Desert Nights

With apologies for the delay in posting …Wi-Fi is hard to come by in the desert!

We began yesterday at the Ayalon Institute near Rehovot. There, right under the nose of the British, a factory was created for the production of 9mm bullets for the Sten submachine gun, which was the personal weapon of Palmach fighters. Forty-five courageous young men and women operated the site under complete secrecy (disguised by a delicious-smelling bakery and a noisy laundry) from 1945 until 1948, producing more than 2.25 million bullets vital to the defeat of the British. Amazing!

It was onto a short climb to Tel Azekah, an archeological mound high above the Valley of Elah, where the battle between David and Goliath took place in the time of the Philistines. Yoni recounted this biblical story in captivating play-by-play fashion as we overlooked the very location where the epic battle took place.

From there, we were supposed to go “Dig for a Day” at an archeological site at Tel Maresha, dating back to the time of the Maccabees. However, our plans were changed midstream due to a wildfire spreading in the area, which forced us to evacuate the region unexpectedly as a safety precaution. Before we left, we did learn the definition of the word “tel” (an artificial mound formed over time from the accumulated remains of people living on the same site)–as demonstrated by a pile of hats on Elana’s head. And Benji’s arm was used to teach us how archaeological layers form.

Since our dig plans were disrupted, we had the opportunity to visit Tel Be’er Sheva, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the area where our forefathers–Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–lived and worked. Now we can say we traveled from “Dan to Beersheba”–the expression that refers to the borders of Israel in the time of the Judges. We explored the remains of a water system deep underground and the city’s well, where men would go to seek their future wives.

At last, it was time to head into the Judean Desert to Kfar Hanokdim in Kana`im Valley between the city of Arad and Masada. We first encountered some funny-looking Bedouins and their camels …

Our actual Bedouin host Ishmael then invited us to relax on floor mats in a goat-hair tent and sip hot spiced tea while he answered our questions about desert life.

Then it was time for everyone’s favorite CDS 8th Grade Israel Trip tradition…camel riding! The colors of the sunset were breathtaking over the mountains, and the evening desert breeze was a welcome respite from the serious heat of the day. Experience it here:

Afterward, we enjoyed a traditional Bedouin dinner served on large trays with handmade pita. The evening ended with a campfire complete with s’mores and learning some Israeli hiking chants  … and then it was early to bed in our tents in anticipation of our 4 a.m. wake-up call to climb Masada!


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