Saturday, January 08, 2011

Sh'fanim in Ein Gedi

Last night's dinner in the kibbutz dining hall was very good. A much nicer selection than I remember before. The starter salads were all excellent, and the selection of entrees were great. We all enjoyed our meals.

Afterwards, we could see they were setting up for a concert on the lawn by the baobab tree. The musicians were doing sound checks, so mom and I sat out and listened. When they finished, I asked when the concert would be and they said 9 pm. We decided to stay and wait, as it was only a half an hour. Dad joined us, but Rochelle went back to her room to sleep.

As we waited, more and more cats began to arrive. The kibbutz is thoroughly over run with them. At one point, I counted over a dozen sitting on the large carpeted area in front of the stage. Many would come up and nuzzle in the hope of getting food (I've seen guests put out food for them). There were two dogs wandering around that occasionally chased them.

With the exception of the sound system, which never worked properly, the concert was great. There were four musicians: two were Israeli Jews, and two were Israeli Arabs (father and son, I think). The concert was of Hebrew and Arabic songs, sometimes alternating, sometimes together. They opened with shalom aleichem in Hebrew, then switching to Arabic lyrics half way through. Sometimes they would sing Arabic songs in Hebrew, other times, Arabic songs in Hebrew. We stayed for about an hour, but dad was nodding off so we went back to our rooms.

I slept ok. The bed was comfortable, but I had headaches (probably from dehydration at the spa, but I've been having a few problems these last couple of days). The breakfast buffet was good this morning, and afterwards, we drove to Nahal David. Some drama getting tickets as a large group had just arrived only to find the power had gone out. Eventually we got in, and no sooner than that we saw a shafan in the tree. They don't exist in America, but they are sometimes called "rock hyraxes." They look sort of like rabbits, only without the long ears and bushy tale, and apparently they are distantly related to elephants. They live in trees and under rocks.

Just up the path from the shfanim (plural of shafan), we saw our first group of ibexes: a mother with two small kids. They just wandered across our path a few feet in front of us. We took lots of pictures.

After a few minutes we reached the lowest of the David waterfalls. Mom and Rochelle decided to wait, while dad and I walked up to the middle falls. At that point, dad was ready to go back, so said, let's cross the stream and walk down the other path. He didn't understand and chose not to follow me, going back the way we came. Unfortunately, that meant he missed the small pools and falls along that other path.

We met up with mom and Rochelle, went back to the car, and headed to the old synagogue. This was built in the 2nd-3rd century, C.E., and mostly it's just the large mosaic floor that remains. I had to photograph the list of donors on the side, just to show my development director how ingrained this cultural tradition is among Jews. The main sanctuary floor was decorated with mosaics of peacocks. It was really beautiful.

We had a little time before lunch, so we headed to Mitzpeh Shalem to the Ahava store. Mom, Rochelle, and I bought some souvenirs from the factory distributor and then we headed back to Ein Gedi. Mom and I went to the cafeteria for lunch,while dad and Rochelle rested. My plan was to go back to the spa for the afternoon, but when I went out to the car around 2pm, I saw that the front tire had gone flat.

I went to the front desk, where I waited 20 minutes while a German guest made the clerk add up each and every charge for their four days in the hotel (twice!) just to confirm his quote (it turned out to be accurate). I couldn't remember how to say in Hebrew I have a flat tire, but as I described it he said "yesh lekha puncture?" and I said yes. They have a garage, but it's closed until Sunday morning.

I got my father and told him the problem. We jacked up the car, took off the front tire, and put on the spare. He went to call Hertz, while I took the shuttle bus to the spa. Hertz, apparently, does not care about flat tires, saying they are the responsibility of the renter. We're going to have it fixed by the kibbutz during breakfast.

The spa was a little quieter today. I still did the sulphur pools twice, but the mud pits once (it's cold outside and even rained today!). The sulphur water is a rather toasty 37 to 40 Celsius, far warmer than the outside air (probably 18-20).

I caught the last bus back. It was already getting dark, and there was a spectacular sunset as the hills of Edom turned red as the sun went down. Dinner was good, though much of it contained left overs from the lunch.

Tomorrow we head north, so no more shorts and t-shirts. Our plan: Beit Alpha synagogue, Belvoir, and Kibbutz Degania, and finally Kfar Blum.

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