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(photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
The pristine Judean desert provides the setting for a selection of family-orientated excursions and workshops throughout July and August. "Hot Summer in the Judean Desert," a joint initiative of the Gush Etzion municipality and the Nature and Garden Authority, aims to instill a love of the area in adults and children alike by offering them a chance to bond with nature on a variety of levels.
Those looking for an adventurous way to experience the outdoors can choose from an impressive array of jeep tours. One of these, "Following the Sun," provides an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular sight of the sun setting over the Dead Sea. Beginning in Gush Etzion at 4 p.m. this Thursday, the trip stops at A Rogim a Naka, the site of an old Jordanian police station, and moves on to an eagle-feeding station before arriving at the Dead Sea. The evening ends with a sample of Beduin hospitality at the Metzukei Dragot camp. Night owls can enjoy a moonlit ride through Ein Gedi on August 10. "White Night in the Judean Desert" leaves Gush Etzion at 8 p.m. and finishes in Arad at 2 a.m. Participants must have access to their own jeeps.
An ancient Herodian fortress in the north of the Judean desert will come alive through a lively guided tour, part of a hike that runs every Friday until the end of August. The excursion incorporates a crawl through the longest cave in Israel and a walk along the Tekoa River, retracing the footsteps of biblical prophets and the monks who followed in their wake. The fortress is also the site of a haunting, candle-lit reading of "Lamentations" on the evening of Tisha Be'av (Wednesday, August 2).
Families can take advantage of a series of organized night safaris to catch a glimpse of goats, deer and other desert animals in their natural surroundings. Horseback rides under the stars provide another way to experience the desert by night.
A selection of holistic workshops aimed at those hoping to develop a more intense connection with their surroundings will also be offered. Against the tranquil backdrop of the Dead Sea, participants learn to appreciate and internalize the sights and sounds of the desert through a selection of meditation and holistic exercise workshops.
Details and registration at (052) 834-7211.