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On the Edge of the Desert

May 9, 2009

Saturday, 10:06 PM local time


We’re spending the night in Arad, a city in the south of Israel on the edge of the Negev Desert. Our hotel overlooks the desert, and from our rooms on the sixth floor, we can see little but a vast expanse of sand, rocks, and hills. It is quiet, a quiet that has a sense of weight to it.

It’s quiet where I am right now, too, typing in the lobby of the hotel. Nearly everyone else has gone to bed, and I will be following them soon. We’ve been traveling for a cumulative twelve hours and counting, seen a lot of the countryside, and visited the ruins of sites that are thousands of years old – places that predate Christ, called tels.

A tel, as Chip explains it, is a giant mound, almost a mountain, of civilization built upon civilization. A people would build a castle on bedrock, for instance, which would eventually collapse either from the march of time or the march of war. Another people would come along later and, due to any number of conditions including water supply and strategic location, build another castle on top of it – and so on, and so on. To stand on top of a tel is to literally stand on millenia of history.

We visited two tels today, Tel Lakish and Tel Arad. Chip, our guide Samir, and Paul could tell you much more about them, but Tel Lakish is one of the fortified cities mentioned by Isaiah before the exile, and Tel Arad contains artifacts from which archaeologists have been able to decipher much of ancient Hebrew script. These places are gold for history majors, and even those of us who eschewed history in college still found something valuable there.

Much more could be said about today, but the quiet is luring me to bed. With this blog, I am endeavouring to post at least once a day, hopefully more, and the final post of the night will contain a question. I hope that you will join us in pondering these questions, and feel free to leave comments on these questions and anything else that strikes your fancy. You are journeying as much as we are.

And so my question for the day is: what can you hear in the quiet on the edge of the desert, or the city, or the forest – or wherever you are? What does the quiet say to you?

To me it says, rest. And so I shall.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim Timpte permalink
    May 9, 2009 5:56 pm

    Just heard that the Pope is coming to Israel on Monday, I think. Any plans for a group audience?

  2. May 9, 2009 11:44 pm

    Actually, believe it or not, we’re going to be in the Galilee at the same time he is, so there’s a not-small chance that we’ll get to see him from afar.

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