Day 0.5 – 1.5: As the Deer

29 September 2007 – 12:07


Route for Day Two

Friday evening is Shabbat. Buses don’t run on Shabbat. Dang.

By seven I had barely gotten into Arad, so I capitulated (it turns pitch black by 5:45. There was a moon, but it was behind the clouds most of the time) and called a cab. We argued for awhile about the route to take to Ein Gedi, but it turns out that the route I wanted to take – and had been going to bike – was so mountainous that not even the cab driver wanted to drive it. So we went the long way – though I’m pretty sure it was less than ninety-five kilometers – and I got to spec out the road for the next two days. From Arad to the Dead Sea highway are pretty serious hills – almost mountains. I was glad I didn’t have to bike them. If there’s one thing I didscoverd yesterday, it’s that I hate hills. With an unrefuted, undying passion.

Other than that, there was a great breeze. The land consisted of long, slow uphills, and short, sharp downhills.

 

Gosh these flies are so annoying. When you swipe at them, they don’t go away; they just find a new place to land on you.

Anyway, more towards Be’er Sheva, there were a lot of sheep and shepherd types, mostly Arab or Bedouin. There was one girl who, as I passed, pulled her head scarf tighter around her face, as if I was compromising her modesty just by being there. There were also, at several points, several kids on donkeys, who waved and yelled “Hello” at me, so I waved back.

Most of the villages I passed were poor, but decent, but there was one definitely Arab village that I passed that was absolutely shocking. Several of the houses were just slabs of tin holding each other up, and the place literally looked like a garbage dump. There was the half-rotted carcass of a dead donkey in a nearby field.

I don’t want to jump to any conclusions as I don’t know the circumstances, but seeing such poverty is … sad. I’ve seen it before and know I’ll see it again, but that doesn’t lessen the fact.

Seeing the hills and mountains in this wilderness is quite surreal, by moonlight. It throws into sharp relief an already harsh landscape, and is beautiful, if you like that sort of thing.

So, I got to the Ein Gedi Field School, where I was staying, and met the two German girls in my room, Johanna and – Isabel? – and this other random Slovakian/Israeli guy named Dominic. After which I ate a granola bar (I missed dinner), showered, called home, and crashed.

Breakfast was Israeli style – bread and cucumber salad, cheese, cheese burekis (kind of like turnovers, but fried. yum), onions, and eggs. After getting our sruff togeter, my roommates and I headed out to the Ein Gedi preserve, and spent two hours hiking the Wadi David and swimming in the ice-cold pools and waterfalls.


Along the Wadi David


The waterfall from the David Spring


Caves in the cliffs

It’s so odd, walking through a completely parched landscaped, all rocks and – more rocks – and then abruptly coming on bamboo and trees and splashing, clear water. There are caves, too, hight up in the white cliffs, It was while hiding out here, from King Saul, that David wrote his psalm:

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.
He sends from heaven and saves me,
rebuking those who hotly pursue me;
God sends his love and his faithfulness.
I am in the midst of lions;
I lie among ravenous beasts –
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
They spread a net for my feet –
I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path –
but they have falllen in it themselves.
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
-Psalm 57


Ibex going to the water

After Ein Gedi I left my hiking companions and biked a short way to the Dead Sea public beach, for the mandatory “I’ve swum in the Dead Sea!” experience.


People in the Dead Sea

It’s really odd, and it might really be impossible to drown. At least, it would be very hard to drown (on your back. Can’t vouch for the front). As soon as you get in, your feet bob up, and it’s no work at all to keep your head up. I swam/floated for a bit. The water was nice and warm (frankly, I like Ein Gedi better), but there was this strange oily substance floating on the top layer. I don’t know whether if this is natural or a product of everybody who goes in. I didn’t stay very long, as I had gotten a few little cuts yesterday and they really started to sting. I showered extremely thoroughly (the leftover meinerals start irritating, otherwise) and got lunch. So I’m here now, in the shad overlooking the Dead Sea, seeing random people go by, some of them covered in black mud, which is supposed to have healthful properties. Really black mud. Okay, I’m going to try to nap for a bit, take a few pictures, then start the haul to Masada. It really is a haul – I’m carrying forty pounds on my back, most of it water. Well, at least it feels like that much.

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