Glimpses of Israel - Ezion Geber

by Joseph Hunting

Several miles south of Eilat is a small island that is in all probability the Ezion-Geber immortalized in the Bible as the port which gave birth to Israel's first navy. "And King Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-Geber, which is beside Elath, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon." (1 Kings 9:26-28)

The island has a small sheltered cove that would have made an excellent harbour and the wealth that poured into Solomon's kingdom from this port would make even Aristotle Onassis green with envy.

During the centuries that followed Egypt's Pharaohs made the island a rest resort and King Herod built a winter palace on its rocky shores. Centuries later the Crusaders built a castle as their southernmost fortress in the Holy Land and sections of its walls still stand stark against the azure sky.

Today Israelis on vacation and tourists clamber over rocks that echoed with the sounds of a ship-building industry a thousand years before the Roman galleys rowed up the Thames to a spot they called Londinium, and huge super tankers glide over the same waters that Israel's navy used 3,000 years ago.