Day 4.8 – 6: Land of Gold

04 October 2007

Route for Day Six

I got back to Tel Aviv yesterday afternoon. A day early, yes, but I had a very good reason for that. Continuing from where I left off:

I also visited the Visitor’s Center, which contained a small museum, with a great observation point. I sat there awhile, just taking in the vast spread of the crater. There was a small group of older American Jews, orthodox, that came through, who merited a special tour guide, and they were there for awhile, too. The tour guide happened to mention that the Israelites, in the Bible, had their testing time in the wilderness, and thus the desert was viewed as a forge, or as a trial. David and Christ, among others, also spent time in the desert. At least in the cases of Israel, David, and Jesus, the time in the desert was in preparation for nationhood, or kingship, or ministry. The Israelites were being chastised and integrated; David was hiding from Saul as an outlaw and gathering a following; and the Gospels only say that Christ was compelled by the Spirit to go.

At about four it got to be very nice outside, so I hiked partway down into the makhtesh and back. On my way back I came across a group of ibex feeding, and took way too many pictures. Ibex live in the cliffs, protected by their agility, but must drink at an open water source at least every other day, since they can’t extract water from their food.

Some of my many ibex photos

A view of the makhtesh

The one thing you want in the desert… (this was a completely random cup that was just sitting there)

I spent the night at the lodge. I was supposed to sleep in a big shared tent, but the manager offered to put me up in a private room, for no extra charge, which was pretty awesome. The cabins were small and very odd, made mostly out of mud brick, with random wine bottles and even bike wheels thrown in here and there. They were very warm, though, at night, which was good. The Negev is very cold once the sun goes down.

At dinner I sat with a lady PE teacher on vacation, a resident artist, and the hostess/owner’s wife. She is a graphic designer, but she and her husband both love the Mitzpe Ramon area and especially mountain biking. She also mentioned that October fourth, which I had planned to spend seeing things in Be’er Sheva, was Simchat Torah, a holy day at the end of Sukkot. Sukkot, which this week has been, are semi-holy days, but this day, celebrating the giving of the Torah, is a real holy day. No buses run, and nothing is really open. And were I to stay in Be’er Sheva as planned, I would have to stay two nights, and on the day in between there would be absolutely nothing to do. It was far more economical just to come back to Tel Aviv.

I set out the next morning at five, as the sky was just growing light. It was a trifle chilly, but warmed as the sun came up. The Negev is beautiful, but it’s enchanted at sunrise and sundown, when the rocks turn gold and the birds are out and there are voices in the wind. It has a vast, harsh purity that takes a few days to recognize, but gradually works itself into your blood and is very apparent when contrasted with the city. When you’re in a bus, it’s very boring – just hills and rocks and scrub. When you’re on a bike, this wilderness is alive.

Sunrise in the Negev

Fire in the sky

When I saw this, I couldn’t resist taking a picture – so stereotypically Middle Eastern

Actually, I had to be more careful about Bedouin sheep herds


Ben Gurion College in Sde Boker, smack in the middle of the desert

I got back to Tel Aviv, which felt like a grungy rabbit warren, in time to shop for food before everything shut down for the holy day, which began at sundown. Since then, I’ve just been catching up with email and washing my horrendously dirty, sweaty clothes. So basically I suck for not having planned this right, but I did have an awesome time and got to see and do some amazing stuff. All in all, it was a pretty sweet way to spend six days.


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