7 Kislev 5759

(Wednesday night, November 25, 1998) – Ein Gedi kibbutz

Cactus garden at Ein Gedi

As tours and rush-rush vacations go, this day would have been a wash. No energy – I woke up with a headache and a little sick to my stomach. I did not sleep well at all last night; the hard, narrow bed kept me tossing and turning. Someone told me that the Ein Gedi kibbutz preserved a bit of the spartan nature that the early kibbutzniks endured (although I have to believe that they would have deemed my hard, narrow bed luxurious), as a reminder of how this land was settled.

A group of Moroccans is staying here, and they sang and danced outside until the wee morning hours. At first, I loved hearing them, their drums punctuating the night air with hard rhythm. But by 2 or 3 o’clock this morning, their celebration wasn’t quite as enjoyable.

Breakfast too brought an interesting encounter. A German couple sat at table with me, in Ein Gedi auf Kur. They explained that German health insurance covers “treatment” at the Dead Sea, so they were making the best of it. But they were … odd? He was about twenty years old, she in her sixties (at least). Their PDAs were not what one expects to see at breakfast (let’s just leave it at saying he removed her shirt in public).

It is very hot today, in the upper 90s. Oppressively hot, and not an air conditioner in sight. The kibbutz has a laundromat, so I washed clothes. Everything was dry inside an hour.

Ein Gedi kibbutz in the distance

Tomorrow I am supposed to head to Eilat, so this afternoon I drove aimlessly through the region, memorizing the Dead Sea, the massive hills and secret caves, and wandering again through the kibbutz’s botanical garden. As I returned from my afternoon drive, once more I was struck by the oasis that Ein Gedi provides, its greenery in the midst of sand and rock. It’s visible from miles up the road, the only green patch in this vast desert.

I’m also realizing that the strong odor of sulphur is contributing to my awful headache. How do people get used to living here? It’s overwhelming, worse than living next door to a refinery.

It was supposed to be easy to make a hotel reservation in Eilat, so I had not reserved anything in advance. When I started calling late this afternoon, everything was booked solid. The only hotel with any rooms available quoted me $350 per night. I am paying less than $50 per night here at Ein Gedi! [2012 note – They have since discontinued the small room type that I had in 1998. Presently they offer a normal double-occupancy hotel room as cheapest option, at $150/night in November.]

So I decided to spend the rest of my time in northern Israel, which originally had only occupied two days of my itinerary. The minute I called Kfar Blum kibbutz, I felt good about the decision. I will see the Negev next time around.

The only thing that makes me nervous: I am routed through the West Bank as the fastest way from Ein Gedi to Kfar Blum. A woman here in Ein Gedi assured me I will be all right, that the road is safe. When I think that Kfar Blum is only ten miles from the border with Lebanon and Syria, it seems silly to worry about driving through the West Bank.

I’m looking forward to being in another place for an extended time. That’s my favorite way to travel.

As I packed tonight for tomorrow’s adventure, I realized that I missed seeing the Cantors today. I had not expected to, but they had become my Ein Gedi, an oasis. This place is teaching me the value of community.

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