Greeks learn in order to comprehend.
Hebrews learn in order to revere.

~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Weekend Getaway

Since we’ve been here in Israel, Brad and I have only been able to go on dinner dates or a few half day dates without Denyon. It is a little trickier going away overnight because we don’t have family around to stay with him. However, this past weekend we were able to find a great girl to stay with Denyon for an overnight! Shantra is a new student this semester and is about our age and is absolutely great. She was so excited when we asked her if she’d like to stay with Denyon for a couple days. We were thrilled too. So, we had a little post Valentine’s getaway!

Friday morning we headed down to Ein Gedi (an oasis in the desert near the Dead Sea) and began our “date” hiking in Wadi Arogot. We had hoped to do a little bit of a different hike than what we did, but due to the warning of flash floods, we weren’t able to do the particular hike we’d planned. Instead, we did the most difficult climb we’ve done here in Israel and climbed a total of 1470 feet. It was rough, rocky, slippery terrain and it gave us quite a workout. We definitely could not have done this one with Denyon on our backs so it worked out great that we climbed this mountain just the two of us. The view from the top was amazing with the Dead Sea and the country of Jordan in one direction and the desert everywhere else you could see. After coming back down, we hiked back to a hidden waterfall where we refreshed ourselves in the cool waters of the natural spring and waterfall. It was great!

After that, we hiked through another wadi called Salvadora. It’s named this because at the end of the hike there is an El Salvadora tree that is from South America. It’s the only one in Israel and no one really knows how it got there. It is a massive tree and definitely looks out of place in the desert. Brad had been there previously and wanted me to be able to see it. I’m glad I did.

We then made our way to the Masada guest house where we were staying. We enjoyed the best shower we’ve had here in Israel (you see…our shower in our apartment sometimes has no hot water and the pressure is very weak so we’ve learned to appreciate a really nice shower). The price of the room was worth just the shower! We had a delicious dinner and enjoyed a relaxing evening just the two of us.

The next morning we had big plans to enjoy a day of relaxation and rejuvenation at the Ein Gedi Spa. We were planning on getting a massage, bathing in the hot springs, covering ourselves in Dead Sea mud—the whole bit! Little did we know nature had something different planned for us. On our way to the spa, about one mile from the spa, we were held up by a major flash flood through Wadi Hever. See, in the desert, when it rains in Jerusalem and the hill country, about once a year or every few years, all of the wadi’s (dry riverbeds essentially) flood. It is something you can’t really imagine without seeing because the majority of the time everything is completely dry in the desert. The water was rushing forcefully across the road and there was no way to pass. We missed the beginning of the flash flood by maybe 3-5 minutes because there were only a few cars stopped ahead of us. So for the next two hours, we walked along the raging flood and saw nature’s power at its best. It was so cool to see the water surging from the wadi. It was so powerful. It was easy for us to understand now why flash floods are the number one killer in the desert. It could take you away so quickly if you were caught in the bottom of the wadi! In addition, as we looked north along the Dead Sea, we could see evidence of three or four other wadis also flooding at the same time because there were lines of brown into the Dead Sea from the water flooding into the Sea. We’ve uploaded one of our videos of the flood to the internet and you can view it at

Needless to say, we never made it to the spa. Had we been on the other side of the flood, we would have been stuck between two floods for probably the rest of the day and possibly overnight. The whole weekend Jerusalem was getting hammered with thunderstorms so the floods were not likely to let up for hours and hours. In order to get back home, we had to take the long-cut through the desert and the shephelah…a trek that was almost triple the time it would’ve taken us on typical route.

On our way home, we experienced rain in the desert…another enigma. That just doesn’t happen very often. We also stopped at a site called the stalactite cave which was incredible. As a child, I grew up in southern Indiana where we frequently went to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky on school field trips where the same sort of formation occurs. The phenomenon of limestone stalactite and stalagmite caves is quite incredible and this cave was no exception. Brad had never seen anything like it and I was equally impressed.

We did make it home at about the same time as we’d planned, we just weren’t quite as relaxed as we thought we’d be. All in all, it was a fabulous weekend and we were so grateful to experience something that most people in the world have never seen. Many Israelis have never even experienced a flash flood so we were pretty fortunate. To top off the weekend, we went out to eat at a delicious restaurant that has amazing wings and the best hamburgers we’ve had in Israel. A good hamburger is hard to come by here so Brad, Shantra, and I had no problem downing the whole burger! It was a delicious way to top off and incredible weekend!