Wandering through the desert… A fitting ending to the 5 month program that’s allowed me to stay in Israel longer than the original 2 months I originally thought. It’s officially 6 months now that I’ve called this place home. It’s not a home in the sense that I know all of life’s ins and outs in relation to this place. Quite the opposite in this case. There are certain things you can count on though. An elbow in the rib while shuffling through security checks in front of every public building. Amazingly honest food, unmatched anywhere else in the world. A wink and an air kiss from a passing car. 3 opinions from every group of 2 people. There’s something about the struggle for survival that makes you feel alive, everyday feels like an accomplishment. I love it. Bitching and moaning through it all but loving it just as much on the other side. Loving it so much that I’m staying here another 6 months. Pretty surreal considering the state of things in neighboring countries at the moment.
Things feel stable here though, and I’ve never felt unsafe during my time here. It’s just a different reality. I’m living on the seam of the middle east. On a map, Jerusalem sits in the indentation of the West Bank [insert interesting clarification here: the West Bank is named as such because it is on the “west bank” of the Jordan River]. Life can be heavy in Jerusalem, I’m constantly battling this label when I meet people (Israelis and foreigners) while in Tel Aviv and other cities. Everyone here loves the city but those that don’t live in it don’t understand the people that do. For me personally, I fell in love. It was immediate, but developed over time through its nuanced and overt beauty. I look for excuses to walk its streets, to find lookout spots to admire it from above and position myself amongst its signature Jerusalem Stone lined, covered, filled structures… So with a heavy heart but hopeful just the same I’m leaving the soul and depth of Jerusalem for the sandy beaches of Tel Aviv next week. On to the next adventure.
This past weekend I went to the south of Israel with the other participants in my group to hike in the Negev region and stay on Kibbutz Keturah. An encounter with a small bottle of apricot Goat Milk Yogurt Drink to start the journey proved to be a bad choice. One sip. Something was just not right. I hope that this bottle was one that went bad. Otherwise, I’m not sure what to think about people that like it. Giving goats the benefit of the doubt, I won’t hate on it too much. Against better judgement I may even try it again someday when I build up the courage. The next stop, following the one at the rest stop where I picked up previously mentioned goat milk concoction, was to hike in the desert mountains of Eilat. Southernmost point of Israel. I remember hearing a story about some people wandering through these parts for 40 years, or something like that. Don’t quote me on that one, it might already be copyrighted…
Cue the cliche kibbutz music here. Not sure exactly what that would sound like, but I’m positive there would be some dancing in a circle and people with braided hair and crocs on somewhere in a montage set to it. Luckily there was no such thing waiting for us during our stay at Kibbutz Keturah. A kibbutz more American than Israeli in many ways because the majority of people that live on it are originally from the States or other English speaking countries. It was founded in 1973 and today has about 150 members, and around 500 people living at it. It’s a very modern place with all the amenities you would hope for even considering how remote of an area it’s located in. Dairy, dates, and algae (used to produce some crazy anti-oxident put into supplements) are main sourcs of income. Oh, not forgetting to mention, that on a kibbutz, everyone’s paychecks (whether they work on the premises or not) go into one central bank account. Something I simply can not get my head around. To each their own, I guess… well not their own money in this case (a little communist humor I suppose…). The only comment I really have about it all is that it only works here because it’s by choice. And I’ll leave it at that.
A lot of freetime this weekend made for some great opportunities to go out and explore the desert a bit. At a comfortable 73 degrees I ventured out with my friend Dafna into an area just behind the kibbutz and took some photos of the beautiful area. Since we’ve had some rain here recently the desert seemed more alive than I expected. Turquise and purple plants growing up through reddish rock and sand really made for some breathtaking views.