by Carla Hashley
Come join us in the Bedouin tents of the Negev of Israel, where we will offer you a few things: camel rides though the terrain, dinner on the sandy carpeted table, sleeping among the desert air, 46 new friends, and probably ending up with at least one song from Aladdin in your head…..I forgot the SAND - plenty of Sand….everywhere.
So picture the Negev. Sunday afternoon, 6 Israelis and 40 Americas load on to some AWESOME camels for what I will assume for most of us is our first camel ride. Corey N. and I had a stead of a beast named….REVENGE… who looked like he was about to bite Adam B.’s backside for a good part of the trip. Ron, Tzvi, Deena and Josh walked with us along the path…and some Bedouin men who I assume were camel handlers…or just fans of birthright bus 157. We then had a talk from the Sheik about his way of life; “ok guys,” and “you know guys” were used at the start of every other sentence. Each side of the tent heard about half of his presentation as he would turn his head to talk…oddly he used a microphone while playing a stringed washboard looking instrument and when he showed us how to grind coffee (which I believe was from Columbia…so international).
So after a climb, some bat/bar mitzvahs, a hike down the mountain, swimming in the Dead Sea, and driving to the tents, I took a nap for the next hour. I’m not sure what the others did but I took the best nap I’ve ever taken while sleeping in a big tent with a dirty foam mat (from now on, it shall be called a Dirty Bum Bed…trademark pending to Josh R.) Now it’s time for DINNER!!! So it’s about time for me to put together my final words and bid you all a wonderful night.
Sitting on some mats, 5 people to a triangle metal table, we waited a dinner of to us what will be true Bedouin nature. Chicken legs, rice, corn on the cob, and hummus (of course), flat bread (I don’t know the real name put got glared at by the woman making it the next morning), and the now standard Israeli spread of pickles, cabbage, and other veggies. Sitting with four guys showed me the ying and yang of the American male: they each made plates out of their napkins while I just held my bread, and at least one released one form of gas while we sat there. Finally, we ended the meal looking on to the sunset with coffee, tea and some sweets before our evening of desert fun started.
The Israelis lead us in some games around the fire, then running the sand (good calf work out), and then the groups broke into Mafia on one side of the fire and birthright unplugged on the other with hits from Weezer and Alanis - other I’m sure but I was busy killing towns people in our Mafia game. I then went to what can nicely be called a bed in a tent surrounded by the smells of camels, the sounds of a campfire sing-along, and the paced breathing of the others who went to bed before me. I’ve been camping before, but this is probably the best. While it had marks of any other camping trip, fire, games, and songs, there were unique and ephemeral elements of being with these friends, Tory’s tale of sleep walking (which would be a fun kid’s book of her going though the dessert), and camels.
While the overall experience has amazing moments, (Rose running from monsters and Amit trying to get a soccer ball down from the top of a tent), the best was something I saw when I woke up at 4 am and walked to the ladies room. The sun was raising over the desert, over the camels, over the palm trees in thick layers of purple, then pink, the yellow to a light blue sky. Not any sky, but an Israeli sky, a sky that I hadn’t seen or experienced anywhere else. It was as if G-D made it only for me to see alone in the desert like so many of the Jews before.