Our tour will begin at the monument of Yigal Tumarkin at Mitzpe Moav - a spectacular view of the Judean Desert, about 600 meters above sea level. The monument is located in the hotel area, east of Arad. From here you will continue north on Route 3199 (which a tourist sign pointing to Masada appears). This is a scenic road that descends to the western part of the Masada site. On your way you will pass beautiful and interesting natural sites - you will pass "Kfar Nokdim" - a large Bedouin desert hospitality site where you can sleep, eat well, and of course go on camel trips. Later you will reach the Qanna'im valley. The valley is adorned with Mt. Qanna'im and Gorni Hill.
Gorni Hill is called in Arabic "Goron" which means crater. Here, the Bedouin elders said, the fighters sat and, using natural craters in the rock, crushed the gunpowder used to load the old guns for hunting or inter-clan wars. Gorni Hill is considered one of the most spectacular views of the Judean Desert. You will descend on the winding road to Qanna'im Valley and opposite the entrance to the Kfar Nokdim, turn north towards Berekhat Zefira.
Berekhat Zefira is a natural hill in the channel of Nahal Tze'elim above the waterfall. In the past - until 1978 there was pool used to hydrate camels and sheep herds. The remains of the pool disappeared in floods and today travelers mistakenly refer to the great hill of the stream as Berekhat Zefira. A 15-minute hike will lead you to a spectacular view of Nahal Ze'elim Canyon and the waterfall of Nahal Shafan. With some luck, you might be able to watch the herds of ibexes passing by. The descent and the rise to the hill are suitable for those who can walk.
As you continue your journey towards Masada, we recommend another entrance. At the Masada checkpoint, a dirt road leads to the eastern part of Mount Ben Yair. Get on the road and drive east to the observation point. Here, as if on the palm of one's hand, lies the central Judean Desert - the Dead Sea, and the Moab Mountains to the east, to the north of the prominent green of Ein Gedi. The last observation point, which is appropriate with a bottle of wine, or the preparation of tasty coffee in nature is that of Gorni Hill itself (over Nahal Tze'elim) - you must arrive here before sunset as the observation point to the Judean Desert in the twilight of sunset is unlike anywhere else. At Gorni Hill there is a 360-degree view of the region. In the north is a view of the rolling hills of the northern Judean Desert, while the view of the sharp cliffs nearby is beside the Judean Desert High School. To the west, the green hills of Hebron create a variety of landscape and unique color. To the south of you is the southern Judean desert, a riverbed channel, and above the city of Arad, to the east, the Moab Mountains in Jordan. At sunset you can start and go home, or enjoy the comfort of the many rooms Arad offers.
Written by: Dr. Shahar Shila
Photographer: Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism