Ruins of Shivta
Despite having been abandoned for approximately 1300 years, the ruins of Shivta are some of the best reserved in all of Israel. Many believe that residents of Shivta left en masse, perhaps intending to return some day, but the city was never destroyed by a foreign conqueror. Once a major center of commerce, Shivta was rediscovered by archeologists in 1870.
There’s so much to see in Shivta that Holy Land tours often spend two hours or more exploring the site, located in the Negev Desert not far from Israel’s border with Egypt.
Like Avdat, Shivta was once part of The Incense Route, which the Christian Nabateans used to import frankincense and myrrh from Yemen. Christian Israel tour participants will be especially interested in the churches of Shivta that remain from the Byzantine era.
The Southern Church was built in the 4th century and is located near the center of the city. An especially fascinating detail is the unusually large baptism pool, which forms the shape of a cross. The Northern Church is located near the entrance to the city at its northernmost end. The church interior is much larger than the number of Shivta’s citizens would have needed, even at its peak population. West of the church’s atrium are individual rooms believed to have housed the monks who served in the church. Look for the two burial plots on the grounds of the church, one for a seven-year-old child who was buried in 612 and the other for the monks who lived and worked in the Northern Church.