Located on the Egyptian Israeli border, just one hour southwest of Beer Sheva – Kadesh Barnea is rich in Biblical history. Situated on an ancient major trade route referred to as the Way of Shur, we can find the first mention of this route in the book of Genesis.
Kadesh Barnea in the Bible
We know that Abraham sojourned here and Hagar was found sitting by a fountain of water by an angel.
Later we read that Kadesh Barnea marked the location where a major deciding point in Jewish history took place. After 400 years of Egyptian slavery and bondage, the children of Israel had been miraculously delivered and had been traveling with a cloud by day and fire by night. At this point, the “Promised land” was not yet a reality – it was simply that – a promise.
(Genesis 12:7, 13:15, 16:18, 17:8, 26:3,4, 35:12)
Now for the moment of truth, one man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel was chosen to go and spy out the land. They were sent out from Kadesh Barnea and brought back a report and samples of what the Promised Land held (Numbers 13:26). What the twelve spies saw was surely enough to test anyone’s faith. The fortified cities, giants and many people caused ten of the spies to react in disbelief and despair of the promise.
Joshua and Caleb however had a totally different response and told the people that the land was an exceedingly good land and if the LORD delights in us, He will give it to us; a land which flows with milk and honey. (Numbers 13:7,8) It was the fortitude and faith of these two men who caused the promised inheritance to come to pass (Deut. 31:7, Numbers 14:23). But because of the peoples disbelief they were destined to wander in the wilderness for 40 years before acquiring the land. According to the number of days in which they spied out the land, for each day, they bore a year of guilt. The rabbis tell us that about 38 of these 40 years were spent wandering in the general location of Kadesh Barnea.
Other major events that took place at Kadesh Barnea was the event of Moses striking the rock to bring forth water and Miriam the sister of Moses died here as well. (Numbers 20)
Modern Day Kadesh Barnea
Today, after many years, Jewish history is being made once again. Modern day Kadesh Barnea* is a thriving agricultural settlement. Approximately 40 families live in this settlement and many of them are farmers who grow desert sweet tomatoes, pomegranates, potatoes, salicornia, grapes and other vegetables. The produce is extremely tasty, being grown in the desert sun and watered with a local water source which is slightly salty that causes the fruits and vegetables to taste sweeter than normal. Because of this, the produce is exported to the European market for the delight and enjoyment of their consumers.
What to do in Kadesh Barnea
A visit to Kadesh Barnea is an amazing experience. You can tour the local greenhouses and taste the tomatoes. The local store sells the excellent wine that is produced here and the House of Honey is truly an interesting experience. One is able to drive next to the Egyptian border and visit many other interesting activities in the area.
Located next to Kadesh Barnea, accommodations are available at the Educational Community of Nitzana which teaches thousands of students every year about solar energy, recycling, taking care of the environment and knowledge of the desert. It is possible to visit the new solar park and tour the village.
This region which is called “Pitach” Nitzana is complete with its own water source and is the home for approximately 100 families. Life in the desert is vibrant, the weather and the people alike are warm. Everyone works extra hard to make life possible here. The remote location and lack of stores and other conveniences are something that not everyone can get used to but on the other hand, the thrill and excitement of being a modern day pioneer and settling the land is a feeling that is extremely satisfying and cannot be compared to experiences of city life.
*Modern day Kadesh Barnea is located approximately 10 kilometers from the original location.