i’m staying in omer, which is a suburb of be’er sheva, israel’s 6th largest city. be’er sheva is in the south and it’s a university town, w a lot of young people, a lot of western influence, and a desert just beyond the city limits. in fact, i can see the negev desert from my friends’ porch. and across the way, both visible and audible, is the arab city of tel be’er sheva, where the muslim prayer call can be heard in the evening.

 living in the space between are bedouins. though not the never seen wanderers of the desert that might come to mind, these nomadic people still refuse to settle down, erecting sheet metal housing and foregoing things like electricity and plumbing. and yes, they still use camels.

but after snapping a few pictures of the bedouins, daniel and i and headed east for the dead sea. as you probably know, this body is aptly named  because vast salt and other mineral deposits make it lifeless. but for the same reason, you’ll find a bevy of beauty minded resorts on it’s shores, all preaching the good news of body rejuvenating treatments. besides being so salt rich that you experience and uncanny buoyancy in it’s waters, the mud of the dead sea exfoliates and rejuvenates and… i don’t know, does other ‘ates’ so you look young again.

at any rate, we had to sneak onto one of the resort’sprivate beaches to check it out. the water is very oily, but has an emerald tint and it’s very clear; although our beach had had sand imported to replace the former salt and rock, and so was fairly murky. many  people were smearing the dark mud onto their skin.

thankfully, we didn’t stay long and hopped back on our way to ein gedi, a desert spring that ends up in the dead sea, but begins in the mountainous cliffs above it. this is a well known and attended national park, and there were plenty of people there, including some IDF soldiers catching a break from the road. these guys were driving some high tech vehicles, but they were no less captivated by the simple pleasures at ein gedi.

namely, the ibex, a type of mountain goat indigenous to the area, which finds station wagons every bit as natural a climbing surface as a rock cliff. i guess there’re no ibex herding courses in special forces.


in either event, it was a miracle the hungry hoofers didn’t use our own vehicle for a highchair. we found no hoof marks or prints after our foray into the park. and how do you explain that to insurance?.. ‘those dents were cause by mountain goats. what do you mean you don’t believe me!?! they’re rude and inconsiderate bastards, and they don’t give a damn about deductibles!’ but aren’t they cute:

after some time at ein gedi, we backtracked and turned in at a desert wadi. a wadi is a dry riverbed, cut into the rock and soil by seasonal rain and flash floods. it’s also a brilliant place to hike. you can see the incredible view that the entrance provides looking down the bluff edge. we hit it right before sunset, and right after a dust storm, so the light was diffused and and full of depth; we headed in and up.

 

about a 1/4 mile in, we discovered a series of natural stairways up the side of the wadi (the dark, vertical shadows in the picture). each of these cut by rivulets of water from the cliff top. we started up the one on the right but found it too dangerous. the ‘steps’ were too unstable w loose shale.

so we tackled the one on the left, climbing about 75 ft up before a sense of mortality kept us from going further. it’s no surprise that amber later told me she’s more afraid of daniel killing himself on some type of adventure outing than she was when he was a beat cop. going out alone into the desert can erase the most sedate mind’s comfort. after climbing down, we had to hoof it back in the dark w the aid of flashlights. this didn’t keep us from coming out of the wadi about a 100 yards south of our entry, but we made it.

wadi mishmar when we first arrived: