THE NEGEV! Camels, Bedouin tribes, a wide array of wild life, dry ‘wadis’ (deep creeks), sand and hot winds…these are some of the images that arise in our imaginations…the imaginations of those of us who have not lived in and known the desert named the Negev. There are other images that arise according to the things that we who love The Lord and know His Word have read; We know that the desert HAS blossomed and that there are now steams in the desert…we pray along with David who knew the Negev so well and cried out “As the deer pants for the water, so my heart longeth for Thee.” We have read of a dry and thirsty land where there is no water and the promises that HE will pour HIS (LIVING) water out upon it. This is the place that my husband and I chose to visit…to witness for ourselves.
I mentioned that my husband and I have NEVER (in our more then 40 years together) done anything like this…not even taking a honeymoon. Those of you who know us long, and through these years of being planted in our new ancient land, know that we have been very tired…exhausted really. I would have been very happy with a week to simply clean my house, which is dreadfully in need of my attention. But we have found that our children leaving has actually been traumatic and we needed to get our bearings. Since my husband has NOT been walking with The Lord for quite awhile, the approaching holidays with no family seemed to loom in front of us like a huge black cloud. I prayed for direct guidance. ‘Lord, show me a way to walk through this toward Your victory!’ Just about that time two things happened: My boss told me that I still had a week vacation that I needed to use before the first of Jan. (all I could think of was a clean house!) Also, we received a gift. The idea of going away for a couple of days sprouted and grew and I finally presented it as a ‘gift’ to my husband. To my surprise he was pleased and suggested that we go south to the desert. I have longed to go to the desert. I have been there twice: once with my ulpan (language class) more then 18 years ago. We went to the beautiful Mitzpe Ramon crater…a breathtaking sight. I went there once again with friends who were visiting from abroad, and I road down with them for a day trip, but was so tired that time that I slept most of the way!
The Negev begins basically at Be’er Sheva (pronounced in most English Bibles ‘Beer Sheba’) The name means ‘seven wells’ and is named after the wells that Avraham (Abraham) dug in the area. It is a huge area and is North of the Sinai Desert which is now in Egyptian possession. Our army has a lot of bases throughout the area that represents about HALF of our country’s land mass! Our weather reports have reported rains from the north to the Negev, but it turned out that they have not yet received the rain. When it does rain, there are flash floods that literally FILL the deep wadis apparently very dramatically. Each year people are rescued from the flash floods and some do loose their lives as the water comes up so quickly and almost without warning. When the rains come, the plant life INSTANTLY bursts into dramatic bloom. We did not witness it this trip but hope to some day. The Negev is indeed home to many Bedouin tribes and also to many kibbutzim, towns, farms and ranches. For all of that, it is still a sparse population and as we drove south from Be’er Sheva, the stress just literally rolled off of us. We had initially looked for a place (according to friends’ recommendations) at Mitzpe Ramon, but were unable to get rooms for the days that we planned to go. I continued to pray. The only remaining place that I could locate with my very limited understanding of ordering a room on the web, was at Sde Boker Vineyard Farms (in English…the Hebrew would translate as Boker River Farm). The photos looked ok, but ofcourse they were not going to put photos on their ad that didn’t! Armed with our map and the prayers of a wife, we located a sign in the wilderness with an arrow. We followed a dirt road to an electric gate with a sign telling us to ‘call this number to enter’. I called…no answer. We waited and called again. Uh oh! We left, but it was only about 10 minutes before they called us and asked what we wanted. THANKFULLY, they confirmed that we had reservations and could return.
The gates opened and our first impression was…well…’TUNDRA’! Ok. Some of you don’t know that we are from Alaska. Our weekly newspaper (when we lived in bush Alaska) used to have an illustrated column that taught one word in Yupik (the Native tongue). The ONLY one that I remember showed an Eskimo man ice fishing through a hole and his wife comes up to him and says “What have you caught?” He makes a ‘0’ with his fingers and says ‘TUNDRA!’ (nothing!) It was very funny and so we remembered it. We looked at each other as we drove into our desert dwelling and both said ‘TUNDRA!’ and laughed. Laughing is good. We haven’t done much of it lately. As we walked to our hut we asked where we could get something to eat. Our young host stopped and thought; ‘Is this Wed.?’ he asked. We assured him it was. He said ‘No restaurants on Wed. Only on weekends. You can probably buy some food at the gas station in Sde Boker…IF they are still open. I think they close at 4 so you had better hurry. We have breakfast here though.’ He brought us up to our cabin. It was COLD (like our apartment) and my husband asked ‘Is there any heat?’ He flipped a switch and a heater came on. We smiled. NICE! We can live with that. There was a small refrigerator, microwave and electric pot (kumkum). No t.v.-no radio-no phone-… I smiled and relaxed even more. ‘There are some games in that box’ he said pointing to a box with dominoes and games like that. ‘Oh! I almost forgot! The jacuzzi!’ We walked down a small hill and there under a thatched lean-to was an outdoor jacuzzi. Now, I am not a jacuzzi fan…actually I have only had contact with them twice…but it was so silent and still there that it looked delightful. ‘Do you have y-fi?’ (internet hook up, for the technically limited…like me) My husband asked. ‘If you go back down to the bunk house, there is a red chair. If you sit on THAT CHAIR…SOMETIMES you can get reception.’ I LIKED this place! We ran off to get some noodles to boil down the road and came back to discover more about our surroundings. We had hot running water on demand. That was a real plus, (we don’t have it at home) but I wasn’t sure if my husband was as pleased as I was. This was NOT a ‘luxury hotel’. ‘You know…we can always just leave and drive down the road.’ I said. ‘Well…let’s wait till morning.’ He suggested. After our dinner he suggested a jacuzzi, so out we went. Under the silence and with a canopy of stars, in the warm water, we began to thaw and really relax. After a deep 12 hour (yes…when I say TIRED, I mean TIRED!) sleep, we woke to a crowing rooster, as we had done for so many of our younger years. I could hear horses neighing, but nothing else. I looked out over the desert and prayed ‘Lord, give me YOUR Eyes to see what You have placed here for me to learn. Give me Your eyes to see the beauty. Please don’t let me miss a thing.’
And He answered that prayer.
After a farm breakfast in an open (cold!) hut, we started walking over the hills and into the wadis. Our eyes became accustomed to the beauty of each rock and we began to pick out more interesting ones. We found that the Negev is not sand, but ROCKS. Serious ROCKS! We heard a donkey and watched 4 Bedouin children with neither saddle nor bridle trying to round up a stray goat. The oldest child on the front lead the donkey and the next older on the far back switched him to make him go faster. Between the two older ones, they pinned the 2 smaller ones safely in between them. We delighted to watch them!
During our two nights and 3 days we drove to Mitzpe Ramon, explored the Nabatean excavations at Avdat along the ancient Spice Route that is so full of history (the 3 wise men from the east likely took this route when they followed the star) and which also is such a part of the ‘Back to Jerusalem’ vision among the Chinese believers. I was blessed to see the very scriptures that I had read that morning in Isaiah on the desk in Ben Gurion’s home in Sde Boker identified as some of the scriptures that he kept on his desk through the years. But our BEST times just came in walking quietly in the desert, observing, listening, and breathing in the hugeness of it all. He is so very very good to ‘confirm His inheritance when it is weary!
We spoke to the young siblings who were running the farm…a girl in her early twenties perhaps and a brother who is scheduled to go into the army in March. They told us that their parents usually run the place with them but their parents had taken a year off and were riding bikes across Europe. We were deeply touched to see these young people left with the responsibility of caring for a vineyard, horses and chickens as well as bed and breakfast guests and cleaning and maintaining cabins! Pretty impressive! But then we were impressed with the quality of the people who live in the Negev in general. They appear to be strong, passionate and practical in a unique combination. We talked about moving down there…but we realized that we are just too old to begin again in this manner…just not physically strong enough anymore. In my heart of hearts as well, I am committed to my fellowship and would have to know that it was The Lord opening the door!
All too soon it was time to return to the city, but we have been deeply blessed. I wish I could say that my husband used this occasion to find his way back to The Lord, but there is no outward move that I can share yet. He Who works in our hearts IS All-powerful and Almighty.
My husband HAS asked me to ask all of you if any of you from our ‘past’ (Alaska or California) are coming for the prayer conference? Please let us know if you are??
Thank you for enduring my ‘travelogue’! Thank you so much for your prayers and your friendships. Thank you for your letters, for the cards that we received, and for love that is such a reflection of HIM! May God bless each of you in this new year with more and more of HIS Presence. May He keep us all in the center of the path ahead as it grows narrower and darker. May we discern what is HIM and what is NOT and choose HIM at every turn. And may we have the fire of our first love lit afresh with a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit! God bless you and keep you, dear dear friends. Lovingly, your sis here.