Israel is a unique place, and although surrounded by many dangers that challenge it every day, it continues to survive against all odds. As a modern country it is still young, stretching from the white snowy slopes of Mount Hermon in the north to the coral beaches of Eilat by the Red Sea. The six hundred kilometers that separate these two locations can be described with tens of thousands of words and millions of stories. The country''s diversity is phenomenal.
The mountains of Edom in the south. Photo: Samuel Willner
I can describe myself as a dreamer; I have seen this country before, but not from the eyes of an Israeli. In the past before I moved here I was only a traveler who saw it from a distance. My journey started more than a two years ago; and up till now, I can say it is only about to begin. Yet, two years is a short time in Israeli history; a history of righteous judges and glorious kings that ruled the ancient land of the Bible. Its story did not start in 1948, but long before. The year 1948 was a milestone; a miracle from heaven. A Diaspora of two millennia was finally coming to its end; the desert was blooming again.
Just short time ago I was asked if I am a desert person because I live in one. Living in the desert definitely changes one’s thinking and builds character. You cannot take anything for granted. As a desert people we are surrounded by dry wilderness and sharp edged, rugged mountains. The settlements in the desert are like oases nurtured by fresh water from the depth of the earth. Before I came here many people of history had passed these places, but because it was dry here they did not stop, but only walked by.
One of them was the famous T.E. Lawrence: most famously known as the “Lawrence of Arabia”, who during the First World War marched with his troops through the deserts from the Dead Sea along the Arava Valley on his way to take over the coastal city of Aqaba from the Ottomans, and to extend the British influence in the Middle East.
On the other hand, I can imagine the hundreds and thousands of caravans that crossed the dry valley on their way to the city of Petra with their camels loaded with precious merchandise from distant places. They were called Nabateans; the ancient people who ruled the desert from their capital of Petra before the Romans conquered the region some two thousand years ago.
Now years have passed. It is my time to walk on these trails in the desolate sand dunes that calmly spread around the border between contemporary Israel and Jordan.
Mount Hermon. Photo: Samuel Willner
The reoccurring winds have made the ancient trails in the sand disappear. In the horizon I see a sand storm approaching that suddenly takes over the clear sky. It thunders; the roaring sound is like from a war; strange in a desert, but yet so powerful. I feel no rain.
This dreamer seems disappointed, but remembers the words of a friend of his who told him about his first years in the deserts after making aliyah from a distant country: “In the beginning I also thought I would see rain, but I have learned: here the dark gloomy skies with thick dark clouds doesn’t necessary mean rain”. The storm is over.
The walk continues; another friend reminds me about the miracle of small details in our lives: “It is not just our routine daily lives. As we just walk around we see beautiful flowers, forests
, a multitude of birds
; the miracle of life. Many times it is the small details that matter the most.”
I stop and think. The many thoughtful words of the President of Israel Shimon Peres come to my mind. In his words “permit me to be a dreamer” I dream for success, peace and health for the State of Israel; without having to hear the sounds of war and terror within and beyond its borders. Israel deserves it.