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Negeb, Disputed in Proposed Palestine Partition, Once Scene of Flourishing Culture

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THE ARID LAND OF THE NEGEB, THE REGION IN SOUTHERN PALESTINE UNDER DISPUTE IN THE PROPOSED PARTITION OF THE HOLY LAND, ONCE NOURISHED PROSPEROUS URBAN AND AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITIES.

ARCHAEOLOGISTS PROBING FOR THE PAST HUNDRED YEARS INTO THE LAND WHICH THE BRITISH ROYAL COMMISSION INCLUDED IN A PROPOSED ARAB STATE, BUT WHICH SOME JEWISH LEADERS DEMAND FOR THE JEWISH STATE, HAVE FOUND EVIDENCES THAT AN ADVANCED CIVILIZATION ONCE FLOURISHED THERE.

THE TRIANGLE OF LAND SOUTH OF BEERSHEBA WAS CUT AND TRAVERSED BY A WIDE ROAD SYSTEM THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO, ITS CITIES CATERED TO EXTENSIVE CARAVAN TRAFFIC PASSING FROM THE RED SEA TO THE MEDITERRANEAN AND AGRICULTURE FLOURISHED.

THE NEGEB OWED ITS PROSPERITY TO THE NABATEANS, WHO DEVOTED CLOSE ATTENTION TO WATER CONSERVATION. THEIR DAMS, NOW IN RUINS, ARE MODELS OF ENGINEERING SKILL; AN ADVANCED IRRIGATION SYSTEM AND RESERVOIRS HAVE BEEN UNEARTHED. THE BIR BIREIN RESERVOIR HAD A 500,000-GALLON CAPACITY.

THE NABATEANS CARRIED ON A LIVELY TRANSPORT TRADE, THEIR CARAVANS RIDING FROM PETRA IN WHAT IS NOW TRANSJORDAN, TO GAZA, NEAR THE MEDITERRANEAN COAST. THEIR WORK WAS CARRIED ON IN THE BYZANTINE PERIOD WHEN EFFORTS WERE DIRECTED TO FINDING A RED SEA ROUTE TO INDIA.

IT IS ESTIMATED THAT THE NEGEB ONCE HAD 100,000 INHABITANTS. NOW SOME 50,000 BEDOUINS EKE A MEAGER EXISTENCE FROM THE RELUCTANT SOIL. INVESTIGATIONS BY THE LATE T.E. LAWRENCE (COL. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA) AND L. WOOLEY SHOW THE REASON FOR THE LAND’S DECLINE WAS NEGLECT OF IRRIGATION AND WATER CONSERVATION IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES.

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