Travel: A Visit to Sde Boker

Set aside at least half a day for a visit to Kibbutz Sde Boker, home to Israel's first prime minister, a research institute, reptile farm and more.

Shmuel Browns , | updated: 2:10 PM

Graves of David and Paula Ben-Gurion
Graves of David and Paula Ben-Gurion
Israel news photo: Shmuel Browns

A trip to Kibbutz Sde Boker is an unforgettable experience in which modern history comes alive in the vast surroundings of the Negev Heights. Set aside at least half a day for your visit to the home of the late David Ben-Gurion and his wife Paula, now a museum, and all the other sites in the area. Then consider a hike to Ein Avdat to round out the rest of the day.

A Bit of History
Modern Israeli settlement of the Negev began about 100 years ago with a few communities. The Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Agency, the Haganah and the Mekorot Water Company launched a settlement drive to populate the Negev with Jews, hoping to ensure that any United Nations vote for partition would give the region to Israel. At the end of Yom Kippur in 1946, a group of settlers left existing kibbutzim in the Negev -- overnight they built and inhabited eleven new settlements.

Nahal Zin, in the Negev Desert (Israel news photo: Shmuel Browns)

Once the state was established, the famous Kibbutz Sde Boker was built on the Negev Heights in 1952 by a group of discharged soldiers who had served in the area. The kibbutz attracted the public’s attention when David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister and elder statesman, and his wife Paula went to live there.

Ben-Gurion loved the expanses of the Negev; he saw it as crucial to Israel's future and dreamed of making the desert bloom. The man who served as prime minister and defense minister from 1948 to 1953 (except for a two-year hiatus in 1953) wrote in his memoirs: "The desert provides us with the best opportunity to begin again. This is a vital element of our renaissance in Israel."

See the Sites, Then Tramp the Trail
Just south of Kibbutz Sde Boker you will see the sign for the cabin of the "Old Man" that today houses a museum. At Ben-Gurion's request his home has been kept exactly as he left it: official documents, personal papers and his books. A visit is worthwhile for a glimpse of Ben-Gurion's life.

The house that David and Paula Ben-Gurion lived in (Israel news photo: Shmuel Browns)

There is a whole campus named after Ben-Gurion, which houses an Arid Zones research institute, an environmental center that includes a high school and college, a field school and guest house, a reptile farm and a desert sculpture museum. The Ben-Gurion Institute, a research facility for the study and the dissemination of his writings, also offers visitors a multi-media program about the man and his work.

To reach the nearby Ben-Gurion memorial site, where David and Paula are buried, you walk through a park of grass and trees planted in the middle of the desert, with an opportunity to see ibex close up.

The graves of David and Paula Ben-Gurion (Israel news photo: Shmuel Browns)

There is an added benefit, a beautiful view of Nahal Zin, the same desert of Zin where Moses hit the rock to bring forth water for the children of Israel.

Overlooking Nahal Zin (Israel news photo: Shmuel Browns)

While staying at the guest house, Sde Boker can also be used as the base for a hike into the canyon at the Ein Avdat National Park with springs, pools and waterfalls, an oasis in the desert.

Shmuel Browns is a licensed tour guide and does tours throughout the State of Israel. For additional information, click here!