Glimpses of Israel - The Negev

by Joseph Hunting

The word 'Negev' often appears in the Bible and usually means 'south'. Its area is approximately 12,000 square kilometres. In shape it appears on the map of Israel as a triangle resting on its tip. One side of the triangle is enclosed by the Wadi Arava, or great Rift Valley, stretching from the southern tip of the Dead Sea to Eilat on the Red Sea. The other side is a line drawn from Rafah on the Mediterranean Sea to Eilat. The northern limit, or base of the inverted triangle, is a line drawn from Gaza to the southern tip of the Dead Sea.

Whereas the north of Israel is well-watered with springs and streams emptying into the Sea of Galilee, the Negev is part of a great desert chain stretching from the Sahara to the Gobi Deserts. Its annual rainfall is three to four inches. However, after winter rains the Negev is transformed with splashes of colour as myriads of flowers carpet the loess dunes.

Apart from the vast mineral wealth contained in the various 'Makhteshim' or natural depressions, secluded areas of the Negev are home to growing numbers of wild animals including hyenas, wolves, foxes, gazelles and ibex, and the occasional eagle and vulture may be seen soaring in an azure sky.

It was in the Negev that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob gave birth to the nation later to be called Israel, and it was in the Negev that the infant nation spent forty years prior to their entry into Canaan via Jericho.