Dunes (near Kibbutz Samar), which are one of the last remaining sand dunes in the Arava. Run up the majestic dune and roll your way down, or bring with you something to slide on!

You can stay the night at one of the kibbutzim in the area. I recommend on Kibbutz Lotan, an eco-friendly Jewish settlement, that is one of the leading places in the world in the natural building field. You might get a chance to sleep in one of their cool natural buildings! They also have a nice tour in their eco-park, that takes place every day at 9:00 AM. Talk with them on the phone +972-54-9799030 or by email info@klotan.co.il.

Get a glimpse of Kibbutz Lotan in this video by Kibbutz Lotan:

 

This day is also possible without a car (by public transportation):

You can get on any bus driving to the north along road number 90 from the Central Bus Station in Eilat and ask the driver to stop at Elifaz/ Timna Park Junction (in Hebrew: אליפז/ פארק תמנע). The bus ride should cost around 14 ILS. From the junction, you can continue by foot to Timna Park and pay the entrance fee (around 50 ILS). I recommend you rent a bike from the visitor center at the entrance and paddle along the many bike trails in the park. A regular bike rental will cost you 60 ILS for half a day, and an electric bike rental will cost you 85 ILS for 4 hours.

At the end of the day, you can choose to camp inside the park. If you bring your own tent, you’ll pay about 104 ILS (the park admission price included). If you prefer something fancier, you can use one of the park’s tents at a higher price. Email the park for more info and reservations: timna8@parktimna.co.il.

You can also take a bus to Kibbutz Lotan and stay the night there as suggested in the rented-car option. The kibbutz can arrange a lift from the junction to the kibbutz itself.

And there’s another option:

You can visit Timna Park by joining the Timna Park Safari Tour. They’ll pick you up from your hotel around 10:00 AM and then take you to Timna Park. You’ll have about a 2-hour safari inside the park, seeing the main sites, and then you’ll be returned to Eilat. The price starts from 25 USD per person, not including the site entrance fee. You can book it by calling +972-8-6616976.

Day 2: Discover the Beaches and Underwater World of Eilat

On your second day, wake up and make your way to Eilat (if you want to take a tour in Lotan’s eco-park, you can do it in the morning).

I recommend starting your day early in the Coral Beach Reserve, where you can snorkel above the beautiful reef. You will need to put an ID at the reception to be able to use the site’s snorkel and mask. If you want to see the underwater world much more clearly, you can visit the Underwater Observatory Park, though it is super pricey (about 100 ILS!) If you do want to visit the observatory, you should definitely book the tickets in advance through their site, as it is a bit cheaper there.

After enjoying your time under the water, you can sit down and relax on one of Eilat’s beaches. As I’ve already mentioned, Mosh’s Beach is one of the best.

In the evening you can do some pub crawling around the different night venues of Eilat. My favorites are Mike’s Place, Paddy’s Irish Pub and Bears Pub. Some would also recommend the legendary Three Monkeys Bar, but I find it too noisy.

If you prefer something a bit different, on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings there’s also a nice musical fountain show in the park behind the Eilat Museum.

If you aren’t interested in camping, you can check out the Arava Hostel, which was recommended to me by some people. There’s also the Shelter Hostel, which is more Christian-oriented, but also recommended.

This day is also possible without a car (by public transportation):

Use bus number 15 or 16 to get to the Coral Beach Reserve and to the more southern beaches.

Day 3: Drive Through the Eilat Mountains

On the third day, set out early in the morning to the Eilat Mountains, one of the most beautiful geological areas in Israel and the surroundings. At the time of the formation of the Great Rift Valley, secondary rifts were also formed horizonal to the Great one. Those rifts made it possible for us to see many types of rocks each beside the other, what makes the Eilat Mountains so colorful. Some of the darker rocks you see are about 500 million years old! Road number 12, that makes its way through the Eilat Mountains, is one of the most amazing drives in the area. It winds between the different mountains and valleys as it stretches beside the border with Egypt.

The road through the mountains…

Drive about 8 km from the beginning of road 12 and you’ll see to your left a little mountain with an antenna on top of it – that’s Mount Yoash. You can stop in the dirt parking lot and climb up to the top of Mount Yoash to enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains, of the Egyptian territory to the south and of the enchanting Red Sea to the east. If you don’t have problems with waking up really early, I recommend you try to come here at sunrise. The sunrise is amazing from Mount Yoash. The climb up and down takes about an hour (if you stop to appreciate the view from atop).

There are mainly trails in the area, which you can see are marked by signs along the way. The most popular trail is the Red Canyon, so after Mount Yoash I’ll recommend you to return to your car and continue through the mountains another 11 km or so until you see the turn to the Red Canyon (in Hebrew: הקניון האדום). You’ll need to drive a few minutes on a dirt road that is quite bumpy, so be aware of that, especially because your using a rented car. Drive slowly and carefully. When you’ll get to the end of the road, you can start the hike. Read more about it here: Hiking Around Eilat – Beautiful Red Canyon. It shouldn’t take you more than two hours.

Continue along road number 12. You’ll reach the Ovda Valley, where Ovda Airport is located. If you want to see one of the most interesting archeologic finds in the area, you can turn right about 45 km from the Red Canyon towards a site called the Leopards’ Temple. It’s an ancient open-air temple, with rocks that are arranged in the shape of leopards on the ground.

From the Leopards’ Temple you can continue about 5 km to the road junction with road number 40. There’s a nice mini-restaurant on this junction, called Pundak Neot Semadar. The menu includes vegetarian options, including shakshuka, different kinds of toasts, humus, tahini and salads. You can eat here lunch.

Then, continue about 8 km east on road number 40 until you see a brown sign indicating right towards Mount Ayit. This is another lookout, but this time over the Arava and the Edom Mountains (which are on the Jordanian side). You can see some of the settlements down below, including Lotan and Grofit.

After the lookout, you can continue on your way back to Eilat (or to the Ramon Airport if your flight is leaving from there). If you’re coming back to Eilat for the night, you can make a quick stop at the Bird-Watching Park that’s near the Arava Border Crossing (Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing). If you’re travelling in the bird migration season in the spring, you might be able to see some birds before sunset. The entrance to the park is free of charge.

Part of this day is also possible without a car (by public transportation):

It would be difficult to make the full circuit with a bus, but you can definitely catch bus number 392 from the Central Bus Station in Eilat to the Red Canyon. Ask the driver to stop for you at the Red Canyon junction. From there, you’ll need to hike a short way on the dirt road to the beginning of the trail. Make sure to ask the driver where and when you should wait for the next bus back to Eilat.

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Wishing you a wonderful time in Eilat and its surroundings!  

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

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Yours,

Lior

 

Categories
Eilat Free things to do Hiking in Israel

Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat

 Most people come to Eilat to enjoy the fantastic sea and the colorful mountains, but there are also some interesting points in the Arava. The Arava is the narrow region that spreads all the way from the south of the Dead Sea to Eilat. It’s the long yellowish plain between the Negev Mountains (on the Israeli side) and the Edom Mountains (on the Jordanian side). Though it seems like there’s nothing to see along it, the truth is that it has some interesting archeological sites, wildlife and agricultural points. The weather was great this Saturday, so I decided to take my friend on a hike from Eilat, my childhood town, to the Sharsheret Wells, which are about 11 km from the city.

This trail isn’t marked, but goes along a semi-paved road, so it’s easy to keep track of it. It’s a nice and easy hike for those of you who have already been to the sea, the mountains and to Timna Park and now want to taste a bit of the Arava. It’s also a fantastic trail for bird-lovers! Be ready for a hike of around 3-4 hours each way with almost no shade along the way.

Before I start telling you about the trail itself, let’s go over safety instructions and general notes:

* The hike is under your own responsibility.

* Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 2 liters of water and wear a hat and sunglasses (the trail is almost entirely exposed to the sun). It is recommended to also pack snacks.

* Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 5-6 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM) and begin make sure your hike won’t exceed the sunlight hours.

* During the rainy season, check for flood hazards after every rainfall. If there is a flood hazard, do not go on this hike, as the floods almost always end up in the Arava.

* The whole trail is on a flat surface with no climbs along the way.

* All points mentioned in this post can be reached by car if you prefer to drive between them rather than hike.

 

How to get to the head of the trail?

The beginning of this trail is near the Ice Mall. If you’re staying in a hostel or camping on one of the beaches in Eilat, you can either walk to the Ice Mall (up to 40 minutes’ walk inside the city), take a taxi (around 20-25 ILS) or take a bus (cheaper than a taxi, but takes much longer to get to the starting point). If you want to take a bus, you can use the Moovit app to check out which lines are best for you. Search for “Ice Mall”, put your location and find the best route. When you arrive at the front entrance of the mall, you just need to walk about 750 meters east along the road until you see the trail to your left.    

The trail:

We began our hike from the Ice Mall (1), located at the north-eastern part of Eilat. We took the road leading east towards Jordan, passed by a parking lot with some caravans, passed above a small bridge and then turned left onto the trail (2). This short part of the trail goes along the Kinet Water Channel, which was built as a drainage channel for floods.

The Kinet Channel and the City of Eilat

After about 400 meters, there’s a split in the path, with a bird pointing right (3). One way continues along the Kinet Channel, while the other, which is “paved”, takes a slight turn right and then continues straight along the palm plantation, that belong to the nearby kibbutz. We took the right turn and continued along the palms.

The bird pointing to the trail

Palm trees have existed in the Land of Israel during ancient times, in the First and Second Temple periods, but have gone extinct at some point, when there was nobody here who took care of them. The palm trees returned to Israel in the 1950s, when two people, Ben Zion-Israeli and Yani Avidor, were able to get some dates and palm twigs out of Iraq. Today, the most popular dates are those harvested from the Medjool palm tree, but those were brought to Israel from the USA. Palm trees grow mainly in the Southern Arava because it is much saltier here than in the middle and northern part of the Arava.

We continued along the road, which is paved, but badly maintained. After about 2 km we saw the Bird-Watching Park to our left (4). This area was once much more wild. It was part of the Eilat Saltmarsh, full of trees and bushes, a perfect spot for migrating birds on their way to Africa. After the city of Eilat was established in 1951, the marsh began to suffer until it was finally taken over by the hotels, the shopping centers, the airport, the salt production ponds, and the city dump, which was right where the Bird-Watching Park is today. Many studies took place in the area, until finally the Bird-Watching Park was established in 1993. An artificial pond was created and today, millions of migrating birds stop in this park to refuel themselves before continuing towards the Sahara Desert and Africa. The park is free of charge and is open all day long. There’s a circular route inside the park, which takes you around some of the main watching points. The best times to be here are in the Fall or in the Spring, when there’s more chance to see migrating birds on their way to or from Africa. If you would like to donate to the park, it would be nice of you to purchase something from their store. This is also a great stop to refill your water bottles or take a restroom break before continuing on this trail.

The bird-watching park for afar

After taking a short walk in the park, we continued towards the Arava Border Crossing, also known as the Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing (5). This border crossing takes you into Jordan, and many people choose to cross here in order to get to Petra. Maybe you’ll choose to do that as well. We continued along the road that leaves the border crossing towards the main road, road number 90. But we didn’t go all the way to road number 90. About 750 meters along the road, there’s a narrow-paved road that leads straight ahead, parallel to road number 90. Next to it is a sign that says “מכון טיהור שפכים אילת” (which actually means “Eilat Sewage Treatment Plant”), with an arrow pointing to the left (6).

The sign leading to the trail

We went after the arrow and continued on that straight road, that is accompanied by a pipeline to its right. The pipeline has a purple stripe on it, which indicates that the pipeline is leading recycled water. Instead of wasting the water, the farmers of the Southern Arava use recycled water to water their fields of palm trees. Vegetables are not watered by recycled water.

Walking along the pipeline…

This long and narrow road is the part that links between one interesting point to another. It’s about 5.5 km long, so get ready for about one hour of hiking along agricultural fields and dead yellowish cactuses. Vehicles passed by us every now. One time a lady with a jeep stopped by us and asked if we would like a lift. “No, thanks,” we smiled at her. She looked at us, shocked: “You’re going to the Flamingo Ponds?” “Yes,” we nodded. “You’re going to walk all the way THERE?” she asked, astonished. “Yes, we like to walk,” we replied. She was still quite speechless, took hold of her steering wheel and continued up the road. Yeah, not a lot of people walk along this road. Actually, there was NOBODY walking along this road when we did it. But, if you like walking, it’s a nice workout.

After about one hour, we finally got to a junction in the road. The bike trail, signaled by a camel on two wheels, continued straight, but we took the right turn onto an agricultural road between two plantations (7).

The junction

This part is a little bit shady. Near the end of the road, we started hearing the cry of the flamingoes and after passing a small mound of dirt, the huge Flamingo Ponds were laid before us. We continued north along the ponds until we saw a small white lookout point up on a small mound of dirt. We climbed to the building and took a rest on the benches before reading a bit of the informative signs (8).

It’s hard to see, but there are flamingoes out there!

The Flamingo Ponds (or the Avrona Ponds) are artificial and were made by Salt of The Earth Ltd. in order to function as salt production ponds. The ponds here are the most northern of three ponds in the Southern Arava. When the migrating birds made their way to Africa, some of them found those ponds and decided to make their stop here. Amongst those were the flamingoes. Pink brine shrimps, that grow in the ponds, are great snacks for the flamingoes. If they eat enough of them, the flamingoes turn from their white color to their more famous pinkish color.

After eating an orange, we continued a bit farther to the Sharsheret Wells, which are just about 800 meters north-west to the Flamingo Ponds. We got to the brownish shade shed (9) and then followed the black arrows, that are stuck in the ground, until we got to the two wells. It seems like you’re walking in a complete wasteland, which is somewhat true. There’s barely anything around you, but if you keep on following the arrows you’ll get there. “Sharsheret” in Hebrew means “Chain”. The two wells are part of a chain of wells, which are part of an ancient watering system from the time of the Muslim era, called a qanat. In the past, floods would flow into this depressed area and with no drainage, stayed here and formed a huge dry lake, known as Avrona Dry Lake. Ancient farmers wanted to grow their crops here, but couldn’t use water that was in contact with the salty water of the dry lake, so they built the qanat as a solution. They captured the floods at a higher point, underground, using the wells and the tunnels between them, before the water got to the salty areas. Then, they led the water in channels to their agricultural fields.

Those yellow bars signal one of the wells

We climbed inside one of the wells and made our way in the dark tunnel to the second well, climbing out of it. There are bars leading down and up, so you can do this as well. Just pay attention that one of the bars has fallen in one of the wells, so mind your step. And don’t forget to take a flashlight with you, because it’s dead dark inside! It takes just a few minutes, but is really exciting.

After climbing out of the well, we met my Dad, who gave us a lift back home. If you don’t have anyone who can give you a lift, you can make the same way back to Eilat (maybe someone will give you a lift on the way back). Another option is to go camp near Shchoret Canyon. To get there, you’ll need to walk to road number 90, which is about one km from the Sharsheret Wells, and then cross it. Recently, a road separation fence was built in the middle of the road, so please be careful when crossing and make sure there are no vehicles coming your way. After crossing, you can hike along the road that leads towards Amram Pillars (עמודי עמרם) and Shchoret Canyon (קניון שחורת). When you get to a split in the road, take the green-marked trail that goes left towards Shchoret Canyon. From the split in the road, it is about 3 km until you reach the Shchoret Camping Site. Overall, it should take you around one hour and 15 minutes to reach the camping site from our ending point at Sharsheret Wells.

How much time does the trail take? About 3-4 hours one way, depending on your fitness and how long you stay at each point along the way.

Difficulty: It’s a flat trail, which means there’s no difficult climbs, but because of its length with no shade along the way, I’d say it’s a moderate-level trail.

It is about 11-kilometers long. 

When is the best time to hike? During the Winter and Spring (December-May), when the temperature drops in the Arava.

Other trails in Israel:

Sataf: Beautiful Hiking Trails Just Outside Jerusalem

Hiking Near the Dead Sea: Lower Nahal Og

Hiking in the Eilat Mountains: From Mount Yoash to Mount Zefahot

A Beautiful Hike in Upper Nahal Darga – Dead Sea Area

Hiking Down the Carmel Through Wadi Kelah and Galim


Wishing you a great hike along the Southern Arava!

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

Also, feel free to connect with me on Facebook – Backpack Israel.

And if you’re planning a trip to Israel, don’t forget to check out my FREE app – Travel Israel for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Eilat Festivals & holidays Jerusalem Tel Aviv Trip Planning Tips

The Ultimate Summer Guide to Israel

Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links, meaning I get commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. All the recommendations are my own.

The Israeli Summer is already here! Summer in Israel takes place from June to September. I would recommend traveling to Israel in the Spring (February to May), because of the high temperatures in the Summer, but if you can’t come any other time or if you prefer the sunny months, here is my ultimate guide to traveling to Israel in the summer.

Israeli Summer Overview:

The Israeli Summer (June to September) is when the temperatures go way up. In some places, such as Eilat, it can climb over 50 degrees Celsius. This means you’ll have a great time on the beachside and in the cool water springs. On the other hand, you shouldn’t plan to take long hikes at this time of year.

From the end of June until the beginning of September Israeli kids are on their Summer vacation. This means many attractions will be crowded, especially on weekends (Fridays and Saturdays), when the parents are also on a break.

Bottom line: Summer is a perfect time to visit Israel if you just want to chill out on one of Israel’s beaches and take it easy. This time of year is also perfect for festival lovers because some of the best festivals take place at this time of year.

Watch this cool video by Shai Cohen:

Essential Summer packing list for Israel:

  • Enough short shirts and pants
  • Something that will warm you up in the evenings, in case it gets chilly (this is relevant mainly for those planning to go to Jerusalem, the desert or the Golan Heights area or for indoor activities)
  • Modest clothes to ear for holy places
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Flip-flops
  • Good sandals for walking
  • Sun hat
  • Beach towel
  • Bonus – a small personal fan
  • Anything else you may need for your trip

Summer travel tips for Israel:

  • Every day, pack at least 2-3 liters of water before you leave your accommodation.
  • Start your day as early as possible to get advantage of the cooler hours of the morning, or go out at night when temperatures drop.
  • If you want to cool down with an awesome soft drink, find a place that sells the Tamarindi drink.

Top things to do in the Israeli Summer:

  • Chill out on the Tel Aviv beachside (or any other beachfront town’s beachside, like Netanya or Herzliya).
  • Snorkel or dive in the Eilat Coral Beach Reserve.
  • Cool down in the springs and streams of Golan Heights.
  • Visit the many museums of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
  • Enjoy the Tel Aviv nightlife.
  • Explore the city of Tzfat (Safed).

Top things to avoid doing in the Israeli Summer:

  • Hiking – The Summer isn’t a good time for hiking (especially in the desert)! That’s because the heat is high and not all trails are shaded. Even if they are shaded, the temperatures are still very high. If you won’t carry enough water, it could be dangerous.
  • Pilgrimage tours (visiting churches) – Most of the churches in Israel and especially in Jerusalem don’t have A/C or any other cooling system. With all the pilgrims crowded in the small chapels, this could be a very sweaty experience. So, if you can postpone your pilgrimage journey to some time else, it would be better.
  • Exploring the Negev & Arava – The Israeli sun is a strong one and in Summer it “burns” the Israeli desert. During the daytime, the temperatures can be unbearable (around 40-45 degrees celsius). In the evenings, it can be much cooler. Though, if you want to have a great time in the Negev & Arava and see as much of it as you can, Summer is not the time.

Top places to visit in the Israeli Summer:

Eilat –

Eilat is one of the hottest places in Summer, with the temperature rising over 50 degrees celsius at times. But what makes Eilat a perfect place to visit in the Summer is its beautiful Red Sea, which is usually around 25 degrees celsius during Summer.

You can snorkel or dive in the Coral Reef Reserve, enjoy plenty of water activities or just hang out on one of Eilat’s beaches (Mosh Beach is highly recommended).

Eilat is also a leading shopping destination, thanks to the VAT-free shops. In the new Ice Mall on the northern side of Eilat is a nice ice rink if you have some spare shekels for a few minutes of ice skating.

Expected Weather: Very hot temperature ranging from 25 degrees Celsius at night to 50 degrees at day. The air is usually very dry.

Places to Stay: In Eilat, you can either camp (Camping Sites in and Around Eilat) or stay in one of the hostels: Arava Hostel or The Shelter Hostel. Both hostels are a few minutes by foot from the seaside. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to do in Eilat

Eilat – Perfect Place in Summer, taken from Pixabay

Tel Aviv –

Tel Aviv is super humid in Summer, but it has excellent beaches. Most of them are well maintained and they are a perfect place to get to know people, because they are packed people in Summer.

When you get tired of the beaches you can visit some of the leading Tel Aviv museums, including the Tel Aviv Art Museum, Independence Hall, and the Palmach Museum (pre-reservation needed).

In the night, one of the greatest things you can experience is Tel Aviv’s nightlife. Jump from one bar to another until the early morning. You can read my post – Pub Crawling Tel Aviv – The City That Never Sleeps,

Expected Weather: Hot temperature ranging from 20 degrees Celsius at night to 35 degrees at day on average. The humidity is super high with over 60{f224ba440c8e8489685f5be0eb52a1764ff3ab93b94d860236479bc3f69cbf7f} humidity during the day, which means you’re going to sweat a lot!

Places to Stay: There are plenty of great hostels in Tel Aviv. If you want to be near the sea, try out Tel Aviv Beachfront Hostel, which is situated right on the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Promenade. Another great hostel is Little Tel Aviv Hostel, situated in the heart of the city, a bit far from the beachside, and of course, the famous Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to Do in Tel Aviv

One of the beaches near Old Jaffa- Tel Aviv, taken from Pixabay

Tzfat (Safed) –

Safed is the city of Kabbalah and also one of the coolest cities in Israel (weather-wise), with temperatures around 30 degrees in Summer. In Summer, the temperature in Safed isn’t as hot as in other places in Israel, so it’s a good opportunity to explore the small, mystical Old City of Safed in Summer.

Walk along the beautiful alleys, enter the many art galleries, talk with the local people about the mystics of the city and Judaism, enjoy the music coming out of the houses, and simply breathe in the extraordinary air.

Expected Weather: Hot temperature ranging from 20 degrees Celsius at night to 30 degrees at day. The great thing about Safed is that humidity levels are quite low, with only about 40{f224ba440c8e8489685f5be0eb52a1764ff3ab93b94d860236479bc3f69cbf7f} humidity during the day, which makes the temperature much more bearable.

Places to Stay: There are some hotels inside the city, but if you want a cheaper stay you can check out Safed Inn, which is about a 10 minutes drive from the Old City by taxi. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to Do in Safed

The streets of Safed. Credit: Safed Municipility

The Golan Heights –

If you’re searching for some cool temperature during the Israeli Summer, you might find it in the Golan Heights, which is one of the highest regions of Israel.

Although the Golan is less green in Summer, it is still a nice place to visit. The best experience in the Golan in Summer is the springs and streams, where you can cool down from the heat.

One small and beautiful spring in the southern Golan is Aiah Spring (עין אי”ה), that overlooks all three countries: Israel, Jordan, and Syria. You can get to the spring by rented car. Type into Waze: “מעיין עין אי”ה”.

If you have some shekels to spare, you can visit the fantastic Hexagon Pool (HaMeshushim Reserve) in central Golan. It costs 22 Shekels per adult to enter.

Expected Weather: The temperatures are slightly different throughout the Golan, but on average they range from around 20 degrees at night to around 35 degrees during the day.

Golan – a wonderland even in Summer

Jerusalem –

If you haven’t been to Jerusalem, you should go despite of the heat. Evenings in Jerusalem are usually cool even in Summer and some activities can be done at that time, like hanging out in Machane Yehuda Market or exploring the alleys of the Old City. When it’s out outside, try visiting some of Jerusalem’s top museums, including The Israel Museum and Yad Vashem Museum (Yad Vashem, by the way, is free of charge). And of course, don’t forget to take part in the many events and festivals taking place in the city in Summer.

Expected Weather: The temperature is quite hot, with temperatures ranging from around 20 degrees at night to around 30 degrees during the day. The average humidity is 40{f224ba440c8e8489685f5be0eb52a1764ff3ab93b94d860236479bc3f69cbf7f}, which makes the temperatures more bearable.

Places to Stay: The best place to stay in Jerusalem is in the city center. I highly recommend Abraham Hostel Jerusalem, but there are also other recommended options, such as The Post Hostel and Rich’s Place in the City Center. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to do in Jerusalem 

Jerusalem – a must visit

Top Summer festivals and events in Israel:

Tel Aviv Pride – This week-long event celebrates Israel’s LGBT community life in a series of colorful events. The main event is the Pride Parade, which makes its way through Tel Aviv.

Lights in Jerusalem Festival – In this fabulous festival, the Old City of Jerusalem is lit by many artistic light displays. You can walk along designated trails and explore the wonders of the four different quarters at night. Free entry.

Israel Museum Wine Festival – In this four days event, visitors of the Israel Museum can sample wines of the leading wineries of Israel in the unique Art Garden. Ticket purchasing required through the Israel Museum website.

Safed Klezmer Festival – Enjoy a magical musical experience in the streets of Safed. Some performances require a ticket, others are open to the public.

Jerusalem Beer Festival – Enjoy dozens of beers in the heart of Jerusalem. Besides the beer, the festival is also full of great music, food stalls, and a clothing and accessories market. Ticket purchasing required and can be done at the entrance to the festival.

Hutzot Hayotzer Fair – This great festival takes place every year in the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem. It combines music with arts & crafts and is an event in which dozens of artists meet together from around the world. You can stroll through the artists’ stalls or purchase a ticket to one of the great musical shows. Anyhow, ticket purchasing is required.

Red Sea Jazz Festival – A four-day musical event in the hot city of Eilat, with top local and international artists. Ticket purchasing required and can be done through the festival’s website.

 Jewish holidays in the Summer:

Tisha B’Av – An annual fast day in Judaism, which commemorates several Jewish disasters, including the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Tisha B’Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, but usually, most people you’ll see fasting on this day are the religious Jews (unlike Yom Kippur, during which almost all Jews fast). There is no change in public transportation this day. Tisha B’Av usually takes place at the end of July or the beginning of August.

Rosh Hashana – The beginning of the Jewish year. On this holiday families and friends gather together, eat apples and honey and pomegranates as a wish for a sweet and fruitful new year. This is a two days holiday, during which there is no public transportation. Rosh Hashana usually takes place in September.

Yom Kippur – The holiest day on the Jewish calendar, the day of atonement. Many people in Israel fast for 25 hours, don’t use electronic devices such as smartphones, don’t drive or ride transportation. During this day there is no public transportation and to respect this day it is advised not to use private transportation as well. Yom Kippur usually takes place in September.

Suggested itinerary for a Summer in Israel (7 Days):

Land in Tel Aviv

Day 1 – Enjoy half a day on the beach and experience Tel Aviv’s nightlife

Day 2 – Visit one of Tel Aviv’s museums, Old Jaffa, and Florentine neighborhood.

Day 3 – Take a morning bus ride to Safed. It will take around 4 hours. When you arrive, start exploring Safed’s Old City.

Day 4 – You can spend the morning in Safed if you want to see anything else and then take a bus ride to Jerusalem. This will take about 3 hours and will require you to change buses at least once. When you arrive in Jerusalem, you can spend the night in the cool bars of Machane Yehuda Market.

Day 5 – Explore the Old City of Jerusalem and Ben Yehuda Street for shopping. You can also visit the City of David if you want to walk in the Siloah Tunnel which is full of flowing water.

Day 6 – Visit one of Jerusalem’s leading museums (the Israel Museum or Yad Vashem museum). Afterward, take the 5 PM bus to Eilat.

Day 7 – Snorkel in the Coral Reef Nature Reserve in the morning and then spend free time on one of Eilat’s beaches.

Book a flight out of Ramon Airport the following day. If there’s no flight to your country from there, take a bus back to Tel Aviv and take a flight from there.

The estimated cost of the trip (not including flights, transportation to and from airport, and food) – 1,130 NIS

Breakdown:

*3 nights stay in Tel Aviv – around 300 NIS in a hostel

*Tel Aviv nightlife expenses – around 70 NIS (online booking with D-TLV Pub Crawl – highly recommended!)

*Tel Aviv Art Museum – 50 NIS

*Bus ride from Tel Aviv to Safed – around 42 NIS

*Night in Safed – around 100 NIS in a hostel

*Bus ride from Safed to Jerusalem – around 61 NIS

*2 nights in Jerusalem – around 200 NIS in a hostel

*Jerusalem nightlife expenses – around 50 NIS (online booking with Abraham Hostels Pub Crawl – highly recommended!)

*City of David – 28 NIS

*The Israel Museum – 54 NIS (or Yad Vashem for free)

*2 nights in Eilat – around 140 NIS

*Coral Reef Nature Reserve – 35 NIS

To make your life easier with transportation, purchase a Rav-Kav transportation card at the Ben Gurion Airport or in one of the main bus stations. Read my Full Guide to Public Transportation in Israel.

Keep in mind that there is no public transportation during Shabbat (Friday evening to Saturday evening) and Jewish holidays, so make sure that you don’t plan to ride a bus on a day there isn’t transportation.

Have a great Summer in Israel!

Want help planning your trip to Israel?

You’re welcome to contact me for trip planning services.

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And don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like a guided tour of Jerusalem when you come this summer!

Want help with planning your trip to Israel? Check out my new app, Travel Israel on Google Play or iTunes. You’re also welcome to contact me through the Experts tab.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Eilat Free things to do

Top Free Things to do in Eilat

Eilat is a perfect destination for those of you seeking for some sea and sun and beautiful hiking trails. Here are some of the best free things you can do in Eilat:

1 – Enjoy the Red Sea:

The Red Sea is the center of the city. We Israelis love going to the sea, swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing and just sun-bathing on the beach. So go on, make your way to one of the beaches and have fun. The entrance to the water is free (as long as you’re not entering from a beach that requires entrance fee)! You can also rent a mask, snorkel and flippers from one of the diving clubs for a small fee and set out for some snorkelling. It’s better to snorkel near the Taba Border, there the coral reef is richer.

The Beautiful Red Sea from the Coral Beach Area

2 – Go on a Hike in the Mountains:

Eilat is surrounded by the beautiful Eilat Mountains, colored red, brown, pink and other fascinating colors. If it’s not too hot outside, put on a hat and hiking shoes and go on a hike in the mountains. There are also many camping spots in the area, so you can spend the night in one of them (all of them are simple and have no lights at night, showers or toilets).

Here are three trails you might be interested in:

And some more info about: camping in and around Eilat.

The Eilat Mountains – Just a Part of Them

Watch a video of Mount Yoash Viewpoint in the Eilat Mountains (video by Eilat City):

3 – Visit the Bird Watching Park:

It’s not exactly in the city, but if you like bird-watching, you should make your way there. Eilat is one of the most important stops for birds on their way to different places in the world. It’s a very quiet place, not very touristic, the place gets full only when the bird migrating season starts (spring), so you can feel like it’s all for yourselves. Walk along the circular path, stop now and then to try and recognize birds sitting in the trees or walking in the waters, and just enjoy the beautiful surroundings and calm atmosphere!

Tip: Go early in the morning with a pre-arranged picnic basket and eat breakfast on one of the picnic tables in the park. It’s a nice place to have a picnic!

The park is open 24 hours day, every day. 

How to get there? You can take about a 30 minutes’ walk from the Ice Mall area, through the agricultural fields, all the way to the Bird Watching Park. The park is located near the border crossing with Jordan. For more details, see the map below. If you want, you can combine this with a longer hike: Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat.

4 – Go Watch People Ice Skate in the Ice Mall:

If you’re coming to Eilat in the Summer, you should get ready for very high temperatures. To chill down, you can enter the Ice Mall, which is the newest mall in Eilat, built in 2012. The mall is shaped as an oval and inside you can find two floors full of shops and restaurants, but most importantly, you can find a huge ice rink in the middle! Ice skating is quite expensive, so if you don’t want to spend your money, you can just enjoy watching other people ice skate (or falling on the ice over and over again because they don’t know how to skate).

How to get there? The Ice Mall is located at the Northern end of the touristic city. It’s not far from the abandoned “King City” castle, a short 10 minutes’ walk from the main promenade.

5 – Walk Along the Promenade at Night:

Until November 2013, the main promenade in Eilat was covered stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs, but the supreme court decided to shut those stalls down, as they weren’t completely legal and very messy. Now you can walk along the promenade without having to squeeze your way through a hoard of tourists and stalls. You can walk along the promenade during the day and enjoy the beautiful sight of the Red Sea, but you can also walk along the promenade at night, enjoy the sight of the far away lights, enjoy the music played by the musicians along the way and the nice atmosphere. If you like art, you can watch caricature artists draw people at the big plaza next to “The Ball”.

6 – Learn a bit of history at the Umm Rash-Rash Plaza:

Eilat is not just the sea and the sun. You can also find some history in it. Go to Umm Rash-Rash Plaza and read about the final military operation of the Independence War, admire the monument representing the Hanging of the Ink Flag and try to imagine how the place looked like back in 1949.

How to get there? Umm Rash-Rash Plaza is situated right next to Mall Ayam, on its southern side.

For more info, take a look at my post – “Meet Umm Rash-Rash”.

Umm Rash-Rash Plaza

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Also check out – Top Free Things to do in Jerusalem

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

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For more info about Eilat and other places in Israel – check out my new app, Travel Israel – Land of Creation (free download on Google Play  and iTunes).

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Eilat Free things to do Hiking in Israel Stays

Camping Sites in and Around Eilat

Where can I camp in Eilat? – That’s a question I hear a lot lately. Eilat is full of hotels and even has some great hostels in it, but what if you’re on a very tight budget and don’t have much money for accommodation? In this case, you might want to know about the camping options in Eilat and its surroundings. You might also want to know about them if you’re looking for a unique way to spend the night in Eilat. So… Here they are:

Free Camping on the Beach:

According to the Eilat Municipality’s policy, you cannot camp on all the beaches in Eilat. There are only some beaches which are open for camping. In reality, there are some people who do camp on “the forbidden” beaches and the Municipality’s inspectors aren’t doing much to prevent that from happening. Anyway, I suggest that if you choose to camp on the beaches, you do so on the legal beaches only. By the way, it is completely free to camp on the beaches! But keep in mind that there are no organized facilities there.

So here are the legal beaches for camping:

Camping on the Southern Beaches:

It is legal to camp on the beachline that stretches from Snuba Beach to Migdalor Beach (the “Lighthouse Beach”). Near Snuba Beach you can also find an organized parking lot, where you can park a caravan.

Camping Eilat – Where Can you Camp on the Southern Beaches

Camping on the Northern Beaches:

It is legal to camp in the parking lot of the Mifraz HaShemesh Beach. It is also possible to park a caravan there. Be aware – It is illegal to camp on the beach itself, only in the parking lot area.

It is also possible to camp on the Roksa Beach (also called “Ardag Beach” or “Thailandi Beach”), which is located a bit east of Mifraz HaShemesh Beach, near the border line with Jordan.

Camping Eilat – Where Can You Camp on the Northern Beaches

Camping in the Eilat Field School:

If you prefer to camp in a more organized place, that also feels safer (although camping on the beaches in Eilat is considered safe), you might want to check out the camping option in Eilat Field School. The field school is located across from the Coral Beach Reserve, at the end of the Israel National Trail, in the southern beaches area. It is a short bus drive from the city center. There are rooms for accommodation, but if you bring your own tent, you can stay on the Eilat Field School’s grounds for a reasonable amount of money (around 50 Shekels a night, but check with the field school itself for prices). The campground includes showers, toilets, BBQ corners and lighting.

For more info about prices and availability, call: +972 3 638 86 88 or send an email to talid@spni.org.il.

Free Camping in and Around Eilat:

There are several free camping grounds around Eilat, but all of them are very basic and do not have any facilities in them. There are no toilets, no showers, no flowing water or lighting in those campgrounds (January 2019 Update: Those campgrounds are supposed to be upgraded this year and will include field toilets and water jerrycans from which you will be able to drink). They are good for hikers who make their way in the Eilat Mountains Reserve or in the Timna Valley area, but if you plan to stay there, you should make sure you have enough water for the night.

Here are a few of the camping grounds around Eilat:

Nahal Shlomo (Solomon River) Camping Ground: This camping ground is located a bit west of the Camel Ranch in the southern part of Eilat. This is a perfect campground for those of you who plan to hike up Mount Zefahot in the early morning, as it is about an hour hike from the mountain. There are no facilities. To get there, you can take a bus from the Eilat city center towards the Taba Border (line 15), get off at Mitsrayim Road/Camel Ranch station (דרך מצרים/ חוות הגמלים) and then hike along the dirt road north-west to the campground. It is about a 30-minutes’ hike from road number 90.  

Mount Yehoram Camping Ground: Located near Yehoram Mountain, about 2.5 km north of Eilat, a bit off road number 12. The campground is on the other side of the road from Mount Yoash (there is a brown sign pointing to the mountain), a bit north-east to Mount Yoash. It is considered a safe camping ground, which currently only has a toilets facility. This camping ground is perfect for those of you planning to hike up Mount Yoash in the morning or hike down Gishron Wadi on the Israel National Trail. You can get there:

  • By Bus – Line 392 to the station called Mahavar Netafim (מעבר נטפים) and then a 30-minutes’ hike down along the road to the camping ground.
  • By Foot – About a 2.5-hours’ hike from the beginning of road number 12 in the south-western part of Eilat.
Mount Yehoram Camping Site. The colorful box is full of books!

Red Canyon Camping Ground: If you’re planning to hike around the Red Canyon, this camping ground can suit you. It is with no facilities. Check out my post – Hiking Around Eilat – Beautiful Red Canyon –  for more info about getting here.

There are a couple more camping grounds that are farther away from Eilat, on the Israel National Trail. Those include: Nahal Raham Camping Ground (חניון נחל רחם) and Shchoret Camping Ground (חניון שחורת).

Camping Outside Eilat:

Here are a few camping grounds outisde of Eilat that charge a fee:

Hai Bar Yotvata Camping Ground: Located near the Hai Bar Yotvata Reserve between Kibbutz Yotvata and Kibbutz Samar on road number 90, about 35 km north of Eilat. The camping ground includes hot showers, toilets, BBQ corners, electricity spots for phone charging, drinking water faucet and a field kitchen with a refrigerator and cooktop. It is possible to get sleeping mattresses for an additional fee. The camping is in private tents.

You can arrive at the camping ground until 5:00 PM (on Fridays until 4:00 PM) and you need to leave before 11:00 AM on the day you choose to leave. If you wish to leave the camping ground during the day for a hike in the area, you will need to leave an ID at the entrance of the site as a security deposit.

The prices (in the time of writing – March 2018) are: Adult – ₪ 53, Child – ₪ 42. Payment is made upon arrival to the camping ground at the ticket office. You can pay by credit or cash.

It is possible to reserve a camping place in the camping ground in advance by calling +972-8-6373057 or sending an email to haibar-yotvata@npa.org.il.

To get to the Hai Bar Yotvata Camping Ground by bus, you can take lines 390, 397, 444 or 991 and get off at Samar Station. Then, walk a short while to the camping ground.

Camping in Timna Park: There is an option of camping in private tents near the artificial lake in Timna Park. The camping ground includes toilets, hot water showers, electricity sockets, lighting, drinking water. It is possible to get sleeping mattresses for an additional fee. This is a perfect camping ground for those of you planning to hike around Timna Park.

Please contact Timna Park for more info about camping prices and availability.

And check out my post – Saturday Morning in Timna Park – to learn more about the park.

Wish you all a wonderful camping experience!

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If you need help with planning your trip itinerary to Israel – contact me.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Eilat Free things to do Hiking in Israel

Hiking Around Eilat – Beautiful Red Canyon

Planning to visit Eilat and wondering if there’s anything to do around the city? This post may interest you…

About a week ago, during Sukkot, my family and I asked ourselves where should we go. It was a holiday, my young brother didn’t have school, my Dad had a break from work and we had our cousin and his girlfriend at our house for the weekend. Perfect opportunity for a family hike in the wilderness!

But, where to go? We live in Eilat. Someone suggested Timna, but we’ve already been there many times (and you can read about one of those times in my post – Saturday Morning in Timna Park). So maybe the Samar Dunes? Too hot. The bird watching park? Less of a hike. That’s how we finally decided – we’ll hike somewhere in the Eilat Mountains.

There are many great trails and lookouts in the Eilat Mountains area (which I might tell more about in my next posts). We decided to hike the most popular trail in the Eilat Mountains, through the Red Canyon (הקניון האדום, “ha-ken-yon ha-ah-dom” in Hebrew).

The Red Canyon is one of the most stunning places in southern Israel. To get there from Eilat, you need to drive on road number 12. This road is also quite stunning. On both sides are the beautiful mountains, colored brown, red, purple, black. In the background, you can see the Red Sea from afar. At some point, you start passing by Israeli military bases. On your left, you’ll see the massive border fence between Israel and Egypt and some Egyptian guarding stations.

We drove on road 12 until we saw the brown sign signaling right to the Canyon, and drove a few more minutes on a dirt road until we got to a dirt parking lot. The whole drive took us about half an hour. If you have no car and no lift, there are other options that can get you to the Canyon:

  • Get on a shuttle to and from the Red Canyon. You can order a shuttle through here. They’ll pick you up around 9:30 AM and drop you off back around 2:00 PM. It costs 15 dollars (in the time of writing). Update (February 2019): This shuttle is currently not available. So try the two other ways…
  • Use the Egged bus (number 392). This bus runs about 7 times Sundays through Thursdays from Eilat to Be’er Sheva and has a stop that is relatively close to the Red Canyon. Ask the bus driver to stop for you at the Red Canyon station. From there, you will need to hike about 20 minutes to the Red Canyon, along a dirt road. It is advised to ask the driver where and when should you wait for the bus back to Eilat. One way will cost you around 12.5 Shekels.
  • Hike from Eilat to the Red Canyon. It takes about 5-7 hours and at the end of the day, you can sleep in the parking lot next to the trail. There aren’t any camping facilities, but camping there is legal.
  • If you want, you can combine the Red Canyon with other places by taking a guided tour. There’s the Red Canyon Desert Agriculture and Kibbutz Life tour for instance, which sounds interesting, but I haven’t tried it yet. If you go, let me know how it is. It costs $65 per person.

Anyway, after getting off our cars, we started our way to the trail (marked green). The channel running through the canyon is Wadi Shani (almost always dry). But, the first part of the traill is through a rather wide space. You can’t expect what’s coming up. Then, after about 15 minutes of hiking, the Red Canyon reveals itself. Beautiful. It is made of reddish sandstone and when the light hits it, beautiful shades of red and purple fall upon it.

We started descenting down the canyon using ladders and bars that are stuck in the stone. The heights aren’t too high and it was very enjoyable. After another 20 minutes more or less, we got to the end of the narrow canyon. That was fast! There is another trail extending from this point, but my Dad said he tried it once and it was too much for him. So now we had to make our way back to the parking lot.

 

Bars and Ladders

“Let’s go back from the canyon,” my Dad suggested.
“But there’s a green trail going back from above,” I pointed out. There really is a trail, going back to the parking lot, that goes above the canyon. You’ll find it on your right the moment you exit the canyon.
“Yes, but it goes above…” he murmured. My Dad is a bit scared of heights.
“It doesn’t look like a very complicated climb,” I said and all the others agreed with me. So, under peer pressure, my Dad climbed with us high above the canyon.

 

The Scary Part

If you’re scared of heights, you might really prefer to get back to the parking lot by climbing back up through the canyon. The other way, that goes above, is really high and at some points narrow. At some points we were on the edge of the wall. But, it isn’t very very narrow. You can easily place your foot on the trail. Just be careful! My Dad survived.

After climbing the last ladder, there is again a long trail going through a rather wide space, between the mountains. At the end, you get back to the parking lot.

If you’re a nature lover in Eilat, this beauty is highly recommended. And before I let you go back to your daily errands, here are a few technical points about the Red Canyon trail that you might want to know:

How far away from Eilat? About 20 kilometers.
How long is the trail? About 2 kilometers; about one-hour of a hike.
How challenging? Easy. Even family-friendly.
When to go? It’s never recommended to travel in the area during summer, because of the high tempartures and dry air. But, it’s great to travel here during October-May. The fact that half of the hike is in the canyon means half of the hike is in shade. The other half isn’t. In Winter, keep track of weather reports after raining.
About road number 12: the road is closed from around 7:00 PM every night. Don’t hike late, so you won’t get stuck, unless you’re planning on staying there for the night.

 

More trails around Eilat:

Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat

Hiking in the Eilat Mountains: From Mount Yoash to Mount Zefahot

 


I wish you all happy hiking and Shabbat Shalom!

If you liked this post or found it useful, I’ll be glad to get a like, share or comment from you (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Transportation Trip Planning Tips

There’s No Public Transportation on Shabbat

I had to take care of two of my friend’s cats the other Saturday. She lives in quite a remote neighborhood of Jerusalem named Gilo. Someone was able to give me a lift to Gilo in the

I’ll begin with a story. A few years ago, I had to take care of my friend’s cats. She lives in quite a remote neighborhood of Jerusalem called Gilo. The problem was that she needed me to catsit them on Saturday, but public transportation stops on Shabbat starting Friday eve. Luckily, I was able to get a lift to Gilo. Without that lift, I had to take the bus early, before Shabbat started. That’s how I thought about this post – what if you’re traveling in Israel and want to see things on Shabbat? You don’t have a car and don’t want to pay loads of money on taxis… So, what can you do? 

This post was last updated on 9 September 2021. 

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, at no extra cost to you. These links help me keep the blog alive, so thank you!

Table of contents:

What is Shabbat?

Let’s start with the basics – what is Shabbat, and why isn’t public transportation working during this time? Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week. It starts when the sun sets on Friday evening and ends when the sun sets on Saturday. According to the Bible, God rested on the seventh day. He sat down and rested from all the work he had done. “Shabbat” is the root of the Hebrew word “La-Shevet” (לשבת), which means “to sit down.” Because God rested on the seventh day, the Jewish people do the same. On Shabbat, most businesses are closed and almost all public transportation stops functioning. Though, there are places with limited public transportation. 

Religious Jewish people in Israel don’t use their phones on Shabbat, don’t use electric devices, and don’t drive or ride in a vehicle on Shabbat. But there are other people in Israel, who see themselves as Jews, but are traditional or non-observant. I, for instance, see myself as a traditional Jew. We don’t mind using the phone or driving or doing anything else on Shabbat. But, the government decided that as a Jewish state, there won’t be public transportation on Shabbat. That makes it hard for us to get to places we want to get to on Shabbat, such as the sea, museums, and friends.

What about public holidays in Israel?

There are also holidays during which the public transportation does not operate, holidays that are like Shabbat. Those holidays are:

  • Rosh Hashana – There are two days of holiday with no public transportation. It usually takes place around September-October.
  • Yom Kippur – The holiest day of the Jewish year. A whole day with no transportation. Most people don’t drive at all during this day. It usually takes place around September-October.
  • Sukkot – During the first day of the holiday, there is no public transportation. It usually takes place around September-October.
  • Passover – During the first day of the holiday, there is no public transportation. It usually takes place around April-May.
  • Shavuot – There is a one-day holiday with no public transportation. It usually takes place around May.

Read more about holidays in Israel and how to spend them during travel.

So how can you get around Israel on Shabbat and holidays? 

Try hitchhiking:

We Israelis don’t usually use hitchhiking because we’re afraid someone might kidnap us. But I’ve heard of a lot of tourists who use hitchhiking to get around Israel. Because many people drive on Shabbat, you might be able to catch a lift with someone to your destination. This method is good for those who want to get outside the city.

Here are some links that might be handy for hitchhikers:

  • Moovit Carpool – Moovit attempts to connect drivers to riders. You will need to pay a small sum to the driver to cover expenses, but it could be a nice way to get around and get to know new people. Read more about Moovit Carpool here.
  • Hitchhikers in Eilat and the south – This Facebook group is for people who want to get to or from Eilat and other places in southern Israel. Just post a request and see if anyone is going in your direction. 
  • Tremp – This website is very basic, but looks like a good place to try your luck. People post here if they are driving somewhere or if they need a lift. Though, it’s in Hebrew. Check out the Tremp website here.

Stay near attractions:

Plan your itinerary so that on Saturday, you’ll go to attractions that are within walking distance from your stay. That will save you money and will let you experience the area on foot. 

In Jerusalem – Use Shabus:

Shabus is a cooperative transport system that operates on Shabbat in Jerusalem. Every member needs to pay a small one-time sum and then pays 5.9 shekels for every ride inside the city. Since its first ride in 2015, Shabus has expanded and is also operating in other cities in Israel, like Rishon Letsion and Tel Aviv.

I used Shabus in the past and had a good experience. I was even able to pay for the ride via Paypal, which was nice. Though, it looks like their website is in Hebrew only. You can try contacting them directly through email – shabus.jer@gmail.com – if you want to use their service. 

In Tel Aviv – Use the Weekend Transportation:

Starting November 2019, public transportation is available on Shabbat in Tel Aviv and other cities in central Israel! The buses are managed by the different municipalities. So, the service is free of charge because the law does not permit municipalities to receive payment on Shabbat. There are only seven lines at the moment, but the coverage is good, especially in the city center of Tel Aviv. Read more about the service and lines on the Weekend Transportation website

From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – Use the sherut taxis:

If you want to get from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Shabbat, go to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station and get a sherut taxi from there. Sherut taxi is a shared taxi. The taxis stand outside the station, at the eastern part of the station. Ask where is the sherut to Jerusalem and hop on. The price is 35 Shekels, and the shared taxi leaves once it’s full.

In Haifa – Use the public lines:

Haifa is a mixed city, with both Jewish and Arab residents. Therefore, there are some public lines during Shabbat. You can check the operating lines by searching for your destination on the Egged website.

Getting to and from Eilat:

Because Eilat is so far away from other parts of Israel, buses usually leave Eilat a bit before the Shabbat ends (around 1:30-3:30 PM). Also, some buses arrive in Eilat after the Shabbat has entered. You should check on the Egged site to see if, maybe, the line you want leaves before Shabbat ends or arrives after it begins. Use my guide to buying bus tickets to Eilat online. You can also connect to the Facebook group “Hitchhikers in Eilat and the south” and see if someone can give you a lift. Also, if you’re planning on flying into Eilat, usually, the cheapest time to fly is on Shabbat.

Rent a car:

Renting a car isn’t the cheapest way, but could be profitable if you’re traveling as a family or group of friends. My family rent a car quite often through Shlomo Sixt, and it is affordable. The only thing that costs a lot is the fuel, but that is also not TOO much. You can pick up the car on Friday morning and return it on Sunday. Three days of rental should cost around 400-600 ILS (about 125-190 dollars), not including fuel and other expenses.

How to get to Ben Gurion Airport on Shabbat?

Another issue is how to get to Ben Gurion Airport on Shabbat. Trains and buses aren’t working on Shabbat, but there are other options than taking a taxi.

From Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion Airport on Shabbat – Your best option would be to take Abraham Hostel’s shuttle from their hostel to Ben Gurion Airport. You don’t have to be their guest to book it. It leaves every 2 hours and costs 70 ILS per person. This is the best worry-free way to the airport. 2021 Update: Currently, the shuttle isn’t operating because of the coronavirus situation. 

From Jerusalem to Ben Gurion Airport on Shabbat – The only option I know of is to call Nesher Tours Shuttles (their number in Israel is 072-2646059). I used their service once. They asked me to call on Friday to book the shared taxi for Saturday afternoon. So I called on Friday, gave them my address and phone number and hoped they’ll arrive. It costs 67 ILS, and you need to pay in cash. The driver called me a few minutes before he arrived. I was first to board the shared taxi, so I got to see how it went. The driver was very kind and patient. He waited a long time for many of the passengers.

Make sure to give them a phone number that can receive calls within Israel because the driver might want to get in touch with you on the day of the pick-up, especially if the address you give is tricky.

Conclusion:

Yes, public transportation is very limited on Shabbat, but you can still find ways to travel on the weekends. Slowly-slowly, more and more municipalities understand the need for public transportation on Shabbat. So, I guess that we will be seeing more options later on. Until then, hope this post was useful and helped you plan your travels on Shabbat and holidays in Israel.

And what about the rest of the week? Check out my full guide to public transportation in Israel.

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Lior (:

Categories
Eilat Food

The Thai Corner in Eilat – Super Friendly

It was a chilly night. I just arrived from Jerusalem and was driving to my parents’ home when my phone rang. A friend I haven’t seen for a long time asked if I wanted to meet and eat somewhere. I said – “Why not. Where do you want to eat?”

That’s how I got to know The Thai Corner (הפינה התאילנדית).

This cute little place, divided to a Thai stall and a suchi restaurant, is located across the road from the Central Bus Station in Eilat. You can’t see it from the street, because it’s hidden behind some trees and bushes, at the back of the square.

The staff at the counter smiled at us when we showed up, asked how we are doing and what we want to order. My friend is a vegan. She had loads of options on the menu, and they were all reasonably priced. I found a lot of options, too. I wasn’t planning to order any meat anyway, but if you’re planning on something meaty, you’ll find plenty of options. All reasonably priced. I don’t remember anything over 50-60 Shekels, and most things are around the 40 Shekels.

After we ordered, we chose to sit outside. All the waiters asked us if we’re sure we want to do that. “Are you sure you don’t want to sit inside? It’s really cold outside,” they said, and we didn’t believe them. But after a few minutes we understood what they were talking about. Nevertheless, we stayed outside.

The meals arrived within a few minutes. They were made of the spot. My noodles were excellent and the portion was perfect! If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, yummy place, that provides people not only with meat options, but also with vegeterian and vegan options, make your way to The Thai Corner. Perfect, quiet place!

Where? City Center Plaza 8, in front of the Central Bus Station.

Opening Hours: Sundays until Thursdays from 9:00 to 21:00.

Prices: $-$$

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Have any questions about Israel? Feel free to post in the comments or send a message on Facebook.

You’re also free to look in my website – www.backpackisrael.com .

Yours,

Lior (:

Categories
Eilat Fun facts & enrichment

Meet Umm Rash-Rash

In a couple of days, I’m going to leave my beloved childhood city of Eilat and move to Jerusalem. Before I go, I want to tell you a story about Umm Rash-Rash. Now, what does that have to do with Eilat, you ask? Simple! Umm Rash-Rash was the original name of the area before it turned to Eilat.

If you happen to visit Eilat, you will probably see the mall that stands right next to the sea-line. That’s Mall Ayam. Beside it, to its south, lays a huge plaza. At the front of the plaza is an elevated area. On top of that area, there are a small clay building and an interesting monument, displaying a bunch of people crowded around a flag pole and a person hanging an Israeli flag at the top of that pole. That’s Umm Rash-Rash Plaza. 

A few weeks ago I went to the mall. I passed by the plaza, while a father and his little girl passed in front of me.

“Daddy, what’s this building?” the little girl pointed at the clay building.

The father didn’t reply. He was too busy staring at his phone.

The girl stopped and insisted. “Daddy, what’s this building?”

So the father had to take his eyes off his phone and look at the clay building that’s on Umm Rash-Rash Plaza. After a moment or two, he mumbled: “Well, it’s just a plain old building,” and the two of them continued, without taking another glance at the building.


A sign next to the clay building

So what’s the story?

The truth is, the clay building was declared an Israeli national site in 1994, so it’s not just a plain old building. Actually, it’s the last building left out of five Mandatory buildings that made up a police station complex. The other four were demolished due to Eilat’s expansion and because they weren’t declared national sites on time.

But before I talk about the building, I want to share with you something interesting I found out just two weeks ago. “Rash” means “Strewing” in Arabic (اش). “Umm” means “Mother” in Arabic (that I already knew, but maybe you don’t). So I wondered two weeks ago why did they call Eilat, back in the old days, “Mother Strewing-Strewing”. That’s a weird name. So I checked up the topic in many resources and found out that there’s a legend connected to this place:

Eilat, as you may or may not know, was part of the ancient route to the holy city of Mecca. The Muslim pilgrims walked all the way to Mecca, and their feet got swollen and hurt on the way. The area we refer to as “Umm Rash-Rash” was the residence of an old, wise woman who gathered herbs from the area and made medical powder out of them. Then she would strew the powder over the hurt feet and make them feel better. So those pilgrims started talking about that place on the way to Mecca, where they met “The Mother that Strews,” or better yet, “Umm Rash-Rash.”

That’s a nice tale, which not a lot know of, I suppose.

The Story of the Ink Flag:

A better-known story is that of the Raising of the Ink Flag, but maybe you haven’t heard of it either. This story explains the monument next to the clay building.

In March 1949, we were almost done with the Independence war. The only thing left was to sign a cease-fire agreement with the Jordanians. But they wanted the Negev to be part of their territory, although it was supposed to be ours according to the UN Partition Plan. Ben Gurion, the Prime Minister at the time, instructed the IDF to make it a fact that Israel is the rightful owner of the Negev. Eilat is included because it’s situated in the Negev’s southernmost point. So the IDF started “Operation Uvda” (in Hebrew, “Uvda” means “Fact”) and made their way down to conquer Umm Rash-Rash.

I won’t bore you with all the details about the operation. I’ll just skip to the end. The first IDF company to arrive at Umm Rash-Rash found no one there. It seemed the place got abandoned before they came. The only thing left were the five clay buildings of the Mandatory police station and a bare pole. The soldiers forgot the Israeli flag at home, so they had to be creative. The company’s secretary took a white sheet they had and painted the Israeli flag on it, with ink. Then the company’s commander went up the pole, which was not at all steady, and hung it on the top. Now Umm Rash-Rash, Eilat, was Israeli territory.

The flag was replaced by a real one when another IDF company arrived two hours later. To this very day, no one knows where the Ink Flag is. We lost it.

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Hope you have great fun in Eilat, now that you know some history about it!

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning your trip to Israel, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

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Yours,

Lior