(By Our Philadelphia Correspondent, Robert Reiss)
Dr. William T. Ellis, who a few days ago announced his discovery of the site of Kadesh-Barnea, where Moses struck water from the rock, has elaborated upon the announcement with a graphic account of his travels in the Sinai wilderness that resulted in the discovery.
Dr. Ellis said that he and Mrs. Ellis had not set out to discover Kadesh-Barnea or any other place, but to gather material for a book upon the Holy Land.
“Because Mid-Sinai bulks so large in the Old Testament we had to go there also,” Dr. Ellis said. “Our objective was Ain Kadeis, which appears upon all Biblical maps and in all Biblical dictionaries as the site of Kadesh-Barnea. It will fix the site of Kadesh-Barnea, the pivotal place of Israel’s desert experiences whence the twelve spies were sent northward into Canaan, where Miriam died, and where Moses struck the rock and produced a flow of water for the thirsty and complaining children of Israel, if I say that it is at present the ancient cross-roads of MidSainai in the centre of the peninsula, and right at the present border between Palestine and Egypt.
“We drove our car for an hour from Kassaima through the wilderness of Paran. After we had penetrated well into the wadi, or valley of Ain Kadeis, we proceeded afoot. The valley was carpeted with stones, big stones. The most feasible trail over them showed the stones polished to path by the feet of uncounted centuries of camels. Here no tents could be pitched, no pasturage gown, no traffic of normal life maintained. Although we saw numerous ancient cairns and stone circles, the place was manifestly impossible as Israel’s camping site, and when, at an elevation which our altimeter registered at 15,550 feet, we got to the head of the valley, we found the famous spring, which is really a well, under the cliff at the left, although the water also seeps from below it at two or three points a few hundred feet distant. At the foot of a large boulder the waters collected in a small shallow pool, and there absorbed and evaporated. No stream flows from this water supply. A single stunted fig tree grows by the water. The whole place is filthy with the traces of the goats and the water in the shallow well is impregnated with their flavor so that I found it undrinkable.
“One thing was clear in our minds- the maps, the books, and the ancient tradition are wrong. The site could never have been Kadesh-Barnea. Scholars had been misled by the similarity of sounds between Kadesh and Kadeis. Yet, if the Bible is true, there must be, somewhere in the vicinity the camping place of the host of Israel under Moses. So we inquired of the soldiers of the Egyptian frontier post at Kassaima concerning the existence of a valley with a good spring and fertile, level ground. They answered without hesitation, ‘Ain Guderat.’ The word ‘ain’ is Arabic for spring. There is only one such valley or spring as we described in this mountainous wilderness region. So they led us to it, partly by car and then afoot.
“One reason why the new Bible students who in the past have adventured Central Sinai have missed Ain, Guderat is that it is entered by a gorge, a natural defense, which conceals the fertility beyond. Wadi Ain Guderat lies roughly, northeast by southwest, with here mountains of wind-etched chalk and limestone on both sides, dotted by black nodules of flint. This valley is about two miles long from the entrance to the spring.
“Cries of amazement burst from us at the fertility of the spot. A greater contrast from the bleakness of southern Palestine and of Sinai could not be imagined. A stream flowed through it, sometimes showing pools and cascades. Grass was abundant and patches of Bedouin cultivation were seen all along the way. Flocks of sheep and goats pastured by the stream. Tamarisk trees were abundant and I counted six Acacia, or Shittim thorn trees, with foliage like delicate ferns. This is the wood of which the Ark of the Covenant was made. The contrast with Ain Kadeis was complete. Here on the lower plain of the valley a host could encamp in comfort.
“Three surprises awaited us. Along the valley we had been noticing traces of a pipe line. Our soldiers said it had been built by the Turks during the war to carry water from Ain Guderat to their forces at Jebel Hilal, between 20 and 25 miles distant, on the way to Suez, for the capture of which the Turkish Army was making elaborate preparations. This spring is the largest in Central Sinai, and the most unfailing. So we were somewhat prepared for the surprising water we encountered up near the head of the valley. There are two springs, a small, inconsequential one, not unlike Ain Kadeis and it marked the beginning of vegetation. But below it, and therefore seen first as we moved up the Wadi, was a large spring, the real source of the stream, and this flowed from the southern side of the hill in a heavy, rapid stream.
“At first we scarcely sensed the significance of our find. A broken wall of Turkish masonry had impounded the waters of the spring into a small cistern, the head of the pipe line. Examination showed that the water came straight out of the living rock at the side of the valley; it did not bubble up out of the ground after the fashion of most springs. Upon inquiry of the Arabs I learned that this is not only the most bountiful supply of water in Central Sinai, but the only one that is water from the rock. If this is not the fountain that just flowed from the rock at the blow of the rod of Moses, 3,300 years ago, when the original upper spring of the valley proved inadequate for the multitude’s needs, at least it perfectly fulfills all the specifications of the Old Testament narrative.
“Our second surprise came when we learned that the present name of this wadi is ‘Dharb el Sultan’ or ‘Road of the King,’ and the Bible calls it ‘The King’s Highway.’ This road runs eastward to Petra and southward to the Gulf of Akaba. Westward it goes to Gaza, In a word, it was the ancient highway when Petra was the great desert emporium for caravans from the east. Moreover, the main road from Egypt up through Sinai to Beersheba, Hebron, Jerusalem and Damascus, still runs by the mouth of Wadi ain Guderat. In a word, Kadesh-Barnea was at the very crossroads of Sinai as the logic of the Exodus story requires it to be.
“Surprise and confirmation No. 3 came when examining the ruins of an ancient city at the mouth of Wadi ain Guderat. This is an old, old ruin, of which only the great fortress or reservoir still stands with wall intact. Here we found worked flints, especially a pile of small flint knives, in great numbers. Evidently the city antedated the iron age. Then, in rereading the Bible story, I found the city of Kadesh named. Nothing could be more natural than a city to guard these strategic crossroads. In every geographical detail Ain Guderat fits the Bible description of Kadesh-Barnea.”
The celebration of the Fifth Anniversary of the founding of the United Home for Aged Hebrews at No. 391 Pelham Road, New Rochelle, was held Sunday in connection with the 103rd birthday of Henry Levy and the ninety-ninth birthday of Mrs. Feigle Leicher, two inmates of the institution. A feature of the event was the congratulatory greetings from Mrs. Ida Godberg, who will be 106 years old next March.
Rabbi Stephen S. Wise will assist the Democratic party in its campaign for the re-election of Governor Smith. He will speak in Utica on Wednesday at a meeting which will also be addressed by the Governor and Judge Wagner, it was announced.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.