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Bonfire in the Negev

Camping Under the Stars in the Negev Desert

Written by Savannah Moore, 2014 Middle East: Behind the Headlines.

Taking a step away from Jerusalem, we spent our weekend camping out under the stars in the Negev desert. Not a bad way to cap off a busy first week!

Our first stop was at some fresh water springs where we cooled off in the hot afternoon. Our guide told us a lot about the region and we embarked to Lot’s cave where the Biblical Lot is supposed to have hidden with his daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We went spelunking through the salt cave and it was so dark and a bit treacherous. I have lots of scrapes from crawling over and under rocks! It was a lot of fun though and I was proud of myself to complete the hike (not everyone did!).

Monastery on a Mountain
Up next? The Dead Sea! And it was incredible! Oh wait! Before that, we saw a monastery built into a cliff face, which was amazing. As well, we passed Qumran which is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. That in particular was very significant to me after having taken a full course on that important topic.

But the Dead Sea! We rubbed the “healing” clay all over our bodies and floated in the salty sea. We were there for sunset and it was incredibly gorgeous. An unforgettable experience! Especially because of the water loss, the sea is supposed to disappear in 20 year. It’s an unfortunate reality but, I am so happy I was able to experience it. That night, we woke up early for the sunrise; it was stunning!

Sunrise by the Dead Sea
On Day 2, we went to a kibbutz and learned about life there and what they are researching (sustainable water sources in the desert). We had lunch there and then swam in the Red Sea. We were on the Israeli side but across from us (so close!) was Jordan and Saudi Arabia. We had a fantastic, relaxing time there and got to wash the salt off our bodies from the day before. After swimming, we drove to the sand dunes where we spent the night. There was an encounter with wolves but we were all safe!

On our last day, we left the campsite and hiked to a spot where we found a cave with water to refresh ourselves in. We also had two meetings. First, with a man named Saleh and his family. They live in a settlement of 15 families, both religious (Jewish) and non-religious families. It was a very interesting conversation with him talking about the region, the conflict, and trying to create understanding and peace between cultures.

Tracks in the Negev desert
Following that meeting, we met with a Sikh who told us the story of his land and how it had been destroyed by Israeli soldiers seven times and the land taken from them and given to the Israeli government. Hearing him speak and learning his perspective was so eye opening since we tend to only hear the news from the pro-Israeli perspective  in the West.

We covered a lot of southern Israel in these past few days and had an unforgettable time seeing the country and learning about the region. Still so much more ahead of us…

Savannah Moore
2014 Middle East: Behind the Headlines

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