The Scorpions Ascent (מעלה עקרבים)

The Scorpions Ascent is a route that connects the mountain range of the Negev with the depression of the Arava Valley formed during the continental rift that caused the Syro-African fracture some 5 million years ago. This geological event created the valleys of the Hula in the North, of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), of the Jordan River, of the Dead Sea and all the way South to the Arava until Eilat. It continues to the Sinai Peninsula all the way to the Horn of Africa. The depression was created by the movement of different tectonic plates that form three continents (Europe/Turkey, Asia and Africa): the Land of Israel is located at the crossroads between these three continents, and each plate follows its own movement and speed. And this movement that would eventually separate the three continents still continues today...

 

The Scorpions Ascent was a route mentioned in the Bible as "the ascent of Akkrabim" (the word means Scorpions). It marked the border between Judea in the North and the nomadic tribes of Midian and Edom in the South. In Numbers 34:1-4, it is God Himself who sets the borders and explains them to Moses:

 

And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: 'Command the children of Israel, and say unto them: When you come into the land of Canaan, this shall be the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan according to the borders thereof. Thus your south side shall be from the wilderness of Zin close by the side of Edom, and your south border shall begin at the end of the Salt Sea [Dead Sea] eastward; and your border shall turn about southward of the Ascent of Akrabbim [Scorpions Ascent], and pass along to Zin; and the goings out thereof shall be southward of Kadesh-barnea; and it shall go forth to Hazar-addar, and pass along to Azmon.

 

If you look at a satellite map, you see the road going up in zigzag curves all the way up a mountain.

 

 

The mountain we climb (by car) is one that formed the plateau of the Negev and that collapsed towards the Arava with a strong inclination when the depression was formed. In fact all the mountains of the same plateau suffered the same fate and they all broke down by collapsing towards the Arava. The view from the Scorpions Ascent is truly spectacular and is a testimonial of the forces of Nature, able to break down powerful rocky mountains.

  

 

The road starts in the valley and follows an ancient path used by the Romans for the same purpose: connecting the valley of the Arava to the heights of the Negev. Along this Roman road, archaeologists found three small forts, one at the bottom, one at the top and one in between. 

 

 

At the top of the route, there is a monument dedicated to the Engineers' Corps who built this road for traffic. A route was previously used by the British during the Mandate in 1927, but was made of stones. In 1949, the Golani commandos used this British dirt route to reach Eilat in and control the Red Sea access for the newly born State of Israel. The road was them made with more stones and asphalt in April 1950, as it was the only way to reach Eilat.

 

 

On 17 March 1954, terrorists attack a bus returning from Eilat. The topography of the location caused the vehicle to climb slowly, thus making an easy target for the attackers who ambushed the bus. Among the passengers, 11 were killed and 4 survived being thought dead. Among the survivors, there was also one baby girl who had been hidden under the body of an adult (both her parents died in the attack). Following this attack that created a big uproar, the Prime Minister David Ben Gurion decided to open a new road that passed more West across the Ramon Crater and Mitzpe  Ramon. 

 

Now, enough words. . Take a look at the video below that shows you all the drive up, but... without the dramatic and frightful landscape that is offered to the eyes of the travellers. When you reach the top, remember the victims of the ambush of 1953...

 

Enjoy your virtual trip up the infamous Scorpions Ascent !

 

Albert Benhamou

Tour Guide Israel

June 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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