The Glory of Tiyul [trip] Two [of three]: The Negev.

For such a small country, Israel is incredibly geographically diverse. From the lush greenery of the North to the Mediterranean beaches of the center and finally to the arid desert of the Negev in the South.

This vast expanse of desert takes up 55% of Israel’s landmass, and barring the city of Be’ersheva as well as a few small towns (including Dimona, where my grandparents live), that landmass is mostly devoid of human life. The Negev’s endless cliffs of yellow-orange stone  shimmer hazily in the sun, the heat already oppressive though it will only get hotter as the summer progresses. Faced with the undulating expanse I am sometimes overcome with reverse claustrophobia; the sky is too vast, the landscape unchanging.

I was in the Negev for a Shabbaton with my friends. A Shabbaton is trip taken over the shabbat. It is essentially the same as any field trip, except that come sundown on Friday night everyone gathers under a gauzy tent wearing dinner-appropriate clothing (desert, shmesert-for shabbat you dress nice) to welcome in the shabbat. I am not a religiously observant person, but I am a lover of beauty- and listening to the sonorous prayers under the desert night sky is an experience not to be forgotten.

The restful shabbat prayers were a fitting culmination to the jam-packed flutter of activity earlier in the day. A hike through the mountains and into a desert pool finished with a trek up a cliff overlooking an ancient monastery carved into the stone.

The hike up and down the mountain is operated by Bedouins. The Bedouins are a nomadic, Arab ethnic group who are divided into clans throughout the desert. Used to the crowds of tourists, they were yelling “Donkey? Donkey?” offering rides up the mountain on these tiny little donkeys wearing beautifully embroidered but heavy looking saddles, while a solitary camel munched on orange peels to the side. I have a soft spot for donkeys, and took way too many photos of the hardy beasts.


The sheer scale of the thing is mind-boggling; How did the monks carve that structure into the stone? what was it like to enter one of the caves hewn from the rock and remain there in solitary confinement, contemplating the universe? the questions jumble on top of each other before being released into the desert air.

Before the sun set, we settled into our campsite overlooking the dead sea. Unfortunately we were too high up to make it down and float (you can only float in the dead sea, the salt content buoys you up) but the view from up there  was a balm for weary eyes.

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The Glory of Tiyul [trip] One [out of three]: Arsuf Beach

“Tiyul” is the Hebrew word for “trip”. Trip doesn’t cover the nuance of the word though. Tiyul is an adventure, an exploration; something you go on; as in, “I am going on Tiyul”.

May is the month of Tiyul. I can wax poetic for pages on the perfection of this month in Israel, the ideal balance between sun-bake hot and cool breeze, the crisp azure of the cloudless sky, the daylight so bright that the most mundane of objects come alive with vibrant hue.

My pal Eitan is a true adventurer and ideal Tiyul companion; combining the right amounts of impulsiveness, curiosity and general world knowledge, it is he who gets me out of bed at 8AM on my day off so that we can hike to the beach.

Arsuf Beach. Kind of the best kept sort-of secret in Israel, it is a beach made exclusive by it’s remote location; one must either drive or hike to a certain spot and then climb down a steep cliff to get to what is perhaps the most pristine beach this side of the Mediterranean. Arsuf is also the name of one of the most wealthy towns in Israel, and those lucky residents have the most incredible villas on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, making me reflect on what good fortune it must be to wake up to one of Nature’s masterpieces.

The beauty of the hike up the cliffs is that for the longest while, you don’t see anything. And then BAM.

It was just so Goddamn beautiful; I felt as though I was  experiencing the color blue for the first time.

Perfect time for Tiyul PB&J sandwiches.

The water was still cold, but transparent all the way down. The beach was rough with broken shells. We spent a long time picking the “good” ones before we realized they were all good and we had no more room in my bag to stuff them in. Sea glass was abundant, even rare colors like brown and blue; something I found exciting since it had been years since I found a nice piece of sea glass. Arsuf is popular with Nudists because of how remote it is; of the maybe 8 people on the beach, 2 were nude. But harmless.

Harmless Nudists.

Paris On My Mind.

I’ll admit I am somewhat of a closeted Francophile.  Or more accurately, a  Parisophile. When I flew to Paris last November for the first time, I was worried that the city would not, could not live up to the inflated expectations in my head. Could any city live up to so much hype?

Turned out, it could.

Paris is so beautiful that the constant grey rain that fell during my stay served only to increase the romance, like the melancholy beauty of an aging starlet.

I left Paris with 300 photos, a sixty Euro jar of foie gras and an abiding appreciation for The City of Light.

Nut Cart

Figures in Stone

The gull was almost as regal as the head he was sitting on.


I love the way the drapery follows the angle of the leg.

Yellow Light

Carousel at Montmartre.

My future living room.

Shop Colors

This toilet paper was on psychedelics.

"No wheely grocery cart should ever be without the handy-dandy BAGUETTE POCKET!"

I wanted to buy one but they were not for sale.

The Beautiful Nudes

At The Louvre

Tassels.

Presenting the Mona Lisa:

A Matter of Taste…

........& Pizza Pasta.