Mind the Gap

Trip Start May 19, 2012
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Where I stayed
Arad Youth Hostel & Guest House
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Maktesh Ramon Israel
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Tel Beersheba

Flag of Israel  ,
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is it wrong to reference a cultural phenomenon from a country you're not visiting in a travel blog?  There's gotta be some law against that, just saying.

So before going to bed last night, Jack warned us against going out at night and exploring the "geological phenomenon" about 100 yards from the hostel where we were staying.  Good thing we were all too tuckered out to want to do anything but go into town and chillax over coffee "or, in my case, a magnum bar-so good".  However, upon waking up this morning to a pretty hardy hostel breakfast, we made the little hike over the rise and had our collective breath taken away.  The Maktesh Ramon, by the best guess of geologists, is a large collapsed salt dome, which is about as true as saying the Himalaya Mountains are an area of significant tectonic uplift:  true, but totally unable to describe what the experience is truly like.  I'll let my pictures do that, because currently my powers for metaphor are being thwarted by mocha cookies and cream ice cream, but more on that later.  Suffice to say I sat on the edge of a 1500 foot sheer drop into the unforgiving cinomanian limestone teeth of Charybdis and picked a mountain flower.

That poetic moment being finished, we bussed a little ways down the road to the Ein Avdat canyon for a more intimate look at the concept of wilderness.  I say this both tongue in cheek and seriously:  where we hiked was very likely a place the Hebrews would have spent considerable time in their years in the wilderness waiting for a faithless generation to die because of the relatively consistent water flow and isolation, and hiking in a 500 meter cave bespeckled canyon along side the only stream bed in 50 miles did seriously help me come to a greater appreciation of the wilderness wandering, but let's be honest, what was really going on was that Nicholas was hiking in a 500 meter cave bespeckled canyon along side the only stream bed in 50 miles.  Mold together adjectives in the vein gorgeous, severe, and sweaty, and you're getting somewhere close.  To cap it all off, this canyon system is boxed at one end, so we got to climb about 300 meters of sharply ascending stairs and iron ladders bolted to the cliff face to get out.

Once out, it was back on the bus north to Tel Be'er Sheva, the southernmost point that the Bible seems to consider as part of the Promised Land.  First priority:  lunch; second priority:  exploring iron age ruins with rather intricate fortifications; third priority:  donning hard hats to explore the massive cistern under the city; fourth priority:  trying to stop sweating so as to get back on the bus and roll to Tel Arad.  There are two parts to Tel Arad, the first being a Bronze Age city linking the copper trade from Egypt with the mineral resources of the Dead Sea that had flourished and died out before Abraham ever existed "that means it's old".  Part two of Tel Arad is the Israelite fortress built higher up the hill so as to command this trade route; what's significant about this part is that it gives us the only surviving example of an Israelite temple structure that follows the directives of the Law "for the most part; my astute readers will doubtless be asking themselves what a kosher Temple is doing 60 miles away from King Solomon's Temple, which it is concurrent with.  Archaeologists are asking the same thing".  It was a pale reflection of what the structure must have been like in Jerusalem because Tel Arad is just a small fort on a hill in the Negev Desert, which felt something like a walk-in hair dryer, but there was still something stirring about the divisions of sacrificial altar, holy place, and holy of holies.  I would love to say I stayed and absorbed the lessons deeply, but instead Molly and I went for about a 25 minute run around the complex of ruins, leaving yours truly sweaty, dusty, and more than a little wind-blown.  Then it was back on the bus one more time just a few kilometers down the road to the modern city of Arad.

I'm currently posted up in a mall in center city Arad after a substantial home style dinner in our hostel; I'm not sure if these luxury hostels are an Israeli phenomenon, but I could get used to them.  Our Holy Lands group rolled into the mall about 40 people strong "led by yours truly once again-these people seem to think I have a sense of direction or something", and while standing in a line 40 Americans long for ice cream a cute Israeli waitress told me to bring some of the group over to her store, which also served ice cream.  I am currently looking mournfully at an empty cup from a store whose name I can't pronounce "or read, the only signs being in Hebrew", debating whether I want to get some more, and probably deciding against it.

Tomorrow is a day I've been looking forward to the whole trip:  Dead Sea day.  I'm not sure of the precise order, but tomorrow is going to include Qumran, Masada, Ein Geddi, and a dip in the Dead City.  Life doesn't get much better than that.  The going plan is to keep trying to disinfect my leg enough so that when I get in the water I only shed one manly tear.  Well, things are getting latish here, so I'm going to sign off and mosey back to the hostel.  Peace and blessings.

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Comments

Dad on

Looks like you're enjoying yourself. Remember, your mother looks at the pictures and then I have to deal with the repercussions over her while you're over there. Don't sit so close to the edge or don't tke a picture of it. : )

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