Glimpses of Israel - The Negev

by Joseph Hunting

It is a far cry from the days when the Negev was a vast inhospitable wilderness of red rock and shifting sand dunes inhabited by Bedouin who grazed their goats on what little grass grew in the wadis.

In Bible times the Negev supported large cities which used an ingenious system of water harvesting to irrigate their fields. This system has again been developed at Avdat by Professor Evenari with surprising results. It is interesting to note that Professor Evenari used only the primitive methods to develop his experimental farm. No modern tractors or machinery of any kind were used.

The Negev has responded to the husbandry of the soil so picturesquely described by Isaiah, "... the land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee." One of the most beautiful sights in Israel is to drive through the northern Negev in spring along a road flanked with golden wattles and as far as the eye can see the fields are like a sea of waving corn. Further south, if the winter rains have been good, the wadis are ablaze with wildflowers, and one is reminded of Isaiah's prophecy: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose." (Isaiah 35:1). Although this prophecy will have its ultimate fulfilment during Messiah's reign, no one can doubt that it is in the process of fulfilment today.

No visit to the Negev would be complete without a stop-over in Beersheba. Here, every technological development in Israel is in evidence. And yet on Thursdays, the market-place in Beersheba reverts back to a system of buying and selling that hasn't changed since Bible times as the Bedouin tribespeople display their wares with sheep, goats and camels all mixed up in seeming confusion, noise and dust.

Perhaps it is perfectly natural for Israelis to be at home in this desert environment for it was in this wilderness that they first tasted the sweet fruits of nationhood and freedom from slavery.