Glimpses of Israel - Sde Boker

by Joseph H Hunting

Today Sde Boker is like an oasis in the midst of an expansive desert. But this was not always so. The kibbutz there was established in 1952 when this area was an outpost of the fledgling state. In those days there was no road, telegraph or link with the outside world. Indeed, there was no regular water supply, but the pioneers, mostly young men and women from different backgrounds, were motivated by a plan to reclaim the desert – to breed cattle in the vast Negev plains. They named their new home Sde Boker -- Rancher's Field or Field of the Cowboy.

Israel 's first Prime Minister, Mr David Ben-Gurion, had a vision to resettle the Negev, and in 1953 he resigned from his position of leading the State of Israel to become a member of the kibbutz with his wife Paula. Although he knew life as the leader of the newly-born state, and although he afterwards returned to public life first as Defence Minister and later Prime Minister once again, he shared in all the farming tasks of Sde Boker as a full member.

After leading Israel through the turbulent days both before and after the rebirth of Israel, it is fitting that both he and his wife should lie buried in the tranquility of the desert they both loved. The simple graves are located on a high bluff that overlooks the Wilderness of Zin through which the children of Israel wandered during their forty-year sojourn in the southern Negev. And at Sde Boker there is a seminary for research into desert agriculture that is helping to transform this once-barren wilderness.