Day 8, Bedouin Tents and a Morning Hike
We finally arrived at the Bedouin tents, completely amazed at both the size of our accommodations and the incredible heat that was being emitted by such a small heater. We were immediately escorted to the dining tent, already occupied by several other Taglit-Birthright groups, and started to enjoy the Bedouin hospitality: wonderful roasted chicken, laffas, hummus and other delicious items.
Once finished, we were then introduced to the Sheik of this particular Bedouin tribe, and he taught us specific on Bedouin culture, hospitality tradition, and the fine art of Bedouin humor. He topped it all off with several Bedouin songs, as he played a precursor to the guitar.
Our favorite activity of the entire night, though, was easily the “mid-night” hike to the top of a nearby ridge. We were instructed to be completely silent for the entire hike, and there was not a peep of a whisper anywhere among us (surprising since we have been barely able to keep our mouths closed since we landed here). Once on top of the ridge, we spread out and did some reflecting, some meditation, and some “thinking about nothing.” The serene surroundings, the intense calmness, the cacophonous silence left me breathless as I sat on a rock and pondered the stars above my head, and eventually said a quick “Thank you” to God.
The rest of the night was filled with loads of singing, laughing, crying (at the Bear’s loss), and enjoyment as we sat around a large, roaring fire. A little bit of A Cappella singing, following up some wonderful guitar playing by both Yotom and Eitam, made all of our spirits brighter and closer together, as our friendships grew stronger.
The following morning, we began by being raised up some 8 feet into the air on the backs of camels for our short ride around the Bedouin camp. What a joy to ride such odd-looking yet friendly animals; we all enjoyed it so much that almost every camel came back to camp with a new name and much love being spread onto it.
As we hiked through the Negev desert along an ancient Wadi trail, a short 30 minutes after our camel ride ended, we were all amazed at the stark beauty of the sand, of the rocks, of this ancient desert. We started off in an ancient cistern, moving along to some nice hiking up and down hillsides, all making the morning all the more enjoyable as we took in the breathtaking wonder of this place.
The next stop would surly be a memorable visit, as well as a perfect example of the resourcefulness and ingenuity of Israel: an entire organic farm, started by a South African, growing up in the desert. The fact that this man, an immigrant to Israel in 1982, can own and operate such a successful agricultural business in the dry and desolate desert, to grow such bountiful, wondrous tasting vegetables and fruit, and breathtaking flowers shows the determination of the Israeli character, even from those immigrants who had made aliya.
Our final stop before we reached our resting place for the night, we stopped to overlook the Gaza strip from an IDF base. As we looked at the southern tip of the Strip, we talked about the latest military action taken by the IDF there, Operation Cast Lead, executed in late 2008 and early 2009, which was aimed at eliminating terrorist targets. So many of us were amazed that, no matter what Israel attempted to do to minimize civilian casualties, the Palestinians would continue to cry “bloody murder” and Israeli soldiers would continue to be put in further harm’s way to save those criers. Why does it have to be this way? How can Israel support the Strip so heavily, and yet put up with consistent and infinitely-lasting rocket attacks and yet stand by while they are criticized for doing so much? No one could give a satisfying answer for us, as there probably isn’t an answer that is available.
Another night of rest before a very early morning. Let’s hope that we all get more rest than the previous night.
By Bradley Crandall