Day 10: Deep in the Desert
Beer Sheva Travel Blog› entry 10 of 11 › view all entries
Today begins early again (what's new) with a three-hour drive into the desert. Israel is a very small country (about the size of New Jersey) so when you drive three hours to get somewhere, you know you are going far.
Sometime around 10am, we arrive at our destination (we had to make a restroom pitstop and pick up another "paramedic" first). It's a national park deep in the Negev Desert. The park is lined with huge canyon walls (think Grand Canyon, but smaller and less brilliant in color). As a group, we hike along the valley floor until we reach a small lagoon. From here our large group of 100 splits up. Some return to the buses for a ride out of the canyon; the rest of us ascend the canyon walls (using rock steps and ladders) to get out.
It's back on the bus for a quick drive to David Ben Gurion's house. DBG was the first prime minister of Israel and he lived in a modest desert home for the last 20 years of his life. And when I say modest, I mean modest. His tiny house was probably no more than 1000 sq. ft. with a living room, bathroom, kitchen, two bedrooms and a study. The house is now a museum which we got to tour. It is still decorated the way it was when DBG died in 1974. Among his possessions were a copy of the Israel Declaration of Independence, a portrait of Ghandi and a picture of Abraham Lincoln with the words of the Emanicpation Proclamation printed over it.
We stop for lunch at a nearby cafeteria. There are tons of soldiers out on the lawns nearby sunning themselves in the noon heat. They are all resting peacefully with their large weapons laying nonchalantly next to them. I'm still not used to seeing such big guns in everyday society. You'd think you'd feel more secure with so many people packing heat, but it's actually a bit unsettling.
From here we drive deeper into the desert and visit a nomadic Bedouin tribe. We sit under the shade of their makeshift tent on colored rugs and pillows. There are camels tethered nearby and small barefoot children playing with a mule. They serve us coffee, tea and pan fried bread. We hear a member tell us about their culture and their difficulties assimilating into modern Israeli society.
We drive back toward Jerusalem, but make another pitstop at the graves of DBG and his wife Paula. They are on a bluff overlooking the canyon we climbed out of earlier today. I'm not sure if I could live for 20 years in this desert, but I do have to admit that his finally resting place is sure in a beautiful spot.
After our visit, it's another 3 hour drive back to the hotel. We have an hour to eat, shower, freshen up and be back on the bus. After this quick turnaround, we head over to the Hebrew Union College for a string quartet concert that is being held just for us. We sit in a most beautiful, peaceful courtyard and listen to the musicians play pieces from Mozart and Dvorak.
Then it's back to Ramat Rachel and our hobbit beds for one more night!