My son and I spent several hours on Christmas Eve exploring what is believed to be the world’s earliest copper mining operation in Timna Valley, near Elait, in Israel’s southern desert. For a while, we stood in front of Solomon’s Pillars, a geological formation dating before human occupancy in the Negev Desert, when the area was covered by oceans and subject to water erosion.
As we scrambled over the desert rocks, sand, and (for a while) underground in one of the original Egyptian-era mine shafts, a few drops of rain fell, an experience you don’t normally encounter in the desert.
This is a place of Biblical history, coupled with different interpretations, hypotheses and even myths — as archeologists have given way to tourists (at least for now). There even is a real nearby mining operation nearby, though I couldn’t determine its current status as Mexican investors apparently worked to restart it at the height of the copper price boom, now a recent but equally distant memory considering recent price declines (though still things aren’t as low as they were a few decades ago.)
During the Christmas season, of course, most of us put our work on hold. In a couple of hours, I’ll be on a five-hour bus ride to Jerusalem.