Shalom friends and family,
I write to you on a rainy Friday afternoon from Kibbutz Ketura, a kibbutz in the southern Arava. This week, my journey through the desert began. I knew that I was not alone in my quest, for Bnei Yisrael would also be wandering the desert this week in Parshat B’Shalach. I expected to spend the week walking miles and miles of flat, barren land. I am here to report to you that I spent the week in a desert blooming with life.
I spent quality time getting to know the mountains around me, each one telling it’s own story. Some mountains shoot up high from the ground, destroying all of its surroundings. Some had been pushed into place by other stronger mountains. Some mountains sit silently as sand pours out of then leaving them with empty holes.
I look at the mountains, each one unique in texture, colour, and movement. I smile when I see a smooth, pink mountain flow into a black jagged one, and the white sand dunes spill into a valley of fiery red peeks. A community is formed.
Along with meeting the landscape, I spent the week meeting the unique people in the desert. I enjoyed watching them work together to bring the desert to life.
Being challenged with the harsh conditions of the desert forces man to think outside of the box and unite in order to survive. Yoella and I have been placed in these challenging situations several times, like when we used a Frisbee as a plate or made pancakes out of sweet potato. We turned old garbage that we found into “business cards” for our blog; we now hand them out to the people we meet along the way. If you were handed an old chocolate bar rapper that had the words “www.hikingtheshvil.wordpress.com” written in marker, would you visit the site?
We saw innovation in the kibbutzim of the south that use drip irrigation, solar energy, and organic permaculture farming. I learned this week that you can make almost anything out of poop, mud, and garbage like guest houses and playgrounds. Did you know that Israel wins the prize for the highest amount of sewage reusal in the world?
I heard the word “community” several times this week. We visited many communities, all with their own unique ways of working together. One community that we visited was called Naot Smadar. I left there with both epiphanies and nightmares. They define themselves as a “school for discovering the essence of man”. They have rituals that at first seem cult-like, but I forced myself to just take it in, and freak out about it later. They eat meals in silence. This was awkward for me. I was sitting at the table enjoying the organic dates and almonds, when I noticed that I have blood dripping into my mouth. I realized that I had been struck by a nose bleed but nobody was allowed to mention it to me.
They speak rarely and if they do, they speak in a whisper. Within the community, they are split into groups. The groups have weekly meetings, meditation sessions, and go out for long treks in the desert in order to form a strong connection. It is forbidden to walk around with a cellphone. These are just a few of the community’s traditions. I myself love to scream and yell, so I wouldn’t survive there for long, but I hope to find myself in a place where I am with a community that can help me in my search for the essence of man.
In parallel to my discovery of nature, community, and survival in the desert, the nation of Israel as well began their journey through the desert. I asked myself several times this week, ” So why was this the place that the Jewish people received the Torah?” and “Why was this the place that G-d chose to trap us for 40 years?”
I found my answer this week in one word – potential.
This barren land can extend for miles with no life, but hidden under the hot, dry sand is a world of potential waiting to be discovered. As I read in the Torah about the children of Israel beginning their journey, I hope that they too will discover the beauty in nature, community, and the essence of man.
They say that dessert is spelled with two “s”‘s because you always want a second portion.
I think I’ll add another s’ to desert. I just can’t get enough.
Sing your hearts out.