DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17: BEERSHEBA, SDE BOKER, WILDERNESS OF ZIN, ARAD, JUDEAN DESERT
Today we left the hotel shortly about 7:40 after another hearty breakfast. We would spend the entire day in the Biblical Negev. We read from Psalm 126 (about the “water courses of the Negev”) as we left the hotel. Temperatures today were in the 60s, with clouds in the morning and more sun in the afternoon.
Our first stop of the day was Tel Beersheba. Located only a few miles form our hotel, this ancient site was visited by Abraham (Gen 21), Isaac (Gen. 26) and Jacob (Gen. 46) and even Elijah (1 Kings 19). At the site we saw a replica of the horned altar, a water well, Solomonic gate, and many typical four-room Israelite houses. We left the site by walking down through the impressive water cisterns system. It was quite impressive how this city collected precious water.
Sde Boker / Zin Desert
Driving south we arrived at Sde Boker. Here we walked through a few herds of ibex (Psalm 104) to the graves of David (and Paula his wife) Ben Gurion. He was Israel’s first Prime Minister of Israel in 1948. These graves overlook the beautiful Zin Desert. We even had the opportunity to do some hiking in the canyon of the Zin. The walls of the canyon are 100s of feet high. All of us walked to the water falls. Most in the group even hiked to the top of the far canyon rim, scaling the cliff with the help of a few ladders. The hike was strenuous but well worth it!
After lunch at Avdat (a gas station with an Israel sandwich shop, a convenient store, and even a McDonalds!), we returned to the north Negev and to the site of Arad. Located on the northeastern side of the Negev and some 70 miles south of Jerusalem, we visited the site together. On the citadel we saw a Judean Temple. This was a false worship center that kings like Hezekiah and Josiah destroyed. We read from 2 Chronicles 34. Seeing the stone altar here, we remembered what the Apostle Paul said about being a “living sacrifice to God…” (Romans 12:1-2). Walking down to the Canaanite part of the city, we saw the city well, the Broad House, and the city walls and towers. In the days of Moses, the king of this city did not allow Moses and the Israelites to pass through this region (Numbers 21). This part of the city was later destroyed by Joshua (Joshua 12).
We ended the day by driving to Hanokdim, our “Bedouin Tent” hotel for the night. We first enjoyed about a 30 minute camel ride out in the desert. Next, we had a neat time of listening to a real Arab Bedouin talk about his customs. After “checking in” to our big “tent” and dinner, we enjoyed a time of worship and sharing out under the stars by the campfire. We then retired for the evening, with a few sleeping outside under the stars!