Thursday, August 9, 2012

From Beer Sheva To The Ramon Crater: The Negev (Desert), Israel: A Photographic Journey

While on one hand not having my iPhone allowed me to be apart from social media and fully enjoy the experiences in Israel, on the other hand I felt handicapped. As in the case of Beer Sheva. We were taking a trip down south to The Negev/The Desert in Israel, and unlike Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with abundance of dining options, here it would have been nice to arrange in advance an authentic meal at a Bedouin tent or have an iPhone to tweet and request some foodie recommendations of the best schawarma or falafel in town.
I had it all planned out. To have a dairy, cheese platter with assortment of salads, lunch, at this tiny artisanal goat farm's restaurant in The Negev, Kornmehl, which I read about in various publications. Their cheeses are prized by top restaurant chefs in Tel Aviv and incorporated by Chef Meir Adoni of the famed Catit restaurant in Tel Aviv into a dinner he put together at The James Beard House. Only thing, the restaurant was closed.
With no plan B in sight, all I could do is make a few phone calls on my borrowed cell to my handful of contacts I saved. Eventually I got to one of my cousins, who grew up in Beer Sheva, but is living in Tel Aviv for many years now. She googled, as I would, and came up with some suggestions. Bed and Breakfast restaurants nearby were closed, they often operate only on weekends. Eventually she came up with a mainstream name we were familiar with, so we went. A nice prelude. The bread and spicy tomato salad were the highlights.
We swung by the Beer Sheva Shuk (Market). For future reference, a separate Bedouin Market operates on Thursdays, but we were there I believe on a Monday.
Can't really tell from this photo but the red in the watermelon in Israel is insanely deep.  
Typical mishmash of fresh produce stalls next to shops selling Nargilas (Hookahs) among other things.
The sign says the eggs are fresh from a Moshav (farm).
I love this snapshot. I only photograph with permission. A strong jaw, structure, the natural pose. The salmon against the dark shirt and the background patina hues playful with the color composition in this photo. This is one of my favorite photos out of Israel.
Speaking of Kornmehl, the dairy goat farm, we called that morning. A young guy answered and said they are open to sell cheeses but the restaurant is closed. When we arrived, the gate at the bottom of the dirt hill road was locked with a large lock and chains. Somehow we managed to get in and buy some cheeses my sister served later on that week with an Israeli breakfast spread. I admire the Kornmehls. They are packing their kids and going on a sabbatical in Australia, at the end of this year. They are sizing down their operation considerably but having their friends operate the restaurant while they are gone.
It's mating season so the male goats are in the pen with the females.
There are many gems such as the Kornmehl's Cheese Farm strewn throughout the desert in Israel. Some vineyards and artisanal breweries and an abundance of artisanal cheese dairy farms. There is camel milk, domestication of camels, herb farms, organic dates, organic crops to be imported to Europe and last but not least bedouin hospitality.
Some hospitality beneath the grapevines. I would love that teapot and the Moroccan glasses as props.
This swing overlooks some of the views below.
Just down the road is Kibbutz Sde Boker (Morning Field), the retirement home and the burial grounds of Israel's first Prime Minister and Defense Minister David Ben Gurion and his wife Paula. It was Ben Gurion's dream to make the desert bloom, and as you can tell from the photos, this oasis is indeed green and the desert is flourishing.
National Park: Paula and David Ben Gurion: Burial Ground: Israel National Park
Sde Boker and the burial grounds overlook a breathtaking views of The Tzin Rift. We arrived around 4:30 - 5:00 pm when hiking through the rift was forbidden, closed. The Ibex were migrating down to The Tzin stream (dry during the summer) to feed and the hiking part of the, shall we say canyon, was out of bounds.
In my entire life including multiple trips throughout the area I have never encountered so many Ibex. Maybe got a glimpse of an elusive one here and there in the past. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, by pure chance, as the overlook burial grounds and The Ben Gurion Heritage Museum were still open to the public. I think we saw at least 30 Ibex that day. It was an incredible sight and experience especially against this majestic backdrop of mother nature.
There is much agricultural  research and development going on in The Negev ( Desert). I was short of time and really wished to take it all in and enjoy, not rush. An excuse to go back!
We drove further south to The Ramon Crater. Its geological formation is quiet fascinating, the largest of its kind in the world. Read about it in the link. My sister wanted to go rock climbing or snapelling as we call it, just like the folks in the photo below. Just to be clear, we didn't. Maybe some other (life) time.
We curved down the road and drove right into the crater to a place called The Carpentry. It is a phenomena.  This is what's written about it in Wikipedia "In the center of the makhtesh (crater) is Ha-Minsara (The Carpentry Shop), a low hill made up of black prismatic rocks, and interestingly, the rectangular pipes on the side of the hill are made of the same sort of sand found on beaches. As such, this is the only place in the world where prisms made of heated sand turned into liquid which, in cooling naturally formed rectangular and hexagonal prisms, can be seen. These prisms lost no space in the middle during formation."
We didn't make it to The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, that day, but stopped by in Arad, at my aunt's for a coffee break on our way back up north.

36 comments :

  1. Gorgeous photos. Makes me wish I went with Craig when he went a couple of years ago. Now Israel is on my must visit list.

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    1. Thank you Pam. You definitely should & this is not even covering main places like The Dead Sea which is nearby. I regret not making it there this year.

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  2. Incredible photos of this special journey. I can't believe all the Ibex you saw! yes, I would love that teapot and not for props,just to look at because it is beautiful. The produce all looks incredible. Love this post!

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    1. I know right?! True, not just as props! :) J & I went with two of my sisters.

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  3. I would go on holiday with you ANYWHERE. What fantastic photos and I have to agree with you on the photo of the man and the salmon.

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    1. Come on over, let's! In fact I need to make it your way!! :) TY Maureen!

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  4. What an amazing trip, Shulie. Thanks for sharing these stories and wonderful pictures! Linda@RSY

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    1. TY Linda. Was fun. After few days of jetlag getting back into the realm of things.

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  5. What a beautiful trip. I feel honored that I get to see these photographs. From the food to the dozens of fresh eggs to the locals and the ibex...all stunning shots. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thx sweetest Monet. Makes me happy you enjoying the Israel posts.

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  6. A lovely bread!

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures with us! Definitely a country I'd love to visit.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. I would love to see your photos out of Israel Rosa.

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  7. Wonderful post on one of my favorite places in Israel. I lived in Beer Sheva for five years and hiked extensively in the Negev region. Last spring we traversed the Ramon Crater with the family on our Israel Trail walk. Still there are things left to explore like the Kornmehl dairy I've never been to yet.
    Ibex are incredible animals. There was a drought in the Negev this year and why the Ibex are foraging inside the city limits.

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    1. Thanks Sarah. Yes, what an incredible journey you and your family took on the Israel trail. I followed your steps. We also went to The Argan oil farm. A very nice guy, Yoni. I will tell you about it later. The guy at the Argan oil told us the Ibex feed at this hour and migrate down to the 'canyon' but the drought explains the sighting too. I also think some of the visitors to the Paula and David Ben Gurion site feed the animals. We haven't witnessed it and the animals looked very healthy and not desperate mostly traveling down into the rift.

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  8. What a stunning round up of your journey! Israel is topping my list after your post. It has surely become a must visit. Thanks for sharing your experience, Shulie.

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    1. Aww An. Go when I am back there visiting too! :)

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  9. Correction to my post the name of the Kibbutz Sde Boker..Boker has two meanings morning and cowboy. In 1949 n American volunteer conceptualized the idea of building in the area, where the kibbutz stands now, a Texan style cowboy ranch The idea was rejected at the time, but a cooperative was established in 1952. Intonation of boker - morning is different than boker - cowboy, though the word is identically spelled. I thought about some more and looked into it.

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  10. What a wonderful post!!! Israel is a land I have not visited and frankly don't know too much about. Your post has me incredibly intrigued though. My girlfriend has spent a great amount of time there and I've enjoyed hearing about her travels as well, which overlapped just a bit with yours.
    I know what you mean about not having the phone!! Yes, a blessing and a curse. I did really enjoy being "unplugged" for a wile, but missed sharing things as I went along and yet, the research aspect was tough too.
    Welcome home! And thanks for this post!

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    1. TY Kim. Funny thing The Grand Canyon always seems exotic to me and indeed it is majestic. These scenes are just part of Israel I grew up on. :) Well put "unplugged" once in awhile I need to do that by choice! :)

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  11. My goodness, what amazing photos, Shulie! Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us...I almost feel like I was there with you! And isn't it weird how tech dependent we've become just in the last couple years? I was visiting my parents last week and they don't have a computer at their home...so odd to unplug even for a few days.

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    1. Hi Lizzy. Thanks on coming on the trip with me even if only virtually! We did, didn't we?!

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  12. So beautiful, Shulie! I remember bring in the Negev in the summer of 1977 and seeing in the distance a lush, green oasis of a farm and it was magnificent! Thanks for bringing back these memories. Now I need to go back. The restaurants and farms and the food - a whole new world to discover.

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    2. My pleasure Jaime. Things have changed since 1977 but landscape stayed the same. So many more culinary options though

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  13. thanks for taking us along such a fascinating and pretty country

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  14. Such a beautiful country. I would love to visit it someday. Thanks for sharing these gorgeous pictures. I loved the tea glasses. So colorful and vibrant.

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    1. I know, right?! All I see is props! :)

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  15. Shulie, I have so enjoyed traveling through your eyes. Beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing your excellent adventures.

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    1. Thank you Jeannette. Happy we can share the adventure even if only virtually!

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  16. Oh Shulie I am so sorry I missed you!! And you even ended up in Be'er Sheva! I'm glad you got to see our shuk. Which restaurant did you end up at? I'm glad you got to see our shuk at least! It's just as well you missed the Bedouin shuk; these days it's far from authentic and not very interesting. It's all the same junk you can buy anywhere. And Kornmehl is wonderful - my favorite is another cheese place a little more towards Mitzpe called Naot, and there's a wonderful winery nearby as well. Sounds like you had an amazing trip!!!

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    1. For the life of me I cannot think of the name of the resto now. It is in old Beer Sheva. They used to have one in Ashdod and closed down. Really nice owner, his brother opened sort of a falafel food truck in Alaska. Was wild to see the video he showed us. Apparently married to someone there. I know too bad we missed each other. Good to know about your faves when we are in Israel next!:)

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  17. Amazing photos and what a wonderful trip to Israel. I hope we get to visit there sometime in the future :)

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  18. What a lovely journey. It's one of the many places I wish to visit someday. I told my friend in Isreal, how much I enjoyed his place through your eyes :)

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  19. What an enjoyable post, Shulie. Thanks for allowing me to experience and see this beautiful part of the world through your eyes. Had to show your post to my hubs because he loves ibex.

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  20. I think with that gorgeous trip, you definitely don't need a phone. Thank you for sharing your trip with us, all your pictures are so lovely!!! What a wonderful experience to see the Ibex, I have only seen them on tv....but they look so beautiful! Welcome home, Hugs, Terra

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