The Arava Valley

The Arava Valley stretches between the Dead Sea in the north and the Red Sea (Eilat) in the south. It is a part of the Syrian-African Rift and includes both Israeli and Jordanian territories with varying levels and densities of agricultural and urban settlements on both sides of the border.

This area falls within subtropical savanna area where the temperatures are much higher than in the neighboring areas at the same latitude;

the temperature can rise to 48°C. It is also the base of erosion, i.e., runoff water and underground water accumulate in it. Because of these special conditions it enabled trees of Sudanian origin to establish in oases. The distribution of each tree is limited by its demand for high temperatures or resistance to low ones and by its resistance to soil salinity. Several desert springs support the salinity resistant date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), that is accompanied by rush (Juncus rigidus, J.arabicus). The Acacia species are the most drought resistant trees and form savannoid vegetation along the Arava. Deep sands in the Arava are covered by a sparse woodland of Persian haloxylon (Haloxylon persicum). Much of the area that was once covered by H. persicum is intensively cultivated at present.

Wet Salinas, where salty water moisten the soil throughout the year occur along the Jordan, Dead Sea and Arava valleys, and near the Mediterranean sea at Akko-Zevulun Valley. Nile Tamarisk (Tamarix nilotica) and other Tamarix species, which are highly resistant to salinity, thrive in desert salines. The largest continuous salt marshes are those in the southern Dead Sea area, and near Yotvata.

Birds: Eilat is a key site for migration through the Middle East, and very large numbers of all types of birds pass through the area in both spring and autumn. Over 420 species have been recorded. Of prime importance are raptors: 1.2 million have been counted in a single spring season and 26.000 in autumn, and the flyway is especially concentrated for Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Black Kite (Milvus migrans, max. seasonal total 31.774), Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes), Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus ,max. seasonal total 465.827) and Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis, max. seasonal total 75.053). Migrant White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus) also occur in especially high numbers. Numbers of migrating Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) and Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) are highest in spring, and seasonal totals from the Moon Valley are given. Other breeding species include Verreaux's Eagle (Aquila verreauxii, not proven: records of 1-2 birds), Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides, 1-2 pairs), Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii) and Dunn's Lark (Eremalauda dunni, 0-20 pairs, last bred 1989).

Yotvata is the modern name of an oasis with saline marshes located in Israel's southern Arava (rift valley), about 25 miles north of Eilat and Aqaba on the Red Sea.Yotvata is the oldest kibbutz in the Southern Arava. During the 60's and 70's other kibbutzim were founded; Eilot 1962, Grofit 1966, Ketura 1973 and Samar 1976.Later came Yahel, Elifaz and Lotan. In the 80's, in the Shizafon valley, Neve Harif and in the 90's, Neot Smadar. Each of these settlements is a partner in the area council of Hevel Eilot. The council provides the basic services necessary in spite of the distance from the centre of the country - 320 kms. from Tel Aviv, 200 from Be'er Sheva. These services include; education, public transport, refuse collecting, research and development and cultural events. The agricultural experimental station, where some members of Yotvata work, helps Yotvata. The station was developed in the 60's and is still involved in the agricultural development in the area.

Just south of Yotvata are large wadis and their alluvial fans support open woodland of "Umbrella Acacia" (Acacia tortilis) and Acacia Thorns (Acacia raddiana), and here a few presumably native Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) also grow where water is close to the surface. There is a tiny relict group of Egyptian Doum Palm (Hyphaene thebaica) at En Evrona. Other habitats include beaches, agricultural fields, saltpans, sewage ponds and reed (Phragmites); a saltmarsh with large Suaeda bushes has now almost disappeared.