(In words of Emmm)
We were told that we would get bored, so much nothing surrounds this small garden of Ein Gedi. But nothing held some of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen. Who knew the desert could hold so much variety and life. Giant mountains run behind the Kibbutz, cliffs that were made by the African/Syrian rift, giving birth to the Dead sea and the surrounding landscape so long ago the rocks have forgotten. We decided to climb up and scope out the view of the Dead Sea valley. We were met with caution when we told of our plans. “It’s too hot to go on a steep climb” Yep, It was really bloody hot in Ein Gedi. So we were advised by Yair to go at 5am. He then loaded us up with a back pack of water and said if we weren’t back by 3pm he would call a search party. The climb was arduous (for me anyway, Dotahn wanted to run up) but the radiant sunrise through the clouds and the magnificent view upon arrival at the top, that was admired once I got my breath back, was worth the ache in my chest. The desert was beautiful. With it’s sculptural monuments of sand and rock moulded over time by water and wind. Large canyons that look like tiny ripples when seen from so high above. The watercolored silhouettes of the opposing mountain range on the other side of the Dead Sea marking the land of Jordan. A quietness, the sound of the wind was interrupted by our giggles as Dotahn scrutinised me with the video camera as I tried to eat a sandwich. The ants enjoying our visit also as they took off with crumbs.
Much more exploration filled our days. Hikes through many more valleys with hidden springs showering down in waterfalls into hidden pools. So refreshing on a long hot walk, to swim amongst the small fish and tadpoles. Yair took as on many drives around the area. Once to the top of another mountain, the chalky Mt Sodom a different texture and whiter in color to the ones behind the kibbutz and affording a different angle to see the valley rift and the saltiest of seas. Our drives took us to the aforementioned ripples that became towering rock walls with narrow paths at the base of these canyons. Other drives took us to different historical locations for the kibbutz and Israel in general, it seemed every rock has its story. But my favourite tour of Ein Gedi was down to the sea and witnessing how the lowest point on earth created the dangerous but beautiful Sink Holes.
It is illegal to go visit the Sink Holes. So much devastation was brought upon roads and buildings that once existed before they fell through the ground. Many people have unexpectedly been trapped beneath the earth when walking the beach. As the underground caverns empty of water, shrinking the Dead Sea because of the abuse of people, the hollow caverns collapse when the hard salt crust of the surface caves in. But because of the extreme saltiness and minerals of the Dead Sea these holes create fascinating landscapes of colors and patterns.
As we move cautiously across the beach the salty crust crunches under our feet. In places the salt rises up in small hollow mounds and we would stomp on them, enjoying the porcelain like sound it makes like breaking grandmas favourite china. Who knew that salt could sculpt itself into so many strange ways when left to it’s own natural devises. Yair took us to were old machinery lay abandoned, an old dream of electrical power forgotten and left to the whim of salt and time. An absolute jackpot of photographic glory.
Soaking up the peaceful days, disconnected to the rest of the would by an expanse of desert we wondered the gardens admiring the Boabab trees that gave the Little Prince so much trouble on his little planet. Visits to Gil and Efrat in the cool evenings went long into the night as we wove conversations easily skipping from profound to humorous.
Family being a central mission for our visit, Yair took us on another drive. This time on a tour to the home town were Rony and the other Caspi brothers grew up. Stopping first in Tel Aviv at an old cemetery called Trumbeldor, we visited Dotahn’s Great Great Grandparents who travelled across from Besaravia to be laid to rest in the holy land. Next stop was Hertzalia, where the story of Shalom and Miriam Caspi unravelled. Dotahn’s Grandparents travelled from a small shtetl called Yedinitz in the country Besaravia, back then a part of Romania. As young pioneers they were a part of the founders who built Hertzelia, a place they would call home till they died and where they raised their children. We visited them in their graves as well as the house Rony grew up in. Here Rony’s story began, and as it unfolded we were taken around to his kindergarten, primary school and high school. Many other places of importance were covered including the grave of Dotahn’s late Uncle Uzi and Aunt Etty.
The week was almost at an end and plans were being made to travel North. Ohad and his family came to stay and amongst the fun and rukkus of the kids we enjoyed a large family dinner. Eleanor and I were especially excited about the ice cream for desert, an entertaining part of the meal as Omri and Yuli finished theirs looking like ice cream monsters. On the Friday Efrat had a performance at the guest house, and since that small private performance when we first met we had been anticipating seeing her sing with her band. With the Grandparents Yair and Sarele looking after the kids, Gil, Ohad, his wife Hanit, Dotahn and I grabbed front row seats to the show and immersed ourself into night. One of my favourite songs was a strong and beautiful Hebrew song Efrat dedicated to her family.