Israel's Good Name

Ein Bokek & Ami’az Plateau

In Israel, Negev on March 25, 2018 at 7:31 AM

Following our trip day with the schoolchildren to Ein Gedi, the new day began with sunrise at the Hazeva Field School. We prayed, ate and packed our belongings onto the bus, ready to continue the fun. Driving up Road 90 from the Arava, we reached the region of the Dead Sea and began seeing interesting things, such as the magnesium production plant with its mountains of harvested minerals and Mount Sodom, which is more of a ridge than a lone peak.

Entrance to Ein Bokek

The southern half of the Dead Sea is comprised of shallow pools that were divided by dirt banks and used in the harvesting of salts and minerals by means of evaporation. It was my first time seeing this part of the Dead Sea and I found it quite fascinating. Unfortunately, there was no time to be spent at the sea, and we continued on to our first destination of the day: Ein Bokek.

Nachal Bokek flowing gently

After a quick drive around the tourist area with the hotels and spas, our bus pulled up at the side of the road at the trailhead for the Ein Bokek hike. We disembarked and followed our tour guide as we walked along the vegetation-lined stream, the calm waters gurgling along peacefully. I was hoping to see some interesting birds, perhaps some interesting warblers in the shrubbery or some eagles over the cliffs that surround us, but I found nothing of the sort.

The waterfall

Before long we reached the first tiny waterfall, and stuck around for a few minutes to enjoy it before continuing on. A few more minutes of streamside walking brought us to the end of our trail, where a pool and waterfall awaited us. Several of the lads waded into the cold waters, but I sufficed by standing on a rock island and photographing the sight.

Bokek Fortress

Recalling the start of our trail, I had seen the ruins of an ancient fortress on a low peak overlooking the stream and I decided it was worth visiting on my own whilst the lads played. Checking with the tour guide and some rangers, I struck out on my own and reached the ruins after a short hike uphill. What I found was a Byzantine fortress dating to the 300s CE built to guard over the roads in the frontiers of the empire. According to the archaeological evidence, Bokek Fortress has four levels of construction, all dating to the Byzantine period. The fortress was abandoned in the Early Arab period and, in recent years, was cleaned up and partially restored. Unfortunately, several weeks after my visit, there was a news article about graffiti vandalism on its southern walls.

View from the fortress

I looped around the west side of the fortress, and entered it from the south, admiring the stonework. I found a burnt potsherd on the ground, perhaps part of an old oil lamp. Inside, the view of the cliff on one side and the view of the sea on the other added to the charm of the ancient ruins. One particular aspect that sparked my interest was a series of bone-dry wood sticks bridging the top of a doorway. I stopped for a minute and stared, wondering for how long they had been been lying there.

Desert landscape on the plateau

Leaving the fortress, I rejoined my group as they left Ein Bokek, and together we made our way to our bus. Our next location was just a few kilometres away and we were excited to get there. We were headed to the Ami’az Plateau while hired bicycles waited for us to take us on some off-road biking. Disembarking, we gathered around the guides and were briefed before setting out. I was given the guide’s bike, a yellow, black and grey GT Aggressor, and pedaled off at a comfortable 6th speed with the rest of the lads.

The bike I used

Within minutes the terrain went from a rather dull, rocky landscape to a really picturesque scene, with flat open stretches and interesting, wind-shaped hills. I kept my eyes out for birds, especially birds of prey which, when soaring above, are less likely to be disturbed by our group. I saw nothing interesting, but the location’s beauty kept me entertained.

The beauty of the desert

Along the way we passed several dry streambeds, including Wadi Hemar, Wadi Lot and Wadi Pratsim, and we kept pedaling after our guide. After nearly an hour we reached the end of our allotted trail, and turned around. I took the opportunity to ask some lads to take my photo, and then began the ride back.

Me

We all made it back safely to the starting place and returned our trusty metal steeds to the rightful owners. After praying mincha (afternoon prayer) we boarded our tour bus again and began the long drive back to Givat Shmuel, taking a short break in Arad for food and restrooms. Thus ended yet another fun trip with the school where I work.

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