A Mountain of Dreams - Eretz Israel Museum

A Mountain of Dreams
Mitzpe Ramon in the mirror of time, 1956-2016

Mitzpe Ramon, ca. 1970. Photography: Moshe Gross, Keren Or. Courtesy of Zarchi Architects
Mitzpe Ramon, ca. 1970. Photography: Moshe Gross, Keren Or. Courtesy of Zarchi Architects

Of all the settlements that were established in Israel in general and in the Negev in particular, Mitzpe Ramon remains prominent in its isolation, dimensions, and breathtaking beauty. Despite development and building the historical nucleus remains in full, and one can feel the magnificent contrast between the handful of modernistic blocks and the desolate and silent space that envelops it. In recent years MitzpeRamon became a center of attraction for domestic and international tourism and for artists who seek to find inspiration. The exhibition deals with the history of the town, the stories of its inhabitants over the years, planning and development processes, architecture and landscape, relations with the Bedouins and the authorities, industry and economic, cultural, artistic and community development.

In 1953 building commenced on the road to Eilat, and MachanehHaatzmaut (independence camp) was set up on the ridge of the Ramon Crater, 85 kilometers from Beersheba and 150 kilometers from Eilat. The camp served the road builders, workers, military personnel and Bedouins. In early August 1953 a collective was set up, headed by HagaiAvriel, an officer in the Negev region and one of the founders of SdehBoker. A group of families came as a cooperative with the objective of working in agriculture. Their original goal was to expand MachanehHaatzmautand turn it into a residential unit, in collaboration with the gypsum and clay industries and the marble quarries in the area. The group met with budgetary and supply problems and with a severe shortage of appropriate infrastructure. The government ministries and the Histadrut supported the idea of settling the area, but they encountered difficulties in promoting their plans in the area and helping to reinforce the town. Inner controversy between members of SdehBoker and Avriel also impaired attempts of development.

In 1957 the Planning Department of the Housing Ministry prepared afinancial program for Mitzpe Ramon,with a goal of reaching 4,000 residents and the development of occupational resources in the area, such as the crater’s minerals, industries and touristic sites. However, the development of Mitzpe Ramon was extremely slow and was accompanied by severe crises. Avrielattempted to attract new immigrants from the center of the country by promising them a source of income, but de facto the group dwindled as its member left, and in early 1959 the small and isolated village became the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior. In 1961 a group of former Air Force personnel joined hands with the objective of establishing a new collective city, the first of its kind, but this ambitious plan also met with numerous difficulties and was ultimately abandoned.

In the early 1960s new immigrants from North Africa and Romania came and new housing developments were built, but Mitzpe Ramon was adversely affected when the road to Eilat through the Arava was built, and most of the traffic to Eilatbypassed the town. In the 1980s and 1990s the settlement expanded with the settlement of military personnel from the nearby army bases and new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and today the settlement is developing, centering on tourism and education.

The exhibition will be displayed in the museum in early 2016, and will then be transferred as a gift to the Mitzpe Ramon local council, with the hope that it will constitute a basis for a historical and cultural museum.