The Desert Economy

Israel is a country of 8 million people with very little in the way of natural resources, but it has constructed a juggernaut reputation for being a global leader in technological innovation, whether it be in mobile applications, military defense systems, cyber-security, and even water sanitization and energy generation. As a result, it is difficult to separate the economic stature of Israel from its education and emphasis on innovation. This dynamic materializes in the Negev Desert in the city of Beersheba. With substantial funds, such as half a billion dollars for the cyber-security sector, flowing in annually, Beersheba has been able to build a new city that physically and metaphorically links Israel’s energy, military, education, cyber-security, and overall technological intelligence in one location. The image below shows Beersheba, a shiny new cyber-city in the middle of the Negev (Nakashima).


Source: Washington Post

While Beersheba serves as a shining example of Israel’s economic prowess, the economic aspects of the city differ greatly from the rest of Negev. Desert economies, due to the scarcity of resources, are relatively weak. For example, the Israeli government purposely locates its solar fields in the desert because of the sunny and hot environment; moreover, military bases are scattered throughout the region because of the cheap real-estate (Gross).


Source: Haaretz

In the non-city or military areas of the Negev, which are pretty much barren land and rock the crux of the economy is tourism. This can be segmented into three categories: Masada, the Dead Sea, and the Bedouin tents. People who visit Israel almost habitually go to the historic Masada stronghold and bathe in the Dead Sea. Those people have to go through the Negev, which is home to countless Bedouin settlements, to get to those places. This caters perfectly to the Bedouin’s basic reputation for being incredibly hospitable. This flow of people through the desert from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem to Masada or the Dead Sea with a pit stop at the Bedouin tents has created an economy where there otherwise would not be. At Masada there are light shows at night and at the dead sea, cosmetic products are plentiful (Tourist Israel). This really shows how people have commercialized experiences and sites.



Cohen, Gili. “Israeli Army Putting up New Building in Central Israel, as Move to Negev Delayed.”, 10 Jan. 2018,

Gross, Judah Ari, et al. “In First, US Establishes Permanent Military Base in Israel.” The Times of Israel,

“Masada / Dead Sea.” Tourist Israel, 5 Feb. 2018,

Nakashima, Ellen, and William Booth. “How Israel Is Turning Part of the Negev Desert into a Cyber-City.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 14 May 2016,

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