Two of their characteristics make them especially eye-catching:
- They follow the roads closely, and are located near the roadside.
- They are marked by trees; some have only a single tree, while in other places a cluster of limans can be found, each supporting a small grove of trees extending over an area of up to ten dunam (approx 2.5 acres).
The liman’s trees are dependent upon the runoff areas that support them. But these runoff areas also fulfill an important aesthetic function: the limans can be regarded as unique features of the landscape when viewed against the background of the desert expanses. Because of this, the open ground adjacent to the liman is defined for the purposes of this article as “landscape-contributory.”
The landscape-contributory area is important because of the stark contrast it provides to the limans, which are thrown into sharp relief as the only green elements in the desert. When they appear amidst other elements such as forests and woodlands, buildings or agricultural land, the limans fade into the background and almost disappear. This means that the conservation of landscape-contributory runoff areas is of vital importance, as they emphasize the limans’ role as small shady groves in the middle of the desert.
The limans were planted using runoff water collected by time-honored methods current in arid areas of the ancient world. Since the nineteen-eighties the planting and maintenance techniques used at the limans have improved significantly as a result of monitoring, research and accumulated experience. The professional theory that for many years determined the way liman groves were planted was based upon forestry and hydrological considerations alone, with no regard for landscaping, and so it is hard to discern any aesthetic reasoning behind the size or species of tree selected for each location or for the roadsides adjacent to the limans (see map of liman distribution by size, and map of distribution by tree species).
In appearance the limans conform to the UNESCO definition of “designed landscape” features, i.e., features that have been deliberately designed and created by human hands (UNESCO 2002).
Limans at major junctions
The junctions that lie amid the folded northern Negev landscape play an important role in tourism and holidaymaking throughout the desert region. In most cases, however, the area around these junctions is occupied by elements that compete with the liman for the attention of visitors: vegetation, gas stations, buildings and various components of the local infrastructure combine to prevent many of the limans from being noticed. Efforts must be made to conserve the landscape around junction limans, so that, like those at the Negev Junction, they stand out amid their surroundings.
Unlike limans situated at junctions, those at the roadside stand out and make an impression on the observer. They are of different kinds, and, because of the abundance of local places of interest, nature reserves and the presence of the junctions themselves, these limans fulfill a large number of roles in the service of tourists and holidaymakers.
The geomorphologic structure of the northern Negev dictates the form and function of the limans. Those situated at the side of roads that follow the large syncline valleys are impressive and set at close intervals. These are the limans of the solling road that runs parallel to Route 40, between the Negev Junction and Mashabim Junction, and those of Route 204 between Halukim Junction and Yeruham Junction.
The limans along the roads that cross the anticlines (convexities) are large in the valleys adjacent to the junctions, but dwindle and even disappear in the hilly areas of the ridges.