Is That a Burning Bush? Is This Mt. Sinai? Solstice Bolsters a Claim


MOUNT KARKOM, Israel — The mountain stored its secrets for generations, its air of sacred thriller enhanced by a remote locale in the Negev Desert in southern Israel.

But 1 day previous week, hundreds of Israeli adventurers headed deep into the wilderness to attain Mount Karkom, established to get closer to answering a issue as intriguing as it is controversial: Is this the Mount Sinai of the Bible, where by God is considered to have communicated with Moses?

Mount Sinai’s locale has lengthy been disputed by scholars both of those religious and tutorial, and there are a dozen much more common contenders, most of them in the mountainous expanses of the Sinai Peninsula throughout the border in Egypt.

But Mount Karkom’s claim has attained some well-liked assist due to the fact of an annual normal phenomenon that an intrepid team of archaeology and nature lovers experienced arrive to witness for by themselves.

In 2003,a nearby Israeli guidebook and ecologist occurred to be atop Karkom’s large plateau just one day in late December all-around the time of the wintertime solstice, when he arrived on a marvel.

At midday, with the solar small in the sky on one particular of the shortest days of the calendar year, he peered throughout a deep ravine and noticed a unusual aura of mild, flickering like flames, emanating from a location on a sheer rock confront.

It was sunlight reflected at a distinct angle off the sides of a cave, but the discovery shortly built its way to Israeli television and was fancifully named “the burning bush.” Most likely this, some said, was the supernatural fireplace that, according to the Reserve of Exodus, Moses saw on the holy mountain when God to start with spoke to him, and where by he would later on get the 10 Commandments as he led the Israelites out of Egypt.

The burning bush, by no means eaten by the fireplace, is symbolic in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other faiths which include Baha’i.

But many years before this accidental astronomical discovery, Mount Karkom was now fascinating some archaeologists with hints that the site had played an crucial spiritual part 1000’s of many years in the past.

Far more than 50 percent a century back, Emmanuel Anati, a young Italian archaeologist, found an incredible focus of thousands of rock carvings and rock circles as he surveyed the plateau of Mount Karkom, about 2,500 feet higher than sea stage. Among the the rock drawings are a lot of of ibexes, but also some that have been interpreted as depicting the tablets of the commandments or other references from the Bible.

At the foundation of Mount Karkom, named in Hebrew for a desert crocus, there is evidence that ancient migration trails converged in this article and that cultic rituals took position in the location. Mr. Anati determined what he considered was a sacrificial altar with the continues to be of 12 pillars of stone that could conceivably correspond to the just one described in Exodus 24 that Moses developed, symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel.

In his writings, Professor Anati said he had not set out to appear for Mount Sinai. But immediately after many years of fieldwork and exploration, he proposed in the early 1980s that, on the basis of topographical and archaeological evidence, Mount Karkom “should be identified with the sacred mountain of the biblical narrations.”

But apart from common problems of desert archaeology — nomads tend to leave couple of permanent traces — and the whole issue of no matter if any archaeology could be tied to the biblical story of the Exodus at all, Professor Anati’s concept posed a challenge of chronology.

Israel Finkelstein, a professor emeritus of archaeology at Tel Aviv College and an early critic of Professor Anati’s concept, mentioned that most, if not all, of the datable websites all-around Mount Karkom are from the 3rd millennium B.C.

The Exodus, if it transpired, is generally dated to someday all around 1600-1200 B.C.

“So there is more than 1 millennium gap concerning the actuality at Karkom and the biblical tradition,” Professor Finkelstein reported, introducing that since the evidence is vague, and determining this kind of web-sites as cultic is a matter of interpretation, “It is probably safer not to speculate.”

On the other hand heated the academic discussion, the air was chilly when a convoy of sturdy jeeps with 4-wheel push set out for the mountain by jagged terrain at dawn on the day of the winter solstice.

Obtain to Mount Karkom is generally restricted to weekends and sure vacations mainly because it needs passing through a army firing and coaching zone. A paved street that assists shorten the hourslong journey, considerably of which usually takes location on grime tracks, has primarily been closed to civilian site visitors in recent many years due to the fact of the dread of cross-border attacks by Islamic militants from the Sinai.

This 12 months, in a midweek 1st, the armed forces opened the paved highway and allowed passage through the firing zone for the Burning Bush seekers.

As the team arrived in the parking ton at the foot of Mount Karkom, there was an surprising bonus: Professor Anati, now in his early 90s, was sitting down in a deck chair, holding courtroom and endorsing his books.

In the search for Mount Sinai, Professor Anati said, some insist for political or nationalistic reasons that the web-site ought to be inside of the borders of Israel, not in Egypt. Other people, for religious explanations, say it should be outside the house the borders, to comply with the custom of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 yrs prior to reaching the Promised Land.

“None of these techniques is proper 1 ought to look for the truth of the matter,” Professor Anati said. “I bring all the opinions and evidence and let the reader decide for on their own,” he said, adding of the mountain’s treasures, “This is the story of the heritage of humankind.”

Just after a steep climb up the facet of Karkom to its windy plateau, scores of folks fanned together the ridge and peered throughout the ravine at the distant window in the cliff to spy the “burning bush.”

Without having binoculars or biblical eyesight, it was attainable to make out a odd, if faint, glow, while some website visitors expressed disappointment that the aura around the cave mouth was not far more fiery.

But stumbling throughout the rocky plateau, it was thrilling to appear throughout parts of ancient rock artwork, the photos chipped into the darkish brown patina of stones, exposing the mild limestone below.

Shahar Shilo, a researcher who manages the Negev Highlands Tourism cooperative, spoke of the significance for ancient peoples of currently being equipped to measure the seasons for agricultural purposes, and the holiness imbued in people who could establish with precision the shortest working day of the calendar.

Mr. Shilo also experienced a far more prosaic clarification for why Mount Karkom had drawn persons there in the distant previous: the completely ready offer of excellent flint that was vital for everything from searching to family tools. Even right after a great deal of humanity had advanced into the Bronze and Iron Ages, he stated, the desert dwellers in this article continue to depended on stone.

Irrespective of whether this is Mount Sinai and the winter solstice phenomenon the burning bush “is in the eye of the beholder,” Mr. Shilo claimed.

“But,” he extra, “it’s a terrific fantasy, you have to confess.”


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