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The Springs of Ein Gedi
The Springs of Ein Gedi

The Springs of Ein Gedi

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The Springs of Ein Gedi

At the top of the cliffs and to our right we could just see the great and mighty peaks of Masada. The place that history defines as a place of blood. It was also a place related to a fervent love of God and inevitably, a place of ultimate physical death. The sun was very low in the sky and we sat on a rocky ledge and wondered how it was that we ended up here.

'Do you think the kibbutz will miss us?' Will said.

I shook my head, gazing out at the faint dying reflection of the dead sea.

'No, it's a Saturday, our day off, they will probably just think we're both drunk or something'.

We had set off from the small kibbutz situated at the north western top of the dead sea just after 10.a.m., the walk through the empty dried up river beds to the shores of the salted water had led us on towards our destination of Ein Gedi and it's famous freshwater springs. With our scruffy green backpacks stuffed with bread and apples and bottled water we had walked casually through the morning and early afternoon sunshine along the edge of the dead sea and arrived at the oasis of Ein Gedi just after 2pm. Once we'd arrived we both rested and slept in a small grassy area beneath the steps that led up to the nature reserve.

We spoke briefly of how we would get back to the kibbutz and I mentioned that I fancied sleeping up on the top of the cliff so as to have the wonderful view to behold when the sunrise broke. Will grunted and I realized I had spoken not out of common sense or practicality, but out of a certain sense of bravado. For the nights could be cold outside, it was still springtime here.

He munched on some slices of the slightly stale bread, his face was impassive, thoughtful.

We set off up the steps of the nature trail that led to the source of the freshwater spring and breathed in the warm air. Tourists from many countries were visiting, their different dialects and language bounced excitedly off the rocky exteriors of the upwards winding path that snaked on. Ein Gedi was a significant place for visitors, those sightseeing and those seeking wider biblical connections.

For thousands of years Ein Gedi had been a life source of freshwater in these dry and arrid regions. It was mentioned in The Old Testament, in the book of Chronicles, Genesis, and Joshua. In 1971 Israel declared the area around it a nature reserve. We walked and climbed the inclination of the well trodden path steadily. When we reached the spring we splashed each other joyfully as the bemused but smiling tourists looked on. It felt good to be there, there was a sense of achievement within us.

We walked on towards the higher ground and as the path rounded a final bend we were at the top. The view was mesmerizing, the glint of the dead sea almost winking at us as it sat in the valley between the rusty mountains of Jordan and Israel. We got close to the edge where a wire fence had been put up to prevent tourists from endangering themselves. It was a significant drop down to the road, a drop of almost two hundred and fifty metres or so. I noticed a flat rocky outcrop below us, it was accessible and had a small overhang under which we could find shade and sit and look out at the biblical vista. We carefully moved down to it, having to pass our small backpacks through the fence before we could negotiate the wire ourselves. We crawled under the overhang and rested our backs against the smooth rock behind us. We could stretch our legs out and there was space enough.

For a few minutes we just sat and then Will said 'that is so beautiful'. I nodded as I looked out in the same direction. We were transfixed by a type of ancient wonderment at what we beheld. There was a sense of divinity about the whole place, officially we were gazing down at the lowest part of the Earth, there was certainly a great significance to this place.

It was the perspective of everything that resonated deep within my own being. The rocky ridges that framed the spectacular arena of this biblical landmark. What hand had forged such a thing? As I gazed into the distance I envisaged the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah and their destruction by fire. The purge of a perverted people, the total annihilation of a depraved society. It was a story well known and well read.

Lost in my thoughts, in the calm warm air I slept.

When I woke it was darker. Will was drinking from his water bottle and as I turned to him he wiped his mouth with his arm and said 'be dark soon'.

The sky had shaded as I had slept, the soft colour of a distant indigo veil had begun to seep around the edges of the horizon and the air seemed sharper than the hazy humid space that had buffeted our climb to the ridge where we now sat.

Still in between the realms of wakefulness and sleep I said instinctively 'We should sleep here, then go back in the morning'.

'Do you think the kibbutz will miss us?' Will said.

I shook my head, gazing out at the faint dying reflection of the dead sea.

'No, it's a Saturday, our day off, they will probably just think we're both drunk or something'.

He gazed across at me and smiled, his teeth slightly crooked at the front but his eyes a clear blue.

The sky became a shadow from heaven and the stars began to fill the canvass above us, as they did so we talked of our lives and our dreams as young men. Will wanted to travel and see so much more of the world and we spoke in rhythms of youthful joy through the changing air as the mountain began to shoulder against the cold and the temperature dropped until we realized that we were going to suffer.

'It's bloody cold' said Will and I nodded shivering. We had only our shorts on and a soft sweater each that we had placed over our t-shirts, there was nothing to protect us from the icy night.

Around one o' clock in the morning we were huddled together sitting on the bag we had brought with us.

It was then that the real cold seemed to begin and sleep proved almost impossible. But I stared up at the canopy of stars and my mind was filled with stories and wonder. Across The Dead Sea I could see very faint yellow lights from small villages and occasionally below on the road a car passed with glaring headlights that seemed from another world. This place was ancient, it was historic, it was resonant as a place of God's enactment to his creations.

It felt okay to suffer to see and experience it in its raw true splendour, in some ways it just heightened the experience for me. I ached with the cold though and Will with his head tucked into his shoulder and his arms hugging his legs close to his body, began to murmur almost incoherently. I thought he was dreaming and I wished him pleasant sleep, escape from the factor of cold that had begun to numb our legs and faces.

But suddenly he stood up 'That's it, I am out of here' he said loudly and began to scramble up the rock strewn edge back to the vantage point at the top of the trail. 'Will' I said 'wait a minute...' but he had gone, I could hear his movements and the pace of his feet against the trail as he descended manically back down to the tarmac road where he would head on towards the kibbutz a good eight miles away.

He hadn't waited, he hadn't wanted to wait, at the zenith of discomfort he had left the ledge of rock that faced a gash in the Earth, that faced the story of the lowest realms of mankind and Gods wrath of justice. Perhaps it was the intensity of this place, the naked brutal mountains and the water devoid of all life, so salt ridden that it could speak only of death. Most probably it was just the cold and I said a silent prayer for Will and imagined that he would jog most of the way back along the tarmac and perhaps reach the kibbutz by sunrise.

My legs became unfeeling and though I slept sporadically it was always the cold that woke me up. Finally after what I'd reckoned to be a good couple of hours I knew that I needed to move my body. I needed to get my blood circulating properly again.

I stood up painfully and stretched out my arms. Jogging on the spot I began to feel my body warm up and with a gradual sense of momentum springing forth I climbed back to the top of the trail and gradually wound my way back to the entrance of the Nature Reserve.

I had no water nor food and once I had clambered over the metal gate I was met by a streak of dark tarmac that melded into the night. A half moon was high in the sky and reflected a piece of the expanse of salt water in front of me. I edged forward to place my feet upon the road which would lead me back to the kibbutz. I stood there in the middle of the road reluctant to move, my eyes surveying the canvass of a certain dark world all around me. It was a beautiful world though, a mysterious ancient paradoxically beautiful world. A world that my young heart still naively wanted to embrace.

The stars were bright and the half moon hung silently like a low energy light bulb from heavens ceiling. It was a strange moment, in the hours just before the dawn there I was alone, stood on a road at one of the lowest points on the earth in a cold dark silence. I did not move for a number of minutes until I was shivering. To my left was the road to the kibbutz and to my right was an unknown. I wanted to remain in the strange resonance of this cold night, just as the ancient persecuted Jewish people would have remained as they sat atop the peak of the mighty mountain of Massada as enemies sought them. Their enemy then was in the face of the Romans but the enemy of righteousness didn't need a face anymore, it was everywhere. I said out loud 'what on earth are you doing?' and the words disappeared into the darkness. I started to laugh spontaneously and the laughter came in bursts as my shivers brought spasms of tension to contend with. Then I turned to my right and walked.

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24 Feb, 2017
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9 mins
4.0 (1 review)

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