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Avdat and the Nabateans
By Arthur Rosen
One of the more interesting sites in this
interesting country, is Avdat, a ancient site in the Negev, the
south of Israel.. This former city was one of several that reached
it's majestic splendor 200 to 300 years before the common era (200-300
BCE). Visitors are amazed at the grandeur of the former city amidst
the stark and barren Negev deserts. How was it possible to create
a beautiful city amongst the barren hills and rugged valleys which
does not support agriculture? A land so barren and devoid of trees
and bush, from what did the Nabatean inhabitants live?
To understand this, we must first understand
the developments of the Nabateans. The Nabateans were an Arab
tribe that wandered from place to place. Part of their culture
was to forbid the planting of produce for this made them force
to remain in one area. They were a nomadic tent dwelling group
who roamed the harsh desert lands with their flocks. They lived
a life of banditry raiding the traders who followed the trade
route from Syria, Damascus, Jerusalem and Egypt. The traders brought
expensive spices between the various countries.
At first the Nabateans would try to raid the
traders, but later began selling their services to them to conduct
them safely through the Negev. In addition, the Nabateans, who
knew the value of water, had dug large underground reservoirs
to store the precious rain water. This they began to sell to the
caravans as they passed through the Negev. Slowly they renounced
their robbery and nomadic live style and built cities along the
trade routes. Avdat, Nitzana and Halutza and the best known cities.
Today, visitors come to the Negev and are
amazed at the wealth and beauty that were once sitting in glorious
splendor in the midst of the harsh Negev desert. The Nabatian
cities lasted, until they were annexed into the Roman empire.
They lost their strategic importance and with the emergence of
the Arab empires, so the Nabateans, like so many empires, were no longer in existence.
from the September, 1998 - New Year Edition Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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