After our night out in Eilat, we hopped on the bus the next morning still a bit hung over. Most of the time spent on the bus was either in a state of fatigue, residual intoxication, motion sickness, excitement, impatience or some kind of combination of the aforementioned.
This was on Sunday, January 26th, which also ended up being one of my favorite days of the entire trip.
We started the morning with a canyon hike in Mount Tzfahot:
Descending Mount Tzfahot was a bit unnerving at parts, but nothing too daunting. I’ve never really hiked in a place where there was absolutely no greenery, just rock, dirt and sandy mountains for miles and miles. You realize how miniscule you feel in a place that empty.
Afterwards, we went to the Red Sea to snorkel. Instead, I opted out and took this as an opportunity to sit and enjoy a nice cup of coffee on the dock. I mistakenly ordered black coffee, a.k.a. Turkish coffee, which in turn translates to grinds included. Luckily, I had our trip’s body guard help me exchange my liquid grinds with the “Americano” that I should have ordered in the first place. It was then I learned I am not a fan of Turkish Joe.
Afterwards, we headed to Kibbutz Lotan, an ecology-based living community in the middle of the Arava Valley. When you live on a kibbutz, everything is shared – work responsibilities, living quarters, food, etc. The amazing thing about this kibbutz was that absolutely every resource was used and/or reused – nothing was left to waste, not even human waste. The toilets had no way of being flushed; instead, you would shovel dirt and straw into the “black hole of poo” once you were finished with your business. This way, no water was used, and the waste could later be used for other things in and around the area (e.g. to make “mud” mounds).
This kibbutz focused on every little detail of maintaining an organic and sustainable living environment. Some of my favorite examples of this were the solar powered oven (there’s a photo above) and ground lamps scattered around the property. The oven was made of what looked like an old glass case with a mirror attached to the door to reflect sunlight downward onto the food being cooked. The ground lamps were mushroom-shaped and made out of a mixture of mud, straw, and dung. Powered by the sun, the lightbulbs that were affixed underneath the “cap” of the shroom would turn on at night when the sun went down.
Just as the sun began to set, we departed for the Bedouin tents. Bedouins are basically desert dwellers; many in Israel live in the Negev Desert or in Galilee. Back in the day, they would move around in tribe-like fashion. Now, they host not only tourists, but soldiers and other drifters passing through the desert regions.
Arriving just in time for dinner, we sat in groups of 5-6 on the floor of the tent and ate a platter of chicken and beef skewers, hummus, olives, tahina, freshly baked lafah (a type of thin, wrap-like bread), potatoes, vegetables, and rice, all using our hands.
The remainder of the night, we stayed outside of our tent socializing with some soldiers around the fire and absorbing the scent of burnt wood into the clothes that we’d end up wearing for the next 24 hours.
There were a few other Birthright groups that night at the tent who we spoke with as well, exchanging stories of the parts of Israel we had seen in the past few days. It felt surreal meeting and interacting with our peers who had already experienced the places that we were about to see and vice versa. A parallel universe experience.