Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hiking in Ein Gedi

Last Shabbat was the best two days I've had in Israel so far.  Shira, Anna, Ross, and I took a hiking trip to Ein Gedi or the area just west of the Dead Sea.  We left Friday morning, hopped on a bus, and arrived in the middle of the desert.  We had a vague idea of what we wanted to do but like all trips, things changed once we got there. Our original plan of camping in the mountains was impossible due to the winter's early nightfall and our inability to read (or desire to pay for) a topographical.  So we decided to hike to the Hidden Spring and sleep on a beach on the shores of the Dead Sea.

On our way to the first hike, we ran across an abandoned building.  It looked like a ruined school but now was the home to a group of hyrax.  I had never seen a hyrax before; apparently, they are related to elephants and manatees, and do a lot of eating and pooping.

Then, before starting our hike, we ate a snack.


Bellies full, we started on our hike.  Pictures describe the hike better than I can with words, so thanks to Shira for these wonderful pictures!

Our day ended with a calm evening on the shore of the Dead Sea.  Night came around 5:30 PM, so we relaxed a little in the darkness and then took a well deserved rest (although Ross spent some time listening to the dulcet tones of techno playing from a neighboring group of campers).

The next morning, we rose at sunrise and hiked to Ein Gedi Spring, which is mentioned in the Bible.  Along the way, we saw a group of ibex munching on a tree.  It was only upon closer inspection that we noticed that some of the ibex were actually climbing in the tree to get to the good leaves.  They are more graceful than they look!

It was incredibly hot and the hike was uphill (only one way, thankfully).  But it was worth it once we got to the top and saw a tranquil pool shaded by an old tree.  It was a welcome sight for us and we had only been hiking for a short time.  I'm sure that there is some untold story in which a traveler dying of thirst stumbled across this spring and discovered the true meaning of joy.  We got only a small approximation but even that small amount was lovely.

Thanks to Shabbat, no buses were running for hours.  Fortunately, we managed to catch a cab back to Jerusalem and ate a huge dinner that night (goose breast kabobs are awesome!).

But lest things in Israel seem too calm, the IDF bombed Gaza later that evening.  Oh well...

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