The Shkutai family has tents and outdoor washrooms set up for hikers that stop by. Here was our abode!
Shabbat was perfect. As the sun went down, we milked the last goat on the Shkutai family farm on Moshav Tzofar in the Southern Negev. The parents, Eliyahu and Gilia found religion recently and live very spiritual lives guided by Chasidism and Kabbalah. It was interesting to see the open atmosphere in the family, where the parents are religious and the children are not. To welcome the Shabbat queen, Nava and I led a very upbeat Carlebach service. The Shkutai parents had never heard Friday night prayers because they “found Judaism” themselves and are not a part of any religious community or congregation. We ate Friday night dinner with the whole family and the handful of volunteers currently living on the farm. The four youngest children are homeschooled and spend their days working in the fields and playing with all the animals.
Sharing a beautiful moment with Shimshon and one of his favorite goats.
Right after this, we tasted freshly squeezed, warm goat’s milk. And Nava calls herself a vegan!
On Sunday we decided to extend our stay at the Shkutai’s, volunteering in their pepper, tomato, and onion fields. I can’t take Nava out in public anymore because she still reeks of onion.
On Monday, we started the hardest hike yet, Nachal Barack, translated as the “Lighting Canyon.” Can you think of a more terrifying name? We knew we had 27 kilometers to hike that day, and that there would be a few ladders, but we had no idea…
We thought this was the ladder. “Okay, not that hard,” we thought.
Then the path started getting a bit more difficult…
And a little more intense…
We climbed down a ladder into that pond of shoulder high freezing cold water. I had to take Nava’s and my bag on my shoulder and pass them over to her on the other side which she then took from me and carried them up that ladder. We were sopping wet and cold. Yeah, Nachal Barack exceeded our expectations.
We finished the last ten kilometers as fast as possible and hitchhiked to my family in Moshav Hatzeva to dry our clothes, have some warm food, and a shower. We left early in the morning to start our three day hike from Sapir to Mitzpeh Ramon.
The small rocks represent the path and the big black rocks represent were we stopped to sleep and refill water.
Eli from Eilat gave us a ride a week ago and offered to drive out an hour and a half on a dirt road to bring us water. For me, Eli represents the feeling of family that there is in Israel. “I brought you healthy chocolate, so your parents won’t hate me,” he said as he handed us 3 bars of dark chocolate and cake. Thanks again Eli!
That night, we slept in a beautiful campsite in the remains of an ancient volcano. Nava’s muse for dinner was taken from the geology of the land. Red quinoa mountain erupting with creamy peanut butter lava sprinkled with hot molten cranberries, dates, and figs. Hardened almond, peanut, and walnut rocks. You can climb a volcano and eat it for dinner too!
We arrived at Mitzpeh Ramon and have been hosted by Nachum and Gila who run the ceramic workshop for the community. I stayed to volunteer the next day and Nachum let me play around with the clay. It was an EYE-OPENING experience!
While I volunteered in the studio, Nava worked in a vineyard near Mitzpeh Ramon. “How did she find the opportunity?” you may ask. As Nava and I sat for our victory meal of humus, we were approached by a man with long, frizzy hair.
“Do you have a place to sleep?” He sheepishly asked us.
I naively assumed that he was homeless and was trying to ask us for shelter or loose change. “No, sorry.”
“Do you guys want to sleep by me?” He replied. Only then did I realize he was a shy resident who spotted our hiking packs (and probably noticed our stench!) and wanted to host us. He works in the vineyard and set Nava up to volunteer there the next day.
It’s been a tough week, filled with intense hiking, ladders, craters, mountains, ancient volcanoes, and many Israeli angels that we’ve met along the way. Heading to Dimona for Shabbat and next week difficult chunk-a-lunk of hiking awaits us from Mitzpeh Ramon to Arad. Kowabunga!!