Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus
  In the Footsteps of Moses and the Midianites  

Study Trip to Southern Aravah and Wadi Rum (17-19 April 2013 )

“Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (...)When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well” (Ex. 2: 11-12, 15).

On 17 - 19 April 2013, the Studium Theologicum Salesianum (STS), the Jerusalem Campus of the Faculty of Theology of the Salesian Pontifical University held its yearly study trip. A group of 53 students and professors visited Southern Israel and Wadi Rum in Jordan, where Moses married and lived with the Midianites for 40 years. It was a very interesting journey that opened to the participants the treasures of nature in its purest form.

On the 17th, the trip began very early in the morning. Leaving the STS at six in the morning the group drove by bus towards Eilat in the south of Israel. The first stop was at Timna valley.

The Timna Valley is located in southern Israel, approximately 30 km north of the Gulf of Aqaba and the town of Eilat. The area is rich in copper ore and has been actively mined by humans since the 6th millennium BC, beginning with the Egyptians. In the Timna National Park the group had the opportunity to watch a short film on the history of Timna and to wander around to wonder at the natural rock “Arches”, “Mushroom” and “Solomon’s Pillars”. The remains of the Shrine of Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of mining, built in the 13th  century BCE are still visible.

After a refreshing lunch at the restaurant El Gaucho on the outscurts of Eilat the group proceeded to a stunning experience of the Aquariam in Eilat.  Eilat the southern resort and port city in Israel is on the shore of the Red Sea. It was an important city for the past 3000 years due to its access to the red sea, its location on the major trade routes. In ancient times its nearby port, called Etzion-Geber, was the base for the fleet of King Solomon and the Kings of Judah, who traded Ophir. Today Eilat is the southern tip of Israel and has international borders with Egypt and Jordan. The Aquarium was a visual treat of underwater life and the group spent nearly three hours exploring the beauty of God’s creatures that live in the sea.

The following day, 18 April brought more amazing surprises. The group crossed in to Jordan. An hour by bus from the border brought the group to Wadi Rum. When one steps into Wadi Rum’s sand one feels that he is on another planet! At the entrance of the Wadi, the Bedouin guides from the village, greeted the group and guided them to a two hour-long walk through the desert. The cameras never stopped clicking the wonders of nature appearing at every step of the way. The two hour walk brought the group to the foot of an enormous rock under which all could rest a bit and regain their strength with a “Bedouin lunch” in the middle of hundreds of kilometers of sand and rock. The lunch, the company and the landscape made the moment really incomparable and unforgettable. After lunch nine Jeeps driven by Bedouin guides took the group for a sight-seeing drive through the desert. One stop another kept the travelers spellbound. They had even the opportunity to see some inscriptions from the Thamudic language (an Old North Arabian dialect known from pre-Islamic inscriptions scattered across the Arabian desert and the Sinai, dating between the 4 BC and 3-4 AD). One stop was at the ruins of the house in which Lawrence of Arabia lived.

About six thirty in the evening the group arrived at the Bedouin tent camp. One of the most amazing experiences was about to happen: the possibility to gaze at the sunset, the stars in the desert and the sunrise in the next morning. The dinner was a Bedouin treat with food cooked under the sand (in one meter-long covered holes in the ground) for two and a half hours. The proverbial Bedouin hospitality was at its best.

On 19 April the participants got up in the middle of nowhere and it was an indescribable sensation.

Another Jeep ride of about 20 minutes brought the group back to the Bedouin village from where two buses took the group back to Israel. On the way back to Jerusalem, the group stopped at Hazeva.

The strategic location of Tamar and the availability of spring water were the reasons that the Israelite kings built a fortress at this location. The earliest structure is dated to the 10th century BC, the time of King Solomon. The incense and spice route connected the east (Yemen and Oman), through Arabia, via the Nabatean capital city Petra, to the port city of Gaza, on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. This route was used by the Nabateans, from the 4th century BC until the 2nd century AD to export the incense and spices from southern Arabia to Greece and Rome. Finally we could admire an enormous ancient tree (Ziziphus spina Christi) that grows here. It is estimated to be 1500-2000 years old.

The group reached Jerusalem on 19th evening, with a great sense of gratitude to God for the wonders of his glorious creation.

Report by: Manuel Hurtado

Eilat Aquarium
Timna Park
Timna Park
Wadi Rum Camp
Wadi Rum Bridge
Wadi Rum
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