Arad's Shaked (almond) synagogue.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
More than 3,000 years after Joshua’s conquest of the southern city of Arad, the Jewish people returned to build up the desert city, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 41.
“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
“I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (41:17-20)
On November 21, 1962, the city of Arad was inaugurated in the presence of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. The first pre-planned city in the modern State of Israel is known today for its diverse population, its growing economy and its healing desert air, which makes it a must-visit spot for asthmatics.
Prior to the rebuilding of the city, the Negev Brigade recaptured the northeastern part of the desert in Operation Lot, named after the biblical resident of Sodom, in the War of Independence from November 23-25, 1948.
The desert wasn’t always desolate, however. Christian biblical archeologist Edward Robinson, who found the Temple’s Robinson Arch, rediscovered the ancient city of Arad, located 8 km. west of the modern city.
“A barren looking eminence rising above the country around – this marks without much doubt, the site of the ancient city Arad, in the south of Judah, whose inhabitants drove back the Israelites as they attempted to penetrate Kadesh into Palestine, but were afterwards subdued by Joshua,” Robinson wrote in “Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petrea, A Journal of Travels in the Year 1838.”
On the route from Wadi Musa to Hebron, Robinson again encountered the ancient fortified city.
“In the northwest rises the mountain by which they attempted to ascend to Palestine, with the pass still called Sufah (Zephath) while further north we find also Tell Arad, marking the site of the ancient Arad,” wrote. “In this way all becomes easy and natural, and the scriptural account is entirely accordant with the character of the country.”
The ancient city ruled by the Canaanite king was first recorded by 4th century Greek historian of Christianity Eusebius.
Attesting to its rich history as a developed city in the Canaanite and Judean periods, more than 100 ostraca (fragments of pottery containing inscriptions) were found there, the largest and richest collection of biblical-era ostraca discovered in the Holy Land.
Arad was also an ancient episcopal see of the territory of Palaestina Salutaris. Today, on the Catholic Chruch’s map, Arad remains a titular see. More than 20,000 people now live in the desert city, including Black Hebrews, a group of African Americans who claim descent from the ancient Israelites and follows practices both of Jewish and Christian nature.
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