Life on the Dead Sea

Trip Start Jul 12, 2015
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Israel  ,
Saturday, February 21, 2015

Hopped on a bus for Be'er Sheva which is the capital of the Negev desert region within Israel. My first night was Couch Surfing with a really interesting Israeli guy whose interests were outdoor survival techniques, medicine and generally finding shortcuts to life.  He was 23 and had plans for retiring in 15 years time.  The city itself is just a giant dust ball which the government tried getting people to move to to alleviate the housing issue.

Because I'm so far behind on my blog I have to rush through swaths of it at a time, but feel free to Skype me. 

From Be'ever Sheva I bumped into a friend I had met twice before in Ramallah and in Jerusalem and so we decided to voyage together.  Leaving the city with our stuff we hitchhiked to a junction towards the Dead Sea but we had little luck until a local pulled over, offered us a place to dry off from the rain and some food for lunch.  He lived nearby so drove us there and he was great - a fascinating man who worked for one of the political parties. He must have been early 30s or late 20s and we ended up talking about modern liberalism and ethical issues. He made contact with a friend of his who lived in Arad (a city on the way to the Dead Sea) and once we left he gave me a ring with the go ahead.  We made it to Arad and pulled outside the shopping mall was a small smoke-filled box of a car.  As the son rolled down the window to beckon us over, smoke poured out the car as if opening the door from a steam-room.  Their apartment was very similar, with a dog that had the smoker's cough and blood shot eyes staring back at me.  They were very accommodating and generous, offering to clean our clothes and giving food at every opportunity.  Unfortunately as conversation progressed, the son started probing my views on the political situation with Palestine.  I gave a very ambiguous answer finally ending on the tentative note that I believe in the two-state solution.  Lo and behold I found myself unwittingly entering into a discourse with a defiant advocate of the Jewish right of land from the Sinai, Judea and Samaria, the Jordan Valley and up to Syria.  The feeling of uncomfortably was strong as any wrong move would have resulted in a punch to the face or being chucked out.  His friend came along only bolstering the common racism and jingoism as I slowly shrank into my shell.  I took the opportunity to shower as a natural break of tension that seemed to be accruing as a result of me being quiet and not agreeing at every chance I had.

Michael and I hitchhiked to the Dead Sea, going over an hour too far at first to find a specific spot and then waiting two hours to get a ride back down.  Eventually we found a tucked away hot spring where the only few others were Israelis who clearly knew the good spots.  The hot springs were amazingly warm and within a foot from the sea itself.  Come 4 o'clock we got a lift back to Ein Gedi and from there got a lift with a Russian who couldn't speak any English.  By now you get an idea of who wants to talk and who doesn't.  One of the rides we had to the Dead Sea was by a geologist (who I was later told was quite renowned) who stopped at a viewpoint and gave a run-down of the geology of the Dead Sea.

Next day we were hoping to go to Masada but we woke up to snow. Snow in the desert...I was now amused.  This is the second time they've had snow in winter and is as rare as once every eight years or so.  I had come to get away from the snow and felt a bit like Squidward who sat with a face of disappointment as people were frolicking around me.  I had to give up on the idea of Masada because the roads were closed and the site was unlikely to still be open.  Early afternoon we hitched a lift back to Be'er Sheva and couchsurfed with a student.  Despite already having a place to stay, another couch surfer in Be'er Sheva who I had stayed with before offered us a Shabbat dinner that night.  After going an hour in the wrong direction, we eventually made it there were there was a German and a Peruvian doctor who joined us.  The Peruvian didn't speak a word of English and my Spanish was somewhat limited to profanities and asking for a table for five people at a restaurant and a beer.  The flat was tiny but there was something warming about sitting around a card table in his bedroom using a miscellaneous assortment of sitting facilities.  I made a passing comment about missing Pancake Day only to have strange looks from all round.  In my gap-filled memory, I had to try and conjure up a picture of why eating a pile of pancakes had a religious significance to Christians at this time...then I got a question of the relevance of bunnies in Easter.  At this point I defaulted and said I had nothing to do with it before I began to fabricate an outlandish explanation akin to that of South Park. 
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