The Mount of Dreams
2017 – 1956
Of all the settlements established in Israel in general, and in the Negev in particular, the town of Mitzpe Ramon stands out due to its isolation, it’s dimensions and the breathtaking natural beauty that surround it.
Despite the development and construction in recent years, the historic core has remained, and one can sense the spectacular contrast between the modernist housing blocks and the vast, silent desert expanse enveloping them. In recent years, Mitzpe Ramon has become a magnet for foreign and domestic tourists and for artists and artisans, looking for, and finding, inspiration.
In 1953 the construction of the road to Eilat began, and on the edge of the Ramon Crater, 85 km from Be’er Sheva and 150 km from Eilat, the Independence Camp was established, which served the road builders, workers, military personnel and Bedouins. At the beginning of August 1953, the Cooperative Society was founded, headed by Hagai Avriel, the district officer and co-founder of the Sde Boker ranch, and a group of families came to establish their lives as a cooperative agricultural settlement. Their original goal was to expand the Independence Camp into a housing project, in cooperation with the clay and plaster factories and the marble quarry in the area. The cooperative came up against budget difficulties and a severe shortage of supplies and appropriate infrastructure. Government agencies and the Histadrut labor federation supported the idea of the cooperative settlement but had trouble actively sustaining it and promoting development of the area to help the consolidation of the community. Internal disputes between members of Sde Boker and Avriel himself also contributed to lack of progress and .development
In 1957, the Planning Department of the Housing Ministry prepared an economic program for the settlement of Mitzpe Ramon, with a goal of populating the settlement with 4,000 inhabitants, developing employment resources like the crater quarries, industrial plants and tourist sites. However, the development of Mitzpe Ramon was very slow and was accompanied by severe crises. Avriel tried to attract new immigrants from the center of Israel by promising them a good living, but in reality, the community waned with the departure of some of its members, and early in 1959, the small and isolated town was passed over to the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior. In 1961, a nucleus of former air force recruits formed came together to try and establish a new, cooperative town which was to the first of its kind in the world. However, this ambitious program faced numerous difficulties and was finally abandoned.
In the early ‘60s more immigrants arrived from North Africa and Romania and new housing developments were built, but Mitzpe Ramon suffered a further blow with the construction of the Arava road which redirected most of the traffic to Eilat to bypass the town. In the ‘80s and ‘90s the settlement expanded with the absorption of military bases in the area and immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Today the town is in the process of progressive development, with tourism and education at its heart.