On the way to the Dead Sea, is one of Israel’s most fascinating and important sites, which you may not be familiar with. Come with us on a trip back in time, between the walls of an ancient and mysterious city that ignites the imagination. For a moment, you too will become residents of a magnificent and lively city, surrounded by an imposing wall, and with a palace in its heart. And when you look from the top of the hill over the magical Negev expanses, you can also be part of this age-old empire.
In Tel Arad National Park, impressive remains of a fortified Canaanite city were uncovered in excavations. This was the largest city in the Negev during the Early Bronze Age (around 3,000 BC). The excavations revealed an extensive water plant, fortresses from the days of the Kings of Judea and even the remains of a Judaic Temple, which operated at the same time as the Temple in Jerusalem. All this and more, attest to the importance of the city, whose secrets were revealed piece-by-piece, stone-by-stone…
So, prepare yourself for a mysterious and magical journey through the remains of a fortified city, in the heart of a desert, with thousands of years of secrets enfolded within it.
What’s at the Site?
The Canaanite city is surrounded by a wide wall and, although thousands of years have since passed, signs of the tumultuous life that existed here will already be felt at the city gate.
The city’s dwellings were designed so that the rainwater that ran down the mountain slope was collected in a water reservoir – at the center of which, a 16-meter-deep well was carved, probably in the ancient Israelite Period.
The city has a clear division between public buildings and residential complexes, where findings were revealed that teach us about the scope of activity in the city – agriculture, grazing land, art and commerce.
Even today, Tel Arad’s fortifications are visible from a considerable distance. A wall of 2.4 meters-thick,1,200 meters long and, according to experts, was originally up to 5 meters high, follows the watershed line along the hill.
In the center of the Palace, which has many rooms, are cells and courtyards and a ritual stela hinting at the governmental role of the place. Nearby, are several Temples, similar to those found at Ein Gedi and Megiddo. Next to these, stone tombstones were discovered, sacrificial altars and ritual water basins.
The Judaic Temple: In the northwest corner of the citadel, are the remains of a temple. This is believed to be a Judaic Temple that operated from the 9th century until the end of the 8th century BC. It was built according to the design of the Tabernacle described in the Old Testament. This temple is one of the few from the Biblical period, and operated ‘in tandem’ with the Temple in Jerusalem.
Beit Elyashiv: Close to the southern wall of the citadel, an archive was uncovered containing ostracons (pottery shards), inscribed mostly with ancient Hebrew script. 17 ostracons referred to a man named Elyashiv – probably the Commander of the Citadel in Tel Arad. 3 seals bearing his name were found in the house.
Night Camp – Canaanite Khan
Tel Arad is a National Park with a camping-lot. It provides guests with a closed structure with mattresses and heating, fully equipped guest cabins, a compound for private tents, and a caravan complex. The camping-lot also provides drinking water, toilets, hot showers, a cooking corner, area lighting, power points, and more.
Flora and Fauna
Besides the historical value of the Tel Arad site, there are several rare plant and animal species in the National Park.
This is the world’s southernmost line where the Persian Lily is to be found, growing nearby in Tel Krayot. If you arrive at the end of February and early March, you can also witness the blossoming of the Judean Iris – a species endemic to the northern Negev.
In the animal sector, if you’re lucky, you might see the Be’er Sheva Fringe-Fingered Lizard – a species unique to the loess soil of the northern Negev. Also, the Greater Egyptian Jerboa – a ‘bouncy’ rodent with a fluffy-tipped tail, and which is an endangered species in Israel.