It’s practically a tradition (though it had to be skipped during the fall holidays due to the coronavirus lockdown): Route 10, which runs along the Egyptian border in the Negev, is open for civilian travel in both directions between Hamukei Nitzana and Mount Karkom and all the way to the junction with Route 12, near Eilat.
Please note: Due to a flood warning, Route 10 will be closed from Monday, except for the section between Ezuz and Mount Harif junction.
Closed to civilian traffic for most of the year, the road was opened Friday for Hanukkah, and will remain open through Saturday, December 19. In recent years, the highway has only been opened during holidays, to enable travelers to enjoy the view and have easier access to the fascinating Mount Karkom site.
Driving along Route 10, you can reach stunning sites such as the Kadesh Barnea observation point, 670 meters above sea level, where you can gaze at northern Sinai, and the Har Hursha lookout that offers a wonderful view north toward Kadesh Barnea, and northeast toward Ramat Barnea and Mount Hamran. The view to the west is even more enticing, as you look over the border into Sinai.
With binoculars you can clearly make out the area of Ein al-Qudeirat, which some believe is the site of the biblical Kadesh Barnea – a large oasis where the Israelites dwelled for a long time during their wanderings in the desert following the exodus from Egypt. Another marvelous lookout – which faces west toward Sinai and the winding border fence – is 11 kilometers south of the Har Hursha lookout, slightly south of Border Marker 47, several hundred meters south of the memorial to Capt. Orion Salomon and Tal Tzuri, who died in a flight training accident in 1980.
Another interesting stop along the route is the Sabha cistern, about 1 kilometer down a dirt road east of the highway. The ancient water cistern, apparently from the Nabatean period 2,000 years ago, leads to an underground pool. It is filled with water year-round and on hot days, you can take a dip. Typically for the Nabateans, the cistern is well-hidden. It’s not easy to find if you don’t know of its existence. It’s currently covered with a sheet of tin that can be easily removed.
Mount Harif junction is 55 kilometers south of Nitzana Junction. The mountain rises to an elevation of 1,000 meters, though the highway is 200 meters below. From here you can continue south toward Mount Karkom and Eilat or turn east onto Route 171 and drive 40 kilometers north to Mitzpeh Ramon.
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The opening of Route 10 gives those with 4X4 off-road vehicles a relatively comfortable way to reach Mount Karkom, one of the most intriguing sites in Israel. The rest of the year, the only way to reach Mount Karkom is from the northeast, via a very long off-road drive from the direction of Mitzpeh Ramon. During Hanukkah, one can drive down Route 10 then turn east and drive off-road for just 10 kilometers to reach Mount Karkom.
Travel on Route 10 will be permitted from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M., and strict safety rules will be enforced: driving on marked routes only, in accordance with road conditions and not along the border fence. There are military posts spread out along the route for security and guidance. ID must be presented in order to enter the route. Photographing the border fence is prohibited. There are no gas stations along the route, so fill the tank ahead of time. Overnight camping is permitted only in approved campgrounds. Vehicles may not be left unsupervised. Littering is prohibited, to protect the wildlife. The area near the route is a military zone with training grounds. Touching unexploded ordnance or ammunition is strictly forbidden: If you come across any, you must report it to the Israel Defense Forces. In many areas along the route, there is no cellular reception.
Important phone numbers to have on hand IDF Area Defense System 80: 08-6302269; Nature & Parks Authority inspectors: 053-7762064, 053-7762069. In an emergency, dial 100.