Although the steep walls and semi-circular shape of these landforms appear to indicate a geological impact event, the word crater is actually a misnomer. In reality, these magnificent displays of rock strata have been caused solely by erosion. The taxonomical identification makhtesh recalls the Hebrew word for a mortar grinder, and the name is fitting for these geological formations which bear the appearance of large grinding bowls.
Each makhtesh is generally drained by one or two narrow wadis. The movement of water as it drains through these wadis contributes to the formation of the makhteshim (plural of makhtesh): the softer layers of rock found underground erode away rapidly, leaving the harder rocks to collapse over time and forming the landscape that is seen today.
While there are a total of five makhteshim in the Negev, the Abraham Path encounters two of them; the Makhtesh Gadol (Large Makhtesh) and the Makhtesh Katan (Small Makhtesh). Walking around the rims of these structures offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape and wonderful opportunities for panoramic photos of the desertous region. Those wishing to descend into the basins will be treated to a wonderful display of geological chronology as the years of rock strata are peeled back with each step. Be certain to bring a camera as the variety of colors and patterns on display is worth documenting. Hikers in the Small Makhtesh are also encouraged to keep a sharp eye for the prolific amounts of fossils that line the trail.