A Landscape of Israel’s History
The Negev Desert is a picturesque landscape of sandy-dry heat and intense sunlight, yet it has amassed and incredible history and is a site with unmatched geological and biological value. A unique array of animals and plant life have evolved and adapted to call this region home, and the small number of residents – mostly Bedouins – have made little impact on the Negev, leaving it mostly in its natural state.
Columns of Solomon
In Timna Park, some of the most interesting geological finds can be found by visitors, including what is left of King Solomon’s reign – the sandstone columns of Solomon himself. According to the legend, Solomon erected the pillars on either side of the main entry to his Temple – North and South. Solomon went so far as to name both pillars. To the South, Solomon named the pillar “Jakin” and to the North, the column’s named was decreed as “Boaz.” Many scholars are of the opinion that the two names translate together to “established in strength.” Those who visit and explore the columns are sure to agree.
The Ramon Crater
Formed by neither volcano nor impacted meteor, the Ramon Crater was actually formed by the flowing water of rivers which carved out the crater to the depth of roughly 500 meters. Today, it is part of the Ramon Nature Preserve: Israel’s biggest national park. Aside from being a geological guidebook into the past, it is also growing as a tourist attraction for eco tourists and adventure seekers who hike and jeep their way through the crater to witness all the natural beauty that inhabits the area – including plant life, Nubian Ibex and more.
Advat (Nabatean Stronghold)
The ancient city of Advat was among the most important on the Incense Route and was built in the 3rd century BCE. The city has a long
history of prosperity even after the Romans annexed Nabataea sometime in 106CE. Despite its loss of international trade at the hands of the Romans, Advat turned to agriculture and wine production to sustain its humble economy. In fact, no fewer than five wine presses have been found in Advat. The residents of Advat were very resourceful and their efforts to maintain and sustain the city are still visible today despite the city’s destruction by earthquake in the early 7th century CE.
While not among the most ancient of places to visit in the Negev, Beit HaArava is certainly filled with plenty of history in its short period of existence and is a definite must-
see place to explore. The name “Beit HaArava” is translated to “house in the desert” – a fitting name for this village that is not even 100 years old. During the war of independence in 1948, the residents of Beit HaArava became isolated and fled to the protection of an Israeli post in Sodom. Decades later, in the mid-1980s, Beit HaArava once again became a civilian community, and in 2000 it was relocated 5 kilometers to the west. The modern-day ruins of the original Beit HaArava are certainly a site to visit within the Negev.
The Negev Desert – Plenty to See, Do and Explore
While it’s true that the Negev Desert is essentially a wasteland in modern-day terms, it holds some of the most interesting and important windows into the past of the region, as well as the history of the world. We’ve covered just four of the many places to see and will reveal some more fascinating places in the Negev Desert in a future post and encourage you to see them for yourself.
David Ben-Sira knows every trail and every stone in Israel. A passionate traveller, full time tour guide at Kenes Tours and part time history teacher. Favorite hero – Indiana Jones.