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."