Israel 2012, Day 3 – Into the Wilderness

At the end of day three I find mysef at Tamar, deep in the Negev. Some people in our group are trying to blow a shofar outside the cafeteria. Or possibly and injured camel has wandered into camp. Either way, I am going to stay here, sip my cup of tea, and finish off my blog for today.

We left at 8AM sharp, so naturally were were on the road by 8:30. We headed south and made a stop at the Valley of Elah, the site of David’s battle with Goliath. With all the rain the day before, we had to be careful of mud. After reading a bit of 1 Sam 17, almost everyone walked down to the riverbed to collect a stone or two. Or five. Well, one person has ten I am told. We might have trouble with weight on the return flight.

From there we visted Bet Guverin, the location of the Bell Caves. We drove around to the top of the hill for a panoramic view (and, to my shame, some rock throwing), then explored the Cistern House. It is always fun to go into the cistern and watch people as they come down the stairs. I do not tell them that there are huge, hand-carved cistern and storage rooms. We also visited the olive press and Sidonian caves. The Musician’s Cave was closed, but we peeked inside for a few minutes. It is in desparate need to conservation, the dampness is flaking the walls.

I normally stop at Lachish when I travel down this road since it is only 15 minutes from Bet Guverin and it is a nice view of what an under-excavated tel looks like. Unfortunately the gates were closed so we could not walk up to the gates where the Lachish Letters were found. It appears that they are trying to reinforce the road up to the gates, but for now we could only view the seige ramp. We ended up walking around the tel on the road, although really only about halfway (to the reconstructed wall).

On the way to Tamar we stopped near Beer Sheba for lunch. I had a lamb kabob with fresh pita and a few vegetables. Not the best lamb I have ever had, but it was a good meal.

We drove past Dimona and down to the Dead Sea on our way to Tamar. The transition from the Shephelah at Lachish and the desert near the Dead Sea is always jarring, especially for the first time visitor. We started in the Judean Hill country, through the rolling hills and farmland of the Shephelah, and into the rather barran desert of the Aravah. Tamar is some 25 mintues south of the Dead Sea, so we drove through the deep canyons of the Wadi Zin.

Tamar is a different palce in December, quite cool at 4:30PM. We waked the tel and I explained the various eras represented, from a hint of a middle bronze age Canaanite, an Iron age gate, an Edomite shrine, Roman buildings including a small bathhouse, a Turkish water system and a British jail house. It is quite remarkable how many eras are found at this rather tiny and obscure location in the Aravah.

We enjoyed an excellent dinner hosted by Kate and Derrick. Kate’s dinner was very good and the carrot cake was probably off my diet. But since I am walking up a lot of hills, that is OK right?

Ken and Naomi Share a Special Moment

At Bet Guverin