By Daniel Yellin '15 and Monique Sager '15
Is waking up to Arabian Nights in a Bedouin tent racist? This was the thought that went through our heads at six this morning. After a night sleeping on the ground in the desert on one of the handful of rainy nights that happen each year, we woke to Shany's choice DJ-ing with what can only be described as collective disdain. Everything hurt. Feeling like we hadn't showered since the Second Intifada, we set out to climb Masada.
The 2100 year old mountain castle loomed before us. King Herod built his vacation home far away from anything living to escape a most fearsome people... Some angry Jews. Once on top, we learned about the mountain's history as a palace, fortress, and story of inspiration. We drank plenty of water and wore our semi-mandatory hats despite the overcast skies. We also experienced a most magical echo at one end of the plateau... Sababababa (read as if echoing).
After scampering down the mountain as nimbly as a Roman soldier or a Jerusalem cat, we headed across the desert to an agricultural farm for the best part of every day, public restrooms. The Salad Trail, as the farm is known, provided us with a lesson on Israel's advanced agricultural techniques and business practices, and also let us eat fruits and veggies off the vine in what can only be described as a vegan Willy Wonka paradise... Come with me and you'll be in a world of giant purple carrots... But actually, it was delicious. We ate cumquats, lemons, strawberries and habanero peppers (a bad, bad idea says Daniel). We also found something called a Prostate Tomato, which apparently helps you in that department. You know the saying, a tomato a day keeps the doctor away. We also ran through a passion fruit maze (like a corn maze, Israel style). Lastly, we got to pick purple, white and orange carrots the size of souvenir baseball bats. There's no good way to clean or eat these carrots, so we did the best we could.
Since it's Shabbat, we arrived at the hotel in Ashkelon early, lit candles, SHOWERED, and had a fantastic dinner. It was so good that we had no room for the dessert that we bought for our Shabbat oneg earlier today at a pit stop along the road (hooray more public bathrooms).
Public restrooms though are a very small price to pay for the immense beauty that we experienced. From the Bedouin camp to Masada to The Salad Trail to Ashkelon, the Negev Desert is truly a magical and diverse place.