Glimpses of Israel - Eilat

by Joseph Hunting

My first visit to Eilat was in 1960. In those days it resembled a frontier town that was going places in a tremendous hurry. On the waterfront this Red Sea port which was flourishing during Solomon's reign was being modernized and extended to cope with some of the largest super-tankers afloat. An airstrip was used by World-War II vintage Dakotas to link Eilat with Tel Aviv and water was one of the most precious commodities as the area by the Red Sea boasted an annual rainfall of about two inches.

In spite of its isolation from the mainstream of life in Israel Eilat is rapidly becoming one of this country's major tourist attractions. When Europe is snow and fog-bound with sub-zero temperatures those who can afford to escape find Eilat the answer to their dreams. Warm sun and the almost tepid water of the Red Sea have combined to give Eilat an asset enjoyed by few places so accessible to European countries.

Today the frontier-like appearance of Eilat has almost completely disappeared. Hotels with every luxury have sprung up like mushrooms along the foreshore and for those who have more modest incomes comfortable cabins are available.

Eilat is first mentioned in the Bible as a stopover place on the epic journey of the Hebrews on the way to the Promised Land. Only a few miles north Solomon mined copper at Timna. But Eilat was covered with shifting desert sand for two thousand years until the rebirth of the state of Israel, and where Solomon built Israel's first navy, gigantic super-tankers have made this port one of the most strategic in the Middle East. One is reminded of the prophecy given by Ezekiel, "I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings." (Ezekiel 36:11)