Glimpses of Israel - Desert Dwellers

by Joseph Hunting

When one has to cross busy Jaffa road during peak hours in Jerusalem or join the jostle along Dizengoff on Saturday night in Tel Aviv it is hard to realize that the modern Israeli's roots belong to the desert; that the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were desert dwellers. Indeed, they passed their sojourn in the land that God promised to them and their descendants as nomad Bedouin do to this present time. Israel was born as a nation in the desert, and spent the first forty years in its emptiness getting rebellion and the ways of Egypt out of its system.

Today the pattern has changed dramatically where the Israelis are concerned. Beersheba, once the home of the Patriarchs, is now a desert metropolis, and other desert dwellers farm the kibbutzim with a variety of crops especially developed for dry conditions. And the Bedouin, who for centuries has lived as a "monarch of all he surveys" in the Negev fastness, is gradually being assimilated into Israel's modern society.

An ancient Bedouin custom that may still be seen in the desert is an acacia tree from which may hang a large sack containing the worldly possessions of a Bedouin family that may be absent for months or even years. It is left untouched by other Bedouin until claimed by its owner, and in the meantime no one would plunder it.

But the face of the desert is changing with modern technology ever on the search for mineral wealth and oil deposits. Also, the Bible speaks of a time when, "the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, even with joy and singing." (Isaiah 35:1-2) Modern farming expertise especially developed for desert conditions already foreshadows the Biblical promise.