Day 15: Heading South to Eilat & the Red Sea; past Ashquelon, Eshkol, Gaza & Be’er Sheva!

Day 15: Heading South to Eilat on the Red Sea; Going past Ashquelon, Eshkol, Gaza, & Be’er Sheva!

Ashquelon National Park

Ashquelon National Park

Day 15 of Andy’s month-long ‘Spiritual Journey to Israel & Palestine was my day to explore the Negev Desert, the southern part of Israel. My plan was to follow the coast south from Tel-Aviv, venture near the Gaza Strip and somehow hopefully wind up in my Airbnb bed in Eilat on the Red Sea on the border with Egypt and Jordan. I don’t think you can get any further south in Israel than that!

Always on the lookout for Biblical Sites & Biblical Moments my first stop was to the Ashquelon National Park beautifully placed and poised on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. As a trade seaport Ashquelon dates back to 1950 BCE. First captured by the Egyptians, then the Philistines, then the Babylonia King Nebuchadnezzar (who destroyed it and sent everyone into exile), Phoenicians, Alexander the Great, Christians, Muslims, Crusaders, Muslims again, Crusaders again, Egyptians once again to be captured and demolished in 1270 CE, this time to never recover… what a history as noted on a sign in the park!

Eshkol National Park

Eshkol National Park

Next national park was Eshkol and it was also about as close as I would get to the Gaza Strip—about 10 km. Located in the northern section of the Negev Desert I could visual this park with its natural spring as being as oasis to travelers on camels way back when. Very beautiful, peaceful, and serene spot. I wish all the world could be the same!

Now it was well into the afternoon and time to get serious about traveling down through the desert to Eilat on the Red Sea. But I needed to stop in Be’er Sheva to see the archaeological site in Tel Be’er Sheva National Park that I had stopped by just after it closed the day before. Was I just going in circles? No, just taking the scenic route and taking it all in!

Tel Be’er Sheva National Park

Tel Be’er Sheva National Park

In biblical times a ‘tel’ was a mound or a heap of a ruined or destroyed cities. In all there were 200 of them with Be’er Sheva and nearby Hazor and Megiddo others per the informative sign at the park.

This is quite an archaeological site of immense biblical importance! The land, these wells, the vast underground cisterns were all about God’s Covenant with Abraham and his son Isaac coming here to find water in the desert.

“Now it came about on the same day, that Isaac’s servants came in and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.” So he called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.”—Genesis 26: 32-33

The park closed at 4 pm, sunset was an hour or two off so it was now definitely time to head directly south through the Negev Desert to my bed in Eilat on the Red Sea. The 215 km seemed to go on and on through the desert. Especially after dark knowing there was beauty around me that I could not see. I passed the Ben Gurion Memorial but the sun was setting so I did not stop. Just as the sun seemed ready to disappear beyond the horizon I came across what looked like the Grand Canyon to me. It’s massive, so massive that it stretched so far to the east that on my way north via the eastern route I would see all of its glory in Timna National Park in two days’ time; actually less as it would be the morning of the day after the next.

I was getting tired now so I stopped at a gas station to fill up the gas tank and have a latte to wake me up a bit. Stranger case afterwards in that they reserved 300 shekels for the gas, actually charging me for it and then credited me back the actual 158 shekels of gasoline that I purchased. So I think I paid less than I was supposed to pay? Even with the latte and time since I cannot figure out that math!

There were lights along the way and of the stars in the sky above. Once I saw the lights of Eilat I knew it was Eilat as it is a planned city on a gentle slope upwards from the darkened Red Sea. It was a grand entrance coming down through the mountains to the final oasis of the Negev Desert. I took a cursory drive around town and knew Eilat was my kind of town when I saw a huge heart at one of the main turnabouts.

Home is where the heart is and I was home in Eilat for exactly two nights and the one day in between…

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