Eilat, Timna and the Negev: Rich History, Not Just a Seaside Holiday

November 13, 2012 8:55 am 0 comments

The Dan Eilat Hotel. Photo: Avishai Teicher/PikiWiki Israel.

When my wife and I planned our recent visit to Eilat, we expected a glorious seaside holiday. Little did we know that we would also walk in the footsteps of the ancient Kenites and Midianites and that we’d also enjoy an encounter with “kibbutzniks” who create exquisite works of art and raise organic foods in the Negev desert.

Moments after our El Al flight touched down at the Eilat airport, we checked into the luxurious Dan Eilat Hotel, located on the Red Sea beach front, in the center of this thriving resort community. We knew the hotel’s reputation but we were not prepared for the splendor of our room. Like the hotel itself, the room was decorated in hues of pink, turquoise and beige and its furnishings had a distinct art deco look. But the icing on the cake was an enormous terrace complete with hot tub and breathtaking views. We felt as though we had landed on the set of a 1950’s Hollywood Cinemascope spectacular and expected Grace Kelly and Cary Grant to sweep in at any moment.

The point of an Eilat holiday is to relax and enjoy the sunshine and we were hard put to venture forth from our expansive terrace overlooking the Red Sea and the shorelines of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Eilat does have a number of other attractions, however, foremost among them being the Underwater Observatory and Marine Park, which we were told not to miss. There we saw sharks, enormous, ancient turtles and a wide variety of rare fish. The principal attraction of the park, however, is the underwater observatory from which you can see the most amazing reefs and a never- ending parade of exquisite tropical fish. Particularly if you have kids, the marine park is a wonderful place in which to spend an afternoon.

While Eilat has many luxury resort hotels, it also offers simpler accommodations for backpackers and those who come mainly to scuba dive, sail or windsurf.

Located in the desert less than a half-hour’s drive from Eilat is Timna Park, a development of the Jewish National Fund (KKL). The park is a 60 sq.km. site which combines amazing landscapes with the fascinating 6,000-year-old story of copper mining between the fourteenth and twelfth centuries B.C.E. from the reign of the Pharaohs Seti I through Ramses V, a time when the Egyptians partnered with the Kenites and Midianites  to create the world’s oldest copper mine. You will see remains of the mines, the tools they used as well as remains of ancient dwellings. You can explore the park on your own, either by car or on foot, along well-marked and maintained roads. The landscapes you will see are unique and are found nowhere else on earth; in fact the complete geological history of the world can be told through the layers of rock seen in Timna.

Among the highlights of any visit to Timna are unusual rock formations called “Solomon’s Pillars,” the unique “Mushroom Rocks” which are the result of thousands of years of erosion, ancient rock engravings of chariots, figures and animals as well as occasional sightings of Ibex (wild mountain goats) and the white-crowned Black Wheatear, a bird which inhabits the cliffs of the Arava. The park is very visitor-friendly and even has a man-made lake with paddleboats as well as a restaurant and gift shop.

Kibbutz Neot Semander in the Negev. Photo: JanuManu/Wikimedia Commons.

Another half-hour’s drive north will bring you to Neot Semander a most unusual kibbutz (collective settlement) in the Negev desert. Neot Semander calls itself “a learning community established in 1989 with the intention of examining basic questions of man’s existence through relationships, action and contemplation.”

While this may sound reminiscent of the communes of an earlier era, the kibbutz is definitely goal-oriented. At its heart is an Arts and Crafts Center complex with a variety of studios and workshops for ceramics and porcelain, silversmiths, glasswork, silk painting, weaving and handmade paper. We were especially impressed by the exquisite woodwork, including furniture, which is produced there by highly skilled craftsmen. The Arts and Crafts Centre surrounds a four-storey tower, whose design seems as though it comes out of a fairy story. It was inspired by the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi and was and built by members of the kibbutz.

The emphasis at Neot Semandar is on ecology and esthetics. This is evident in its flowering green oasis of lush gardens and in its expansive, diversified bioorganic farm. Among the crops that have been successfully cultivated, there are grapes for wine, olive groves as well as deciduous fruit trees. The kibbutz also has a herd of goats that provide fresh milk and cheeses. We had a most delightful lunch at “Pundak Neot Semander” a nearby restaurant operated by members of the kibbutz. With seating in a cozy, air-conditioned, indoor room as well as in the adjacent garden, the restaurant serves light vegetarian meals, cheeses and juices produced on the kibbutz along with homemade cakes and ice cream.

The kibbutz is very visitor-friendly and is planning to establish an educational facility and seminar center.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that even though the Southern Negev is surrounded by Gaza on the West and Jordan on the East, and that Eilat is but minutes from the border with Egypt and is a “twin-city” with the Jordanian port of Aqaba, we found the area to be totally peaceful and saw no signs whatever of a military presence.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →
  • Analysis Arts and Culture Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    JNS.org – One of the most controversial operas in recent memory, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” debuted Oct. 20 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Met has scheduled seven more performances through November. The first staging did not occur without protest, as about 400 demonstrators—including Jewish communal and nationally recognized leaders—came to Lincoln Center to denounce the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel opera. “Klinghoffer,” the creation of composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, premiered in 1991—with few additional stagings. The opera is based [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    JNS.org – Less than five months after leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to its sixth European basketball title, David Blatt, now the head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, routed his former team in an exhibition game on Sunday, with the Cavaliers dominating Maccabi 107-80 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The 20,562 fans in attendance witnessed Lebron James’s first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform since he left the club in free agency for the Miami Heat four years ago. [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.