The Negev

It’s cold! Cold enough for us to start using the spaceheaters and for me to forgo my sandals and summery skirts :(. Wow, it actually feels like fall except the leaves don’t fall from the trees. I hear the temperature is going up again, but I’d rather it stay right where is is. You should have seen me yesterday dashing home to take the clothes off the balcony before the rain started. That’s something I have to get used to–checking the weather to find out if I can do laundry or hang my clothes outside. Let’s hope my parents don’t come during a rainy week!

Last week Pardes sponsored a trip to the Negev. All-in-all it was a good deal: the food, accomodations and guided tours cost us practically nothing. All we had to do was pay a registration fee and show up at Pardes at 7am on Tuesday morning. Students could either go on the hiking track or take a more leisurely tour of the area. We were eager to use our legs and see some scenery, so we opted for the hikes.

We had no regrets about going on the Tiyul. The views were spectacular and awe inspiring. This is one of the few times you can use the word ‘awesome’ and actually mean it. This region is so drastically different from Jerusalem. It feels more relaxed than Jerusalem (well anyplace does!) and more spacious–both because there are fewer cities here and because of the vastness of the mountain ranges. In some places they seem to go on forever, which is crazy when you think about how small this country is.

The desert is incredibly artistically inspiring place. Even though there is not a whole lot of vegetation, there is a lot to look at. The light in this part of the world so crisp and bright that every jagged edge of rock is clearly delineated. The mountains are like nature-made sculptures–literally sculpted by erosion, water, plate tectonics and time. And depending upon where the sun is, the mountains are captured by the light differently. And contrast these tan and brown mountains with the light blue or deep blue (depending on the season and time of day) of the sky and you have a beautiful masterpiece. Isn’t G-d an artistic creator?

Spending time in a place where water is scarce and where the landscape is rather stark has a way of making you appreciate nature and natural resources even more. I also felt a tangible spiritual connection, which is not as easy to achieve in a bustling city, because you realize the preciousness and fragility of life in a place like this. (Although you could argue that people feel that fragility as much in Tel-Aviv as the desert because of the terrorist attacks.)

As our guide said, this is where many people in the Bible came for refuge. The desert connotes many words in Judeo-Christian and Islamic cultures–asceticism, spirituality, cleansing, isolation, connection, enlightenment, purity…The desert is where the Jewish people was forged, a place that they couldn’t farm and where they had to rely upon the generosity of G-d for food and water. Of course, the ‘Midbar’ from the Jewish wanderings may not have been the same environment as the one today. It could have been far more abundant in vegetation and far less desert-like.

More about our trip soon…

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