Hiking in the Desert! An Israeli Experience

May 29, 2013
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Photo Credit: Jeanette van der Merwe

Did you know that there are thousands of amazing places to hike in Israel? Israel has been called “a trekker’s paradise” with its myriad of established trails. The Israel National Trail, which runs about 600 miles (1,000 km) from the green mountains of northern Galilee to the desert country of Eilat, won a place on National Geographic’s list of twenty of the world’s best hikes. In determining which trails were chosen, the National Geographic said, “We looked for walks that travel deeper into a location’s history and culture.”

Israelis love to hike, instilling a love of the land in their children, exploring their country’s rich history, and reaffirming their deep rootedness to their ancient homeland. Schoolchildren, families, and yes, tourists too can all be found on Israel’s trails. Would you like to join them? If you listen closely, you can hear in your mind the voice of your Israeli tour guide saying, “Let’s go for a walk…” and your heart leaps as you imagine the things you are about to enjoy.

A walk in Israel is just a little different from others you may have taken. You are going to walk, looking through the context of the Bible! You may walk along modern streets that follow the paths of ancient Roman roads. The guide may point out a pile of rocks that are all that remain of an ancient city. Or you may even visit a stream that follows the same path it did thousands of years ago. In Israel, a hike isn’t just about exercise and adventure—it is an opportunity to learn about biblical history or to experience the country on foot, just as Israelites of long ago did. Today I’ve chosen to take you hiking with me in the wilderness.

Let’s Get Ready!

Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com

 Israel’s desert can be unforgiving to those who have not taken the time to prepare. Do you have good hiking shoes? And some water to drink? The overnight hike we are planning means you’ll want to stuff your pack with all the things you will need for the next twenty-four hours. Let me suggest a flashlight, a warm jacket, some food, and anything else you will need badly enough to carry with you. Don’t bring any unnecessary items though, since everything will have to be carried on your back.

There are millions of stones in Israel…billions maybe. It will seem that every one of them is scattered on the trail ahead. Walking will be a little challenging. Part of the way is uphill. Part of the trail leads down. All of it is strewn with rocks that attempt to roll when you step forward. You’ll need steady feet, strong ankles, and sturdy shoes. A walking stick may be useful too.

Experiencing the Desert

Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com

So, off we go! The path leads down into a seemingly dry canyon. This is called a “wadi” in Arabic and a “nakhal” in Hebrew. It winds around and down and seems to go on forever. There is evidence that water has flooded this canyon not too long ago. You listen, wondering if there may be a distant roar of water, on its way to fill the canyon to the top again. Now it’s time to stop and take a drink of the precious water you have in your pack and enjoy five minutes of blissful rest before we continue.

The guide stops to point out a tiny flower. You notice a small white snail shell and ask about its living environment. Is it evidence of an ancient sea here? No, it is evidence of the tenacity of life in the desert! In this seemingly barren environment, there are so many things to see. We look inside a cave and observe evidence that Bedouin shepherds have recently taken shelter there. Then someone sees a wild camel eating a thorny bush. The thorns are more than an inch long and the camel just eats them! How in the world can she eat them and not get one stuck in her tongue? You wonder, does she enjoy them? Our camel doesn’t give us any answers—she just continues to munch and then ambles on over the hill.

Photo credit: www.bridgesforpeace.com

Eventually, the sun begins to set and we find a flat place on a rise in a bend of the canyon. It’s time to set up camp and prepare for our evening meal. Tonight we’re in for a treat as our meal is supplied by some local Bedouins. They have salads, salty cheeses, tehineh (sauce made from sesame paste) and houmous (dip made from chickpeas). It’s a feast! They toss a huge mat on the ground and unroll it. This is where we’ll sleep. They also have a pile of thin mattresses so we don’t have to sleep on the rocks…well, not exactly on the rocks anyway.

Now it’s time for the best part of the day. The fire is lit. The stars are out. It is quiet—so quiet. If you listen carefully, you may hear the sound of God’s voice in the silence of the desert. It was in the desert that God spoke so many times to His people. Israelis today are still being drawn to enjoy the wonders of their Promised Land. Aren’t you glad you joined us for this very Israeli experience?

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 2013)

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