August 17, 2011 -- After two and a half weeks working at Kibbutz Lahav I finished washing my last dish and dodging my last grad rocket and decided to head south via bus from Beersheba to Israel's Grand Canyon -- the small town of Mitzpe Ramon overlooking the massive Ramon Crater/Makhtesh.
The bus traveled through the heart of the Negev desert of southern Israel, stopping at Kibbutz Sde Boker and Midreshet Ben-Gurion along the way. This area is where the graves of founding Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion and his wife Paula are located. It was Ben-Gurion's dream for Jews to settle the arid Negev, writing:
When I looked out my window today and saw a tree standing before me, the sight awoke in me a greater sense of beauty and personal satisfaction than all the forests that I have crossed in Switzerland and Scandinavia. For we planted each tree in this place and watered them with the water we provided at the cost of numerous efforts. Why does a mother love her children so? Because they are her creation. Why does the Jew feel an affinity with Israel? Because everything here must still be accomplished. It depends only on him to participate in this privileged act of creation. The trees at Sde Boker speak to me differently than do the trees planted elsewhere. Not only because I participated in their planting and in their maintenance, but also because they are a gift of man to nature and a gift of the Jews to the compost of their culture.
Midreshet Ben-Gurion is also home to the Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center, which is operated by the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research.
Riding the bus through the isolated desert, I really started to understand how much Israelis of all backgrounds rely on the buses to get to their destinations. Along the way we picked up college students, kibbutzniks, IDF soldiers, Bedouin villagers and military prison guards. Sadly only a couple of days later the very same bus route I took from Beersheba to Mitzpe Ramon was ambushed by terrorists near Eilat. Eight innocent people were murdered and over 30 were wounded in the attacks.
In Israel a cowardly act of terrorism does not stop citizens from engaging in simple acts such as boarding a bus. I would recommend Israel's excellent intercity bus system to any visitor traveling within the country. Boarding the bus is just one of many quiet acts of defiance that define this great country.
Here is video of the bus ride from Beersheba to Mitzpe Ramon.
Here are photos of the bus ride from Beersheba to Mitzpe Ramon. Click here for the Flickr set.