​Vistas of Peace

​Vistas of Peace
“Vistas Of Peace - Let's explore Israel Secrets. Israel Stars. Israel Wonder.”
We gaze longingly upon Sinai, but will not reach it…
Arik  Hendelsman  Sadan  - Israelimousine
     Authorized Chauffeur Tour Guide  Writer /  Reporter and Blogger

We decided that the trip to Shivta and Nitzana was just a prelude to whet our appetite for the haven awaiting us on a laid-back cruise enveloped in the views of the Kadesh-Barnea extension. The stunning lookouts at Har Harif fuel our yearning for Sinai, and of course the mythological 'patrol path', will be spiced up with short picnics, 'finjans' of coffee, tell stories and wallowing in nostalgia. But above all this is a day for communing with nature. 
We head south on Road 40, at the Nitzana Youth Village, skip the 'pleasure' of peeking at the border terminal, and turn left (east) following the signs for Ezuz and Be'erotayim, passing the remains of the Turkish railway station at Uja el-Hafir (luckily for us the road is wider than the 105 cm. of the Turkish track) heading for Ezuz. 
We cruise down the right-hand fork to our first stop at the Be'erotayim parking area – huge, shady tamarisk trees hide the remains of the Nahal settlement of Be'erotayim/Bir el Birin and the depths of Be'er Moshe and Be'er Aharon. The herd of goats passing by with bells ringing seems to awaken the morning for us. 
The road meets a compressed dirt track parallel to a smoother, more pristine road; we turn left until 'the end of the world' – the border road, Road 10, is before us – Danger, Border Ahead!
Here we meet, contrary to the opinion of many 'philosophers', an asphalt road built by the Engineering Corps. Don't worry and don't be fooled, this isn't a substitute for the 'patrol path' which abutted this ancient border, but rather a complementary experience, fulfilling the cravings of the 'normals' (not necessarily the indigenous fauna) for a variety of adrenaline-fueled experiences of driving and scenery. 
An Egyptian lookout point towers across from us, and the flag seems to be waving to us in peace.

The Kadesh-Barnea Extension
We turn left onto the road leading to the twisting Kadesh-Barnea Extension, which rises from the depths of Wadi Tabkha (the 890 Battalion – who else? – delivered its blows to the Egyptian battalions), which flows to Kseime in Sinai and rises from the white plains of the Shaharon Valley. The 'ruler' road runs beneath us and rises to the foot of the three 'nipples' of Jebel el-Tawil, where we stop for another rest and a wonderful view from the Kadesh-Barnea viewpoint. The viewpoint is disabled-accessible, shaded and has directions carved in a stone. Before us is the 'patrol path', named after Yair Peled, commander of the Paratroopers Patrol. Starting in 1958, he recruited paratroopers and teenagers, who began forging a way from above Eilat to Mt. Sagi and Ein Netafim, using just their hands. Yair Peled was murdered by Bedouins at Nahal Sirpad, slightly east of the extension where we are peacefully observing. 
We continue on the winding road, crossing the tributaries of Wadi Kudeirat, fondly remembered and missed by the 'old-timers' among us as the most famous oasis in Sinai. In our imagination we sail the gushing spring waters and  hum 'he shall rejoice them in desert and wilderness' (Isiah 15). We can deduct from the name that apart from the agricultural project and waterworks, Kadesh also served as a place of worship.

'Tumulus' and Har Horsha Lookouts
We continue towards Har Horsha, glancing left (slow down, don't miss it) – recognizing a vast field scattered with mounds of rectangular stones – 'tumulus', probably ancient tombs over 4000 years old. 
A camel caravan crossing the road (careful!) reminds us that we are travelling ancient Negev roads. The road winds up to the north peak, the Har Horsha lookout. We park and rest here at the well-signposted lookout; this is a spectacular lookout, which includes three positions allowing maximum orientation of the observed terrain. (Not disabled-accessible). Ramat Barnea to the northwest, characterized by agricultural terraces from the early stone age 'only' 90.000 years old; the area has the remains of sheep pens and fortresses, attesting to the combination of nomadism and permanent settlements. Prof. Ben-Ari, who is researching and conducting ancient agriculture in practice in the Negev, utilizing runoff water to supplement the water in the tilled land, teaches how the ancients did it. To the southwest we look upon Kadesh-Barne'a, the impressive oasis where the Israelites camped on their journey from Egypt to Canaan. To the east Har Horsha, named after the Horsha River with its many elegant terebinth trees (now bare). We take the steep descent from Har Horsha, passing colourful horizontal rock formations on our right, and reaching Har Harif junction and checkpoint. 

Har Harif
The soldiers at the checkpoint confirm that we are armed, and let us continue on the right side of the road – Road 10, leading to Har Sagi and Eilat (an option we will take another time). On our right are concrete blocks adjoining a road block at the bottom of the winding road (careful, there are fallen rocks and holes in the road!). We carefully cross the Lutz and Eliaz riverbeds and ascend a steep slope until we meet Sign 50. The sign instructs us to turn right into a short dirt road (no problem driving) of around 200m until Border Stone 50. This is one of the new border stones placed after the IDF withdrew from Sinai after the peace agreement with Egypt. We look towards Jebel Arif a-Naka (its crater surely missed by the veteran hikers among us). We return to the road and turn right until we see a signpost on the left side of the road.

The Cave Spring
We park in the clearing and take a few steps on a visible trail which leads us to the Wadi's slope. On the right, thick vegetation attesting to a local spring; on the left, across from an area strewn with goat droppings, we catch sight of the opening of the Spring Cave (Me'arat Hama'ayan).  In rainy winters like this one, the water fills the cave's opening, preventing us from walking inside. (Danger! It's forbidden to dive and/or swim to the spring!). The water is drinkable, though not tasty. This is, of course, the time to break into song: '…we sip slowly from the cup…the finjan goes around' (Haim Hefer, HaFinjan). We discover that the Finjan is the cup we are drinking from, while the boiling/cooking is called 'Tanika' or 'Bikraj' in Arabic. The romantics among us will see that the cave above us fits the song. (It's best to prepare a coffee kit – coffee and a gas burner – it's absolutely forbidden to cut trees or destroy vegetation).
From here, passing up on the chance to continue to Eilat, we turn back, pause on the slope near the monument whose trees thirst for water, and water them. When we reach Har Harif checkpoint we take a sharp right turn past the concrete blocks and turn into Road 171, which leads from Har Harif Junction (the checkpoint) towards Ha-Ruhot Junction before Mitzpe Ramon.

Lutz and Hamat (Nitzana) Pits
The road we are travelling now is 'pleasure for our tyres' – black, shiny and smooth, vibrating gently under our wheels. We arrive at a clear signpost – Lutz Pits. We turn left off the road to a slightly damaged dirt track (drive carefully) and already the song hums in our heads: 'and Uziahu built towers in the desert and dug many pits…' the digging of these pits, 17 in number, is attributed to the time of the Judean kings, and we can take them in on a walking trail of around two hours (red trail markings). 
We chose to walk and experience the largest pit, about 300m from the parking area where we left the vehicle. The area supervisor of the Nature Reserves and Parks Commission, and we, would like to emphasize that we are in a nature reserve. Do not stray off the marked paths and trails; do not move around at night, and park and sleep over only in the overnight parking areas (like this one). Do not cut branches or trees, and use the facilities and toilets in the organized parking area. Here Naomi Shemer's song 'Nature Reserve Waltz' echoes in our minds: 'Narcissi are blooming in the nature reserves…and the law says Do Not Pick'. This is a chance to link the symbol of the Authority, the ibex, to the words of MK Moshe Sneh – 'in the Hebrew language there are many expressions of honor and affection for this country, one of which is 'the land of the gazelle (zvi)'. If this law (the National Parks and Nature Reserves Law) has a purpose, it is to return our country to its youthful glory (zvi).'
We reach the Hamat Pit (on the right, clearly signposted) we park in the parking area and walk straight ahead to the enormous mound, shining white and covered in orache shrubs. (These shrubs, especially their leaves, can be quickly deep-fried for an especially fragrant and salty chip snack). A number of bare Atlantic terebinth trees surround the pit. This rainwater reservoir, in the Nitzana River gorge, has been well preserved, with the kind help of the Kibbutz Movement youth. The pit's circumference is around 15m and its deepest point is around 5. This pit, with its collecting tunnel which you can spot on the north side, utilized the river waters flowing in from the north; in winter, the pit fills with water.
From Hamat Pit, where we brewed a 'finjan' of course, we continue to the Winds (Ruhot) Junction, swallowing the excellent road, and turn left onto Road 40 on our way home to the center. (For those going on for another day, we recommend turning right towards Mitzpe Ramon for overnight parking).

Necessary Equipment: Personal weapon (only required for the segment between Har Harif Junction and the Cave Spring); coffee kit (gas burner), change of clothes, flashlight.
You are requested to travel at least in pairs, not to go off the marked trails and paths, to make sure to drive on the road (not to drive on the raked dirt section); but don't get the wrong impression, the area is pleasantly peaceful.
Gas stations at Ketzi'ot Junction and Mitzpe Ramon.