The History of Ovda - Mitzpe Ramon's Airport

August 15, 2015

Mitzpe Ramon, the most isolated town in Israel, and the best starting point for all of your desert activities in the Negev, finally has an international Airport!


Starting in November 2015 low cost airlines like RyanAir are starting regular flights to Ovda Airfield- only 1 hour away from Mitzpe Ramon. 


This has just made Europe's most accessible desert  that much more accessible.

No more landing in Ben Guryon airport and only then getting on a train to Beer Sheva and a bus to Mitzpe Ramon. From now on you can catch a low cost flight from a variety of locations in Europe, and land directly in the desert, hop on the desert shuttle and arrive at one of the most amazing views in the world in time for a beer at sunset. 



Mitzpe Ramon and Ovda airfield have an historical connection thousands of years old. 

The first known residents on the cliff of the Ramon crater, where Mitzpe Ramon is today, were semi-nomads that lived up here in the early bronze period (roughly 5000 years ago). These prehistoric hunters chose the high elevation regions above the crater as their summer home, because of the constant cool breeze that always blows here. Even today very few Mitzpe Ramonians turn on their AC in the summer, and summer nights can actually be quite chilly. 

In the winter, however, the climate is very challenging, to say the least, and the freezing winds that blow here from late afternoon to morning drove our prehistoric ancestors away from from this exposed cliff. 



They chose to descend south to the Ovda Valley, where throughout the winter rain and flash flooding turn the wide valley into a green pasture ideal for hunting, grazing and even primitive farming.

Once the grass in the valley dried up at the beginning of the summer- tents and blankets were packed up, and it was time to return to the cool air of Mitzpe Ramon.




This happened every year, back a forth, and the ancient camping sites were found in the Uvda valley (inside the compound of the modern airfield), and in Mitzpe Ramon just below camel hill on the cliff picture


You can visit these sites and even walk in the footsteps of the first Mitzpe Ramoninas, if you follow the green trail from town to the carpentry in the crater.


You could say that Mitzpe Ramon and the Ovda Valley "lost touch" since the early bronze age and until 1949.


Israel's war of independence lasted for a year and a half. From the day after the famous decision of partition in the UN (Nov 29 1947), and until the last of the ceasefire agreements in march of 1949. 

In the UN resolution Eilat was given to the Jewish state. This, however, was only on paper. In order to turn this theoretical idea into an actual FACT (Uvda in hebrew) on the ground, the young IDF needed to send troops to capture the small village of Um RashRash on the red sea, later to be named Eilat.


This was to be the last offensive of the war. In fact, at the time, the ceasefire agreement with Egypt had already been signed, and Israel was only at war with Jordan. So the two forces that were sent- Golani and Ha-Negev brigades, received explicit  orders to avoid any hostilities against Egyptian forces.



Golani were to advance along the Arava road. A beat-up and narrow, but well established road which had been in use for at least half a century as a modern road.



Ha-Negev brigade was to send a scouting party through the center of the Negev, through rough rocky terrain and treacherous wadis, negotiating a passage for their vehicles on narrow camel trails. They needed to find a suitable landing site close to Eilat, so the main force of the brigade could be flown in and capture the the objective.











They headed south from Beer Sheva and travelled south. Arriving in Makhtesh Ramon, they scouted a pass along the western tip - Arod pass, and carried on through the wadis. When the arrived at the Ovda valley they marked an cleared a strip and airplanes landed the main force of the brigade. 


Thanks to this maneuver the Negev brigade won the race and captured Eilat just a few hours before Golani. The flat valley they landed in was later developed as a modern Airfield- and 66 years later, low cost airlines are about to start arriving.

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