ABSTRACT: History, agriculture, and body control are the highlights of today’s jaunt through the desert.
The photos referenced in this album are all from Album “Arbah” (Four), available HERE.
Wednesday, July 27 / Revi’i, 25 Tammuz
The Radetsky march (i.e. my cell phone’s alarm ringtone) played at 700h, and I felt refreshed. Preparing for the bus, I packed my bags and headed for the bus as Mickey and Eric were still waking up. My equipment was the Nebraska Alumni Association T-shirt and shorts. The dining hall featured conversations with Jared, Eliana, Mickey, Becky, and others too. I don’t recall the conversations since I didn’t take notes, and didn’t get to this point on the physical journaling until Saturday morning… and yes I know I’m in the wrong there!
Heading to our first stop, Eliana sat next to me. Before we had left, the Room 40 denizens had lost their keys, which delayed us by twenty minutes. Eliana and I chatted about making the most of vacations, including my adage “Enjoy what you did; don’t rue what you didn’t.” Interestingly, I thought of this adage for the first time about 36 months ago. These next few days keep reminding me of earlier times, so these references will pop up in the rest of the journal. The conversation also marveled at the group camaraderie and transliterations on signs. I also got some shots on the road [632-640].
We arrived at Kibbutz Nirim (or the remnants thereof) [641-649]. The Israeli here, Sa’ar, whose name means “stormy,” told the story of the former kibbutz. It was the closest one to Egypt, and in the War of Independence, forty Jews from here battled 2000 Egyptians and won, while only losing 8 men. The Hebrew on the wall that we saw translates to “Not the tank will win, but the man.” One of the victory aspects was using carrier pigeons, sending messages outside of the kibbutz. I got to hold one of them, but there was no message attached. It was uneasy in my hands, but I managed to calm it down before releasing it on the command of Sa’ar. They flew off toward our next destination.
The next bus ride was pretty uneventful to my recollection… a “short 20 minutes” to the “fun farm,” aka the Salad Trail. After using the restroom there, we walked in sand to a greenhouse, which had a tightly-sealed entrance to keep bugs out [656-659]. In it, we learnt about different ways of growing tomatoes. In the Negev desert, water is recycled through purple pipes, which I have not seen while I’ve been here. At least it gives me something to look for on the road! The greenhouse occasionally had mist going [660-661], so I didn’t take many notes, so as to protect my journal. Melons, sun tomatoes, Italian-style tomatoes, zebra tomatoes, and more are grown here [662-668].
This visit included tasting! The sun and Italian-style tomatoes were my favorites, as well as the red grape tomatoes [669-672]. It was a fun time for photo ops and snacking. Walking back the way we came, we entered another tent that had all sorts of herbs growing in it. Cameron and Scott participated in a blindfolded taste test for different herbs, which included basil, mint, rosemary, and many others [673-679]. In the back of the tent, Sa’ar explained some of the other herbs, but since I was in the back of the crowd, I couldn’t hear a thing.
We returned to near the entrance, and got to do even more sampling. This time, it was make-your-own-pita! I stretched a ball of dough, applied a few leaves of basil to it, and had the pita baker put it on the black thingy [680-686]. The addition of pesto made it taste great! I was informed that I could find this place on Facebook under “Salad Trail,” and I found it, so HERE is the link! This was a fun excursion, and it fascinates me at how lush this area can be for a desert!
En route to the next stop (the tomb of Ben Gurion), Tal was interviewed. I could hear it much better today! He is from Tel Aviv, and if her were a superhero, he would be Spider-Man. He will be promoted to a captain in the IDF soon, and will also visit South America. He’s a prankster, which is fun. On the road, we passed a tank [MISS] and some road construction, and of course more of the desert [690-695].
We landed at the site of David Ben Gurion’s grave. After a short dusty path, snapping some animals that I can’t identify [696-701], we were asked to hold hands and look down for another trust walk. Wow, that’s three times in three days that I have walked with my head pointed down, albeit yesterday wasn’t for a trust walk. After a tortuous (remember people: that means winding, not torturesome) path, we turned around, seeing the vast sand dunes. Of course, that means two words: PHOTO OPS! [702-709]. There’s a story behind why they are buried here and not on Har Herzl, and it’s based off this view!
David Ben Gurion was born as David Green, but changed his last name after making aliyah at age twenty. After later being expelled from the area-that-was-not-yet-named-Israel by the Turks, he married Paula in the USA. One of his lines was, “I [envision] five million Jews in the Negev.” The love of the desert came when he found 18 Texans starting a kibbutz here, and he joined them, while still acting as Prime Minister! That would create some interesting dynamics, to say the least [710-711].
En route again, we headed for Mitzpeh Ramon, and learnt about the “craters” (makhtishim) in the desert. They are really created by mountain erosion and not meteors, and because they only appear in the desert, that word is exclusive to Hebrew. There are three makhtishim in the desert, and one of them is near Mitzpeh Ramon, and is unsurprisingly called Ha’Makhtesh Ramon. The other two are Gadol and Katan (large and small, respectively, even though Ramon is the largest). We also saw forts along the road, which were stopover points for merchants in the past. Israel, after all, connects three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe, so that any non-water, non-air trip between those continents must involve Israel. The camels they rode on could go 30 kilometres per day [712-715]. Speaking of camels, Nitzan told us about a Shorashim I-Spy type game: “That Camel Is Mine.” We all want to look for camels in the desert, and if we spot one, be the first to claim, “That camel is mine!” A few people scored en route to Mitzpeh Ramon.
At Mitzpeh Ramon, we stopped at a small mall for lunch [716-717]. Variety was nonexistent, but I chose schnitzel from Kanias. Sitting on picnic tables, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the conversations, or what I did pick up blended in with other conversations from other meals. Oh well! The next drive was just a few streets down, as we went to Adamah (lit: earth) [720-722]. After removing shoes, we started.
The place is a body control clinic! We were first asked to sit with our eyes closed, “doing nothing.” Eventually, we walked with closed eyes, but attempting to control ourselves using our mind and not our body on each step. The thing turned into a wild goose chase as we opened our eyes, as a game of “tag the others’ feet without getting tagged yourself.” One was on all fours , and one was by “walking” on our bottoms [724-725]. It was fun balagan (chaos)!
Control was also shown with the ears. With eyes closed, follow-a-sound-by-action took two iterations. The first was the whole group following a leader who emitted a sound to the whole group, attempting not to bump into others. In the second form, each person partnered with another: one leader (eyes opened) and one follower (eyes closed) (with two rounds so each person had a chance to lead and follow). With Eliana, I led her around with a sound like a phone ring, simply walking. When I was following to her “Whee!” in the second part, the instructor invited the leaders to encourage actions other than just walking. For example, I sat or jumped at times. At least no jumping jacks were involved—I don’t want to go to the principal’s office! The mind is amazing at how it can single out one voice or sound to follow.
Knowing how to fall is important. The next exercise had us falling to the wall and pumping backward to a near-fall. I misunderstood the directions initially, and gradually did the splits rather than backing up from the wall for back-and-forth-falling. Once the instructor corrected me and I had a few trials of front-and-back falls, we partnered up with different people. Cathy and I spotted each other in separate iterations of this “partnered” falling exercise. Some of the audience members (i.e. Dan, Nitzan, Aaron, Alon, and maybe a few others) were using my camera during this whole thing [726-729] This was then extended to a 2π falling exercise  with a circle of spotters. My foot hurt, because I think I got poked by a part of the wood. Nothing lodged in my foot, though.
The other two exercises were stick catching and “floor falling.” In the former, we called out a name of someone else in the circle to catch a stick, and we had to catch it below a certain marking. My first few times being “it,” I couldn’t get a name out as all the names were on the tip of my tongue. The latter was a relaxation technique, which strongly reminded me of the Speed Sleep MP3s. Still, it was different. The last part, sitting up without using neck or head, was challenging, but the activity as a whole was very enjoyable. We left after people (myself included) used the restroom, and I snapped the façade of the place .
The next stop was the Bedouin tents. A type of activity was mentioned for when we get there: “CSF.” I have no idea what it means, but others figured out the first two words as “camel” and “[bleep!].” Taking the window seat, I mostly snapped road signs, and a few other things too [732-739]. Eliana attempted to take a nap as she wasn’t feeling well, and I also attempted to journal, to little avail. The road was quite tortuous, and at some point, Eliana asked me to switch seats so that she could recline against the window. Unfortunately, her nausea worsened and we had to pull over.
As a result, she then got the best seats in the house (the second row) and my seatmate position became empty. We drove through Arad [740-745] and at one rotary, Chayim (our driver) tried to be funny and go around… and around… and around… and around! Nobody suffered any ill effects, but it seemed risky due to our stop earlier. We turned onto an even more tortuous and narrow road, and followed the way toward the Bedouin tents [746-753]. As we got close, someone correctly deduced the last word of “CSF” and it is “fight!” Speaking of camels, at this point in “That Camel Is Mine,” I had snared two camels, but had also committed two Type-I errors (i.e. false alarms).
At the tents, we got to have a fun activity—riding on the camels! I partnered with Michelle, and rode while taking a lot of pictures of everyone else, as well as humming various songs, and just being my goofy self. The ride was bumpy, but of course it was fun! The pictures [754-775] explain it better than I could in words, but I extend a popular saying. That is: “A picture is worth a thousand words, BUT a memory is worth a thousand pictures.” Still, I hope that some other people snapped me!
We proceeded directly into the area of the tents, although I first went to the restroom. We converged on a large meeting tent [779-783]. The Bedouin who talked only spoke in Hebrew, so Nitzan was the interpreter. Bedouin hospitality includes all services for free, including coffee to be drunk in two sips, and tea. Shoes should be taken off if you plan on staying the night. No reservations are required, but they want to know if someone wants to stay for 3+ days. Like a kibbutz, life is communal here.
Another tent we entered, and there we ate. Sitting down, I had a hard time getting comfortable in cramped quarters. We had pita, rice, veggies, and chicken. It was good, and I drifted in and out of conversations [784-786]. One more picture came outside of the tent, and the flash ruined it with speckles on the edge . There’s a lot of dust in the air in the desert that will scatter light!
Inside the sleeping tent , the Israelis put on a group activity: the stereotypes of Israelis. The first was the stereotype of a kibbutznik, and it was interesting to see. However, I didn’t take enough notes, so I recall none of the details therein. The Tel-Aviv partier stereotype was next, and was quite amusing to see that side that I somewhat saw when we were there. The third was some sort of dodgy person, but I didn’t really understand the whole thing. Someone please refill me in! The last one was the most interesting: the ultra-Orthodox woman, played by Inbar, who first separated us and then talked only toward the ladies, forcing the men to ask questions through Efrat. Because of the recency effect, I recall more about this one: bazillions of children, rejections of modern conveniences, unconditional love of husband, etc.
The point was that despite the exaggerations, stereotypes of Israelis do exist. As has been mentioned before on this trip, asking questions is important, more so than getting answers, and for some reason, I had forgotten that before this reminder! After brushing my teeth (it was about 2230h), I decided NOT to sleep yet. A camp fire was going, and it was fun with the sing-alongs (but no S’mores). Camp fires bring out several memories for me. One was the Camp Kitaki field trip in 6th grade, when I first discovered the scattering of light from a flashlight as we left the camp fire. The other was in the Halsey National Forest, with math jokes and all sorts of camaraderie-building conversation, thirty-seven months ago. That was the last time I had been to a camp fire. I called it a night at 0030h, although I know that I will be dog-tired tomorrow.
>>TO BE CONTINUED…