Answers to Quora Questions by Yair Davidiy (1 January 2017, 14 Tevet, 5778)
I served in the IDF in Sinai when it belonged to Israel. Most of the very few "natives" who actually lived there were Bedouin Arabs. At that time they preferred Israel to the Egyptians. In the 1967 War they were killing and robbing the fleeing Egyptian soldiers. The same thing happened, and was about to happen even more, in 1973. Sinai has mineral sources. It has petroleum deposits. It might even have underground water aquifers. The Israelite Tribe of Simeon in ancient times may well have managed to sustain a reasonably sized population here. Remains of an ancient Hebrew settlement (Kuntillet Ajrud) that apparently belonged to the northern Kingdom of Israel have been found in Northern Sinai. Modern Israel first liberated Sinai in 1956 but was forced to evacuate it by the USA. At that time Britain and France were allies of Israel. Israel received it back again in 1967, fought for it in 1973, and I came there in ca. 1975 but nobody probably noticed. [I was not sure myself!] The space of the place added to the security of the major Israeli population centers. The Israeli Air Forces could train in its open skies. A friend of mine who knows about such matter says the beaches of Sinai were the best in the world, or close to it. There was a tourist industry that the Bedouin benefited from and that could have been developed more. Egypt had previously received the area by default and had no real claim to it. The Egyptians were in effect a colonial power. Nevertheless, the Egyptians wanted it apparently more than we did. The Israelis felt they needed to give it away for the sake of peace and so that is what happened. The Israelis under Menachem Begin said that was what they were going to do and they did it. I did not believe it was really going to happen but it did. Sinai is one big desert and quite barren. Even so, every portion is different from the others. This is probably where the Israelites received the Torah though some say it could just as well have really been somewhere in Arabia. Whatever the case It was a mistake to give it away. When I grew up there was a popular folk song whose words went 'When will they ever learn?'