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The Importance of the Negev

Without the Negev Desert, Israel would be a small non-viable state, a fact which motivates anti-Israel activists to focus on it.
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Al Hayat Al Jadida,the Palestinian Authority official daily newspaper claimed the Negev is a “settlement” in a recent article, Palestinian Media Watch reports. The Palestinian Authority also claims that all Jewish communities in mainland Israel, not just the disputed Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, to be settlements, and part of Palestine or “occupied Palestine.” This implies that Israel is still building settlements whether or not they are in Judea and Samaria, so long as Israel building in an area that the Palestinians claim as their own.

However, out of all of the areas within mainland Israel where Israel builds, anti-Israel activists tend to focus on the Negev the most. Without the Negev Desert, Israel would be a small non-viable state, a fact which motivates anti-Israel activists to focus on it. The article in Al Hayat Al Jadida referred to Israel building in the Negev as a “settlement trick,” in actuality this is part of a ploy by anti-Israel activists to attempt to separate the Negev Desert from the Jewish people, because the Negev makes up 66 percent of the State of Israel. Any Israeli withdrawal from the Negev would allow for Palestinians in Judea and Samaria to connect P.A. controlled areas there to Gaza and Egypt.

The International Community has recognized the Negev as part of Israel

Before its founding, David Ben-Gurion viewed the Negev as pivotal to the future of any Israeli state and he successfully argued for the Negev’s inclusion as part of a Jewish state at the United Nations during the Partition Plan discussions. Even though the U.N. Partition Plan was rejected by the Arabs, almost all countries outside the Muslim world today recognize that Israel has a right to exist within the pre-1967 borders. This implies that the community of nations has already recognized the Negev as part of Israel, regardless of the outcome of any peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Jewish History in the Negev

The Negev is also filled with Jewish history. Ancient Jewish texts write about desert oasis of Ein Gedi which is located within the Negev. King David, while fleeing from King Saul, hid in Ein Gedi. The Song of Songs attributed to King Solomon says, “My beloved to me is a spray of henna blooms from the vineyards of Ein Gedi.” The Talmud claims that Jews continued to live in Ein Gedi following the destruction of the First Temple and Ein Gedi had a thriving Jewish community during the times of the Second Temple. Jews continued to live in the area of Ein Gedi up through the sixth century, when the community was wiped out during oppressions instigated by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. In modern times however, Jews have returned to Ein Gedi which is now a national park, and Kibbutz Ein Gedi has a population of about 250 people today.

Masada is another important piece of Jewish history to be found in the Negev. The Masada Fortress which was built by King Herod, who ruled Israel during the times of the Roman Empire. After the great Jewish revolt against Rome in 70 CE, the Zealot group fled to the Masada Fortress, where they continued to fight against Roman oppression until they chose mass suicide rather than giving in to the yoke of Roman tyranny. Today the Masada Fortress of the Negev, is the second most popular tourist destination in Israel and Israeli soldiers often take their oaths at the archaeological site.

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About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."


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