The water is just as important to Israel as the land, holding much of their ability to survive as well as ties to the culture and faith. The Jordan River, Mediterranean Sea, Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea all have deep history, meaning and importance in to the people of Israel. There is another body of water that helped lead the Israelites into the promised land, the Red Sea.
The Red Sea is a large inlet of the Indian Ocean that is about 170,000 square miles. It has an average depth of 1600 ft but reaches depths of 10,000 feet deep. It’s the worlds northernmost tropical sea. It is bordered not only by Israel in the Gulf of Eilat or Aqaba, but also include Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Djibouti, and Eritrea.
History of the Red Sea
The Red Sea has a long history as a trade route with the Egyptians. From there, the Darius the Great, Alexander the Great and the Romans all used the Red Sea for it’s direct access to the Indian Ocean, that would then lead to the spice trade of India. The Romans even used this for a route to China!
In 1798 General Napoleon Bonaparte attempted to take over the Red Sea for France, but failed. What was accomplished however was the realization of a canal that would take years to build but became what is known as the Suez Canal in 1869. The canal connected the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and to many, defines the border between Asia and Africa.
The canal has been a place of contention for many years, including for the nation of Israel. It became an important point in the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. There was an unwillingness to allow Israel to use it for shipping goods, which has kept Israel from using it since Israel’s inception, except a small window in 1951-1952. There are still remains along the shore of military vehicles long abandoned.
The Red Sea also held a significance for Israel outside of its borders, on the Sudan shore. A long lasting Israeli mission took place at a diving resort in the Sudan names Arous. The resort was entirely operational, but also entirely a front for a top secret Mossad mission. They were able to smuggle thousands of Ethiopian Jews through the resort to freedom in Israel.
The Red Sea and the Exodus
The Red Sea is probably most known for being the sight of the parting of the Red Sea by Moses, allowing the recently freed Hebrew slaves to escape Pharaoh when he changed his mind, as detailed in the book of Exodus.
There is some debate about the exact location of this event. Some believe that it could have even actually been Lake Tanis, being a “reed sea” instead of a “Red Sea” or other bodies of water nearby. However recently there is thought that it was indeed the Red Sea and it could be explained by the eruption of Mount Thera on Santorini. They clam it could also explain many of the plagues that took place.
The Red Sea and Israel Today
Today, the Red Sea is a top tourist destination for Israel via the resort town of Eilat on the southern most point of Israel. The sea life in the Red Sea in Eilat is actually growing, unlike most other places in the world due to the conservation efforts of Israel. The coral reef there is a vibrant collection of sea life and warm tropical waters that keep divers, swimmers and sea lovers flocking to the area!
If you would like to add a trip to the Red Sea to your tour, we would be happy to add this to your tour! Talk with one of our Tour operators today to start planning your 2021 Holy Land Tour!