Mitzpeh Ramon was great, a real gem in the desert. Mitzpeh Ramon is considered the “biggest hole” in Israel since it is the farthest town from any city; Beer Sheva is an hour and a half away by car This distance creates a really unique, quiet environment which we found very relaxing and comfortable. Nachum and Gila, our gracious hosts from Mitzpeh Ramon suggested that we leave our huge bags at their house on Friday morning , head out for a day hike, hitchhike to Dimona (where we planned to spend Shabbat with my siblings), and to return on Saturday night to Mitzpeh Ramon to pick up out bags and continue our trek. Once Nachum mentioned that the hike we had planned for Friday could be done in sandals without our packs, the decision was made. We left our bags and met up with a new travel buddy we met at a trippy dance party the night before, Nicky, and headed out for a wonderful hike.
How do you make a sandwich when your bread gets crumbled in your bag?
Pepper open face –Juicy yellow pepper stuffed with spelt bread crumble topped with fresh cherry tomatoes and avocado drizzled with tehini sauce.
After the trail, we hitchhiked to a “student village” in Dimona where my siblings were waiting for us. Student villages are a new trend in Israel — the government funds student housing in peripheral towns. Student villages are located in developing communities in the North and in the desert in the south. They expand underpopulated areas and strengthen underprivileged developing cities. The students are required to volunteer in their communities by planning cultural events, tutoring local youth, running extracurricular programs and much more. To learn more about these villages (and we suggest that you do!) check out their website:http://ayalim.org.il/en/. During Shabbat, we went on a nice desert walk and I may have instigated a huge mud fight… oops.
I hope you can see that I surprise attacked Shimon with a mud ball. Muwahahaha
When the sun went down, we headed back quickly to Mitzpeh Ramon and were greeted by Nachum and Gila with sushi. Nachum and Gila run an amazing ceramics store in Mitzpeh Ramon and anyone who is interested should definelty check it out! https://www.facebook.com/tozeret.mizpe
Before sunrise, we met up with Russell, a tour guide from Canada who finished his Birthright and Extend trip and was now traveling around Israel to form his own opinions about the controversies here. We traveled with him for two days, from Mitzpeh Ramon to Sde Boker. We were fascinated by the interest Russy showed in us! We have gotten used to being the ones asking questions, and for a change we felt as if we were the ones being studied. Hmmmmm… North Americans who came to Israel without our parents to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. We voiced our varying political opinions on many tense issues facing the Middle East, but most time was spent discussing the question, “Do North American Jews hold responsibility to Israel, and if they do, what is their role?” What do you guys think?
Russell our new bff!
At the end of the second day, we split up from Russy and went to sleep by Lison, a warm woman we met a few weeks previously who was very excited to host us. She lives in a secluded farm consisting of two families called Nahal Boker. Her husband had just gone abroad to work for the next week. Being a new mother of two on a farm with horses that need to be fed is not a simple task. We were glad to help out a little. While we were there, we took the time to breathe, to remember how lucky we are, and to reflect on all the special experiences we are having hiking the shvil.
Starting our hike with the gang at Ben Gurion’s grave in Sde Boker
At 6:00, Lison loaded her sleeping kids into the car and gave us a ride to the beginning of the trail (we are so thankful to her kindness!). There we met up with my brother, Alon, his friend, Matt (“Zuckerman”), and my former army commander, Chagai. Until now, other people who had hiked the whole trail often asked us if any of our friends had come to join us. This is typically uncommon because it is so complicated to organize meeting times and places, especially in the desert! Also, not many people are avid hikers up for the challenge. We could not believe that so many people came to join us at the same time!
Ein Akev, a waterfall that runs year round… in the desert!
My brother treated us to an Israeli hiking (and army) delicatessen, burnt tuna. You buy canned tuna in oil. Take off the lid. Lay toilet paper on top over the oil, and light the corners. After tasting burnt tuna, a common response is, “wow, this tastes like chicken!” The question still remains if burnt tuna is actually delicious or if it is deemed so since most consumers are very hungry and without other edible options. Try it out and let us know!
Before the gang breaks up. So glad that my brother came out!
It was only that day that Nava and I realized how much experience we’ve gained and the level of our hiking level abilities. The males who had accompanied us were in shock at our pace and we amazed at the routes we were conquering. In the morning, my brother and his friend Zuckerman decided to go on a jeep tour and Nava, Chagai, and I continued onward to what is regarded as the hardest hike of the entire trail, “the Big Crater.” (Sounds scary too, right?) Look down at the floor your standing on. Now imagine taking a saw and slicing through the floor in the center of the room. Now lift up the floor boards to an eighty degree angle. Imagine what it’s like to walk on the ridge of those uplifted floor boards and trying not to fall in.
The hike leads you to “The Rooster’s Comb,” named so because of the resembling shape. Hold out your hand in front of you, as if giving a high five. Imagine walking up and down all of your fingertips. By the end we were physically and mentally drained but so proud of ourselves. We did it. Our bodies are so strong. Our legs carried us to the end. We felt so accomplished. Then we realized that in the middle of the night, robbers had come by and stolen all our cash. Talk about a drastic change in emotion…
Sitting on top of the world
Here is Nava climbing around a huge pond blocking the path. After crossing over it, we had a quick dive to cool off.
Literally a vertical climb
Now it’s Shabbat. Nava went home to her old kibbutz for a reunion of her army roommates and I am currently heading to Yerucham to a student village. We’ll continue the hiking Saturday night but for now we are going to rest our feet a bit and have a chance to look back at all the crazy adventures we have experienced. Hope you guys are finding beauty in the world around you!