June 20, 2024

Exploring the Wonders of Israel

Israel has always been a destination that intrigued me, with its unique combination of historical significance and natural beauty. The allure of the Red, the Dead, and the Mediterranean Seas, alongside vibrant cities like Tel Aviv and Jaffa, ignited my imagination. However, it was the serene Dead Sea and the adventures in the Negev Desert that I anticipated the most. Here’s a recount of my unforgettable journey through Israel.

The Dead Sea

I arrived at the Dead Sea in the late evening, just in time to catch the last rays of sunlight. Determined to witness the sunrise, I woke up early the next morning. What I saw was a sight that would stay with me forever. The sun rose behind the mountains in Jordan, painting the sky in hues of golden, pink, pastel yellow, blue, and soft orange. It felt as if a giant mirror stretched from Israel to Jordan, reflecting the sky, salt, and people.

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth’s surface and one of the saltiest bodies of water, with salinity reaching up to 350% in some years. The salt crystals cover anything submerged in its waters for a certain period, creating an otherworldly landscape.

The National Park En Avdat

The National Park En Avdat is a stunning oasis in the Negev Desert. The River Zin, which once flowed on the plain, has carved a canyon over millennia, forming unique geological features such as ancons, caves, and rock formations. Walking through this ancient canyon, you can stand on its bottom, traverse cataracts like stairs, and marvel at the impressive cliffs and the once-mighty waterfall.

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Makhtesh Ramon

Makhtesh Ramon is a vast crater in the Negev Desert, 40 km long, 2-10 km wide, and 500 meters deep. Unlike a meteor or volcanic crater, Makhtesh Ramon is a unique geological formation created by erosion. Standing on the edge of this natural wonder, looking 300 meters down, I felt like I was on the rooftop of a skyscraper, surrounded by silence, falcons soaring above, and the distant rumble of jet fighters.

Exploring the Offroads

Deserts are often overlooked by tourists, but they offer unparalleled freedom, stunning landscapes, and unique wildlife. Ramon Crater is no exception. After viewing the crater from above, I ventured inside, descending 300 meters to its bottom in a dusty Highlander. The crater’s landscape changes every few kilometers, revealing old rock formations, rare water sources, and diverse flora and fauna.

Carmey Avdat Winery

Israel’s winemaking industry, supported by the State’s Wine Route Project, focuses on reviving ancient vineyards along the Spice Route. I visited Carmey Avdat, a small family-owned winery where the owners, Hannah and Eyal, have planted grapes on ancient terraces dating back 1500 years. Tasting their Syrah and Riesling wines amidst the serene desert was a delightful experience.

Sandboarding in the Negev Desert

The Negev Desert, though mostly rocky, has a section of dunes perfect for sandboarding. Despite the rain and strong winds, I was excited to try this unique sport. Unlike snowboarding, sandboarding involves slower speeds and free movement of the feet. The challenging weather conditions made the experience even more thrilling.

The Fortress of Masada

Located southwest of the Dead Sea, the Fortress of Masada sits atop a mountain at 450 meters above sea level. Built by Herod in 25 BC, the fortress has a poignant history. In 67 AD, it became the last stronghold of the Sicarii during the Jewish War against the Romans. Facing inevitable defeat, nearly a thousand inhabitants chose mass suicide over enslavement. This story of resilience and tragedy deeply moved me.

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Bedouins of the Negev Desert

The Negev Desert is home to nomadic Bedouin tribes who maintain their traditional way of life. While some have integrated into urban settings, many still live in desert camps. Bedouins primarily breed and sell camels, and have also embraced tourism. I visited a touristic camp, experiencing Bedouin hospitality and learning about their culture. However, I chose not to ride a camel, preferring instead to feed and care for the animals, promoting responsible and ethical travel.

The Cats of Israel

Israeli cats deserve a special mention. At the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, I encountered a friendly tawny cat that sought my company. This incident highlighted the country’s love and respect for animals, with laws in place to protect them from harm. The compassion shown towards this cat was heartwarming and indicative of a broader cultural attitude.

Conclusion

Israel is a land of contrasts, where ancient history meets modern life, and natural wonders coexist with vibrant cities. From the tranquil Dead Sea and the majestic Negev Desert to the rich cultural experiences and the warm hospitality of its people, Israel offers a journey like no other. Whether you’re drawn to its historical sites, natural beauty, or unique adventures, Israel is a destination that promises to captivate and inspire.

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