Glimpses of Israel - The Negev

by Joseph Hunting

The Negev is the cradle of the Hebrew race. After Abraham journeyed south from Shechem he pitched his tent near Bethel just north of Jerusalem. There he built an altar and called upon the name of the Lord. "And Abraham journeyed, going on toward the Negev". (Genesis 12).

It was in this expansive south land that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob reared their families and grazed their flocks and herds.

Four hundred years later their descendants wandered in this wilderness for forty years until Joshua led them over Jordan to possess their promised possessions.

3,500 years later they returned to occupy this wilderness again. In the meantime the Edomites, Nabateans and Bedouin nomads had, in turn, grazed their flocks and built their cities at Petra, Avdat and Shivta.

The Negev is a constant challenge to the modern State of Israel. Its capital is the ancient city of Beersheba, today a bustling metropolis complete with University and nuclear reactor, a far cry from the solitude Abraham once knew here.

A colourful link with a way of life fast disappearing is the Bedouin market every Thursday on the outskirts of Beersheba. Seemingly oblivious to the tourists mingling among camels, sheep and goats, hard bargains are struck. Dust, a babel of sounds and a colourful people are a brief reminder that not everything has changed as the result of Israel's technology and progress in transforming the country described in the Bible as "a howling desolate wilderness".