The Negev Desert, possibly more than any other part of Israel, is the land of the Old Testament. Beginning with Abraham in the Book of Genesis, many biblical tales featuring Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, and Jacob took place in and around the desert and its main city – Beer Sheba. The Caananites, Edomites, Nabateans, Philistines and other tribes mentioned in the Bible also resided in the Negev Desert. For this reason, important trade routes like Via Maris and the Spice Road ventured through the dry, arid land.
These trade routes were created after the Nabateans irrigated the Negev, making urban living a possibility in the midst of the desert’s dry, sandy terrain. The agricultural cities expanded during the Byzantine period to accommodate the large numbers of Christian pilgrims traveling through the Negev Desert en route to Jerusalem and other holy sites in the North of Israel.
The Negev Desert comprises more than one half of Israel’s total land area. It is the Southern section of the country stretching from the Judean Hills and down to Eilat; many interesting and beautiful sites can be found within this vast region. Yotvata is the site of a Roman fortress and is believed to have been one of the points at which the Israelite’s stopped during the Exodus. Eilat, now Israel’s resort town, was once home to a port in King Solomon’s era. Avdat, Shivta and Nitzana were all Nabatean cities along the Spice Route. The Negev Desert also offers beautiful views for nature lovers including the striking geological formations of the Ramon Crater, white rock formations at the Nitzana Hillocks, and Solomon’s Pillars inside Timna Park.
The Negev is the ideal place for Christians to experience the wilderness; it was here where God has made His promise to Abraham, "I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand in the sea." – Genesis 22:17.
In Hebrew, the word desert is pronounced "midbar" and it stems from the same root word as "word" and "speak". The Desert (Hebrew: מדבר) is where God speaks (Hebrew: מדבר) to those who seek Him, it is where God gives guidance and provides His word. It was at the Judean desert where Jesus quoted the words of Moses; "Man shall not live on bread alone but on every WORD (Hebrew: דבר) that proceeds from the mouth of God." - Deuteronomy 8:3, Mathew 4:4.