Avdat, Wadi Avdat, Elah Valley
20.11.2011 - 20.11.2011
Today we journeyed South towards Avdat. On our way down, we passed a Bedouin settlement. The Bedouin are the traditional people of the land, they roam around the land. There is currently a program in Israel to help the nomadic people settle. They are Muslims, and are full Israeli citizens.
Avdat was a road station for caravans established by the Nabateans. It was the Nabateans who controlled Damascas when Paul travelled there (2 Corinthians 11), so this site can give an insight into those people. In biblical times the Nabateans controlled the spice route between Arabia and the Medeteranian. Avdat is a Negev city which is two thousand feet above sea level along the main desert road from Petra to Gaza.1 It was interesting to note that the settlement at Avdat became useless when trade routes changed. When the Caravans no longer came through the site, they tried to attract tourists by building beautiful churches. We walked through these churches, as well as through the caves on the mountainside. It was interesting to imagine what life living in a cave would have been like, it was a lot less cold than I was expecting!
After leaving Avdat, we got on the bus for a short trip down to Wadi Avdat. This was a massive canyon with a small amount of water in the bottom. The birds flying through the canyon made for a spectacular sight! Springs of water emerge from the layers of the rocks. When rain falls, the water permeates the rocks. The water evaporates, leaving salt, while some water gets trapped. When the rock gets struck, water can flow out of the rocks. This is how the Bedouins found water in the desert. Although not the same location, this is likely to be what happened when Moses was commanded to strike a rock for water to come out for the Israelites to drink in Exodus 17. Visiting this site really deepened my understanding of this passage, helping me understand how it was possible for the water to come out of the rocks. I don’t think it diminishes the significance of the miracle though, since it still happened when God said it would happen. God made it work, not Moses.
The highlight of my day was visiting the probable place of the David and Goliath battle, in the Elah Valley (1 Samuel 17). This was a favourite story of mine growing up as a kid. We were able to see the two mountains where the Philistines and the Israelites stood on. The mountains were a lot smaller and closer than I was expecting. The sides were steep and rocky, perfect to look for stones to load up a sling shot!
1 W. Zanger, 'Avdat of the Nabateens,' Biblical Archeology Review 25(1999) 68.