Friday, January 21, 2011


We woke up at 5 in the morning, scrambled to gather all our things and met the bus at Pardes. We were off to the Negev desert in the South of Israel. Our bus parked in the middle of the most beautiful desert I’ve ever seen. Scraping mountains of all different sizes and composition surrounded and engulfed us. The tour guide led us up and down sandstone, granite and limestone mountains. The sand was littered with small rocks striated by time. The views sucked my breath away like a vacuum. My stupid camera was on the fritz this entire trip so my pictures are limited and don’t do the place any kind of justice. Once I figured out how the guide was using markers to lead the tour I ran ahead of him to have an unobstructed view in front of me. I imagined I was a desert explorer or an astronaut on Mars. We stopped on a cliff top for lunch and could see Egypt. As we climbed we sang “Oh lord let’s go down, let’s go down come on down, let’s go down to the river to pray.”

We passed a lake with hundreds of pink flamingoes who had settled in the middle of the desert instead of migrating to Africa. The bus driver honked his horn and the sky was covered in pink.

When the hike was over we got back on the bus to the Kibbutz (commune type place) we were staying in. The Kibbutz was surrounded by barbed wire and mountains. People lived in low squat buildings, rode bicycles to the store and to the pub (all on the compound.) It was so Dharma Initiative. This Kibbutz was in charge of making solar panels and making algae for makeup. Long rows of tubes lined a field as tall and straight as corn stalks. I’m pretty sure the “algae” was a cover and they were actually learning how to grow babies.

We ate burgers and hummus in the dining room and those of us up for it prepared for a night hike. The hike was led by Shimone and as Zahara and I walked behind him we pretended he was Moses leading us from Egypt through this very desert to Israel. We decided my Hebrew name is Mayima (water) because Chelsea also means way to water. It was a full moon so the desert was completely visible. We hiked up a mountain and stopped to look at the lights of Jordan. The hike was sometimes done with singing and sometimes in silence. I loved the sound of our feet kicking stones aside and hearing them cascade down the mountain. This was my favorite moment in Israel.

We went to the Kibbutz and sat around a bonfire and broke out our wine and champagne. The people I have met at Pardes are so incredible. I’m lucky.

The next morning after eating breakfast and davening (praying( I meditate when they pray)) we head out for another hike. This time we hiked down into the valleys of the red canyons. At the bottom, you look up, and the blue sky is cut out from the red rock up above. During our breaks I liked to climb the rocks around me. It may have made me look a little manic, but whatevs. Rock climbing is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world and it was magical being able to on these beautiful rocks. We shimmied out of the valley up a huge mountain, skirting around a thin ledge and finally onto a plateau. I laid on my stomach and looked down into the massive drop off. Then I got in trouble from the guide. Epic beauty. I’ve been everywhere man, across the desert bare man.

We left the mountains and traveled down to the southernmost city of Israel, Ma’a lot. You could throw a stone to Jordan. It just wouldn’t be a very good idea. There I said goodbye to all the people I met from Pardes and Zahara and I made our long journey back to Jerusalem by bus.

Our bus driver, Antonio, was freaking crazy and the ride was a rollercoaster. My knuckles are still white. A small white poodle who was on board slid back and forth silently down the aisle as we made sharp turns and short stops.

In the morning, Z and I had a goodbye breakfast at Tal Bagels and head to the airport. We said goodbye at the place we said hello. My journey through Israel was intense and beautiful mainly due to Zahara and her deep and unbeknownst wisdom. I truly love that woman.

On the plane I sat next to a Rabbi. I felt pretty slick when I asked him “Slikha, do you need to get out to daven for Minha?” I’m a Jew.

I am so thankful for my trip. It was what I needed to affirm doubts I’ve been having . About choosing an international life style. About being so wrapped up in the future I forget the present. About finding some kind of truth to it all.

10 truths I learned in Israel:

1) Don’t step in anything soft.
2) It is up to me to make my life exciting. I don’t need to be traveling the great canyons of the world to feel a thrill. Finding holiness in the day to day is truly the answer. Even if I have to remember to be aware by saying a Bracha before eating or writing it in my planner.
3) When someone says “DIEEE” in Israel, they do not want to end your life. It is an expression equivalent to our “Stop it. Shut up!”
4) Mountains may be the easiest way to feel God. Even if you don’t believe in God.
5) Friendship is essential and friends can help you figure out your life better than holy scripture.
6) If in the marketplace, don’t believe any vendor that tells you he really likes you. He doesn’t. He just wants yo sweet sweet money.
7) Religion means something different to everyone and is not just for the lost. It can be grounding and affirming and help an entire people through the most desperate of times.
8) Hummus making is an art.
9) It’s a good thing if you never get used to guns. It’s a good thing to be scared of violence and to hold fast to morals despite understanding the complications.
10) Getting lost is the best way to have an adventure
And most surprisingly, I packed just enough underwear. Miracles do happen in Israel.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Chel for the Blog I loved it - even though I talked to you every day about your adventures - I still looked forward to reading about them all over again with my morning coffee.
    I wish you had an everyday life blog is that too much to ask!!!??? Just joking...Love you mommy :)