It's Desert, All Right

Our plane rose toward the morning sun as we left behind the narrow slice of green that hugs either side of the Nile River. Ahead of us lay the forbidding wastes of the Sinai Peninsula. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but the bleached rock and pale blue of the eastern sky. I would fly over it in the comfort of my air-conditioned seat in a matter of minutes. Listen to some descriptions of this territory that was the ever-shifting home of the children of Israel for 40 long years.

J. R. Conder opens his book with the following description: "It seems hardly possible that man or beast can find a living in such a place. Yet, as David found pasture for those 'poor sheep in the wilderness,' so do the desert Arabs find food for their goats among the rocks. It is nonetheless a desert indeed, riven by narrow ravines leading to deep gorges, and rising between the stony gullies into narrow ridges of dark brown limestone, capped with gleaming white chalk, full of cone-like hillocks and fantastic peaks...Often have I thought that could the critic leave his comfortable study and dwell for a time in this desert...he would be able to understand what Hebrew poets, prophets, and historians have written."

J. Howard Kitchen adds this information: "The rainfall in the South (Negev) is little more than ten inches a year; the winds in summer are hot and laden with fine sand, and in winter are biting cold. The scant rainfall brings on herbage in the early spring, and a hasty crop can be secured (in the Beersheba district), unless sun and sandstorm combine with the lack of rain to wither the crop before it is ripe."

H. V. Morton writes: "I have climbed many a high mountain in my life, but never before have I seen a view like that from Mount Sinai. Everywhere I looked, I saw range upon range of mountains lying far below...A storm at sea turned into stone is perhaps the only imagery that may convey some idea of the stupendous spectacle. Crests of mountains, sharply pointed; long ridges, like waves about to break; blunted masses of rock, like waves that have collapsed; enormous, sweeping, scooped-out valleys, like a backwash of water arrested in the moment of gathering itself to remount the heights; all these lay below, hungry, savage, and desolate."