These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Negev Tiyul

Posted on November 9, 2010 by Pious Antic

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This is a cross-post from my personal blog.

The Hebrew word tiyul has no exact translation in English. A tiyul could be a long walk in a city park, a week-long guided bus tour of Israel, or a multi-week backing trip through South America.

Last week, I went on Pardes’ annual tiyul to the Negev region of Southern Israel. We spent three days hiking through various desert nahals. As our guides, Dan and Jamie told us more than once, the English word for nahal is “wadi”, which is actually Arabic (having heard this line multiple times from different guides on different tiyulim, I’m begining to wonder if it’s part of the required curriculum in the Israeli tour guide licensing course).

Between my guides, personal observation and Wikipedia, I’ve learned that a wadi is a dry riverbed, or a valley or canyon formed by intermittent water flow, the Middle-Eastern equivalent of the North American arroyo. Did I mention how much Southern Israel looks like the American Southwest?

Pardes tiyul climbing out of Nahal Yemin(?)

The other fun geography fact I learned on this trip is that geologically speaking, Israel is in Africa. The Syrian-Africa rift, which divides the African plate from the Arabian plate, runs on along the Jordan river valley. Israel lies on the Western side of that valley, placing it solidly on the continent of Africa.

We stayed at Boaz Oz’s bedouin-themed hostel in the moshav of Ein Hatzevah, where the ruggedness of sleeping on on the floor of a big common room contrasts with luxury amenities like a jacuzzi, big pots of hot turkish coffee and bedouin tea, and baskets of dried dates available for guests to eat ad libidum, creating a memorable experience of desert hospitality.

Aside from the hospitality, and hikes with gorgeous views, the highlight of the trip was our visit to a family of Danish Christians living illegally in the desert in antique circus caravans without access to municipal water or electricity, while they wait for the messiah to come over the mountains of Moab (a.k.a. Jordan). In the meantime, the father of the family has written a musical about Masada, which is now performed annually at the archeological park. I couldn’t find any images of the musical on the internet (although I found plenty of images of a RIVAL Masada musical), but here’s a view of Masada itself, as seen from the ruins of a Roman fortification dating back to the famous siege, which we hiked to on the last day of the tiyul.

Overlooking Masada

If the whole situation with the Danish Christians wasn’t surreal enough, their nearest neighbors, just a few yards down the road, run a crocodile farm, where hundreds of the animals are raised for skin and meat.

Crocodile Farm