Thursday, January 03, 2008

Negev Tour 2: Beer Sheva and the Nabateans

Continued from previous posts:

Negev Tour 1: Off to Tel Lachish

We continued south past Be'er Sheva, the most often mentioned city in the book of Bereishit (Genesis), and my old home town. We took a bypass road which directs traffic around the city to lighten the internal traffic burden. The city has grown substantially since I lived there seven years ago, and now stretches out almost to the bypass road.

Planted forests north of Be'er Sheva.

Be'er Sheva is seen in the Torah as a border town, a launching-off point for journeys into the exile. When our forefathers Avraham and Ya'akov (Abraham and Jacob) left Eretz Yisrael, they built altars and made sacrifices to bring themselves closer to God and fortify their souls for the journey ahead.

Daniel going a little nuts in the bus.

The empty desert south of Be'er Sheva is checkered with sheets of green.

Ephraim, king of the back seat.

Emergency relief stop.

Way down south, someone seems to have planted a Chanukkah menorah on this desolate hilltop.

At last, we reach our destination, in the wilderness of Zin.

Catching some shade.

Daniel Grynvald wore slippers on the hike.

The Zin wilderness is mentioned as a southern border of Eretz Yisrael. tour first took us to some of the ruins of the Nabateans, an ancient people contemporary with the first and second Jewish kingdoms further north. The Nabateans eeked out an existence from the parched landscape with ingenious, massive water engineering projects. By clearing land of rocks and other obstructions, damming seasonal stream beds, and digging canals to connect to hidden cisterns, they filled the Negev with reservoirs. They were then able to make a comfortable living selling this water to passing merchants who brought spices from Mesopotamia (now Iraq) to the port in Gaza, supplying the Roman Empire.

The cisterns are carefully hidden between folds in the mountainside.

The Nabateans disappeared 1600 years ago, but to this day the canals they dug still carry seasonal rainwater to the cisterns, and they still fill up.
An ancient Nabatean cistern still fills with water every winter all these centuries later.

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