Sunday, October 20, 2002

We’re back.
Well actually we were back last night but blogger was not letting me post.

Mitzpe Ramon was peaceful, as usual. The weather is much cooler, now. The days are pleasant, the evenings cool. Sweater cool.

Yesterday morning we visited a place inside Makhtesh Ramon called Ein Saharonim. This is a spring, which is a main source of fresh water for the local wild life. There was a Nabatean way station there about nineteen hundred to seventeen hundred years ago. It was on the Spice Route and the camel caravans used to rest there. The ancient Khan has been excavated. Very interesting. The spring was dry, but it should fill up in coming months and it will be interesting to see the difference.

We didn’t see any wild life this time, besides lots of migrating birds and a lizard.

The traffic was very heavy on the way home. We crawled alongside two OXFAM and EU humanitarian aid vehicles for a while. They must have been on their way back from Hebron. Bish pointed out that the vehicle drivers hardly looked like humanitarian workers. They didn’t. They looked more like big tough soldiers. I suggested that these organizations probably don’t send the little old ladies that collect the donations to actually give out the aid.

In Mitzpe Ramon people’s stories seem more interesting. Maybe because they’re different from the stories I usually hear. This couple we met had been conned when they reached the town, and bought an apartment for twice its worth. Seven years on, he’s unemployed and they want to leave but they can’t sell or rent out their home, even at a considerable loss. He’s got a good trade but he’s no spring chicken and won’t find it easy even if they do manage to leave. It looks like he finds solace in drink and in the Torah. And he dreams of living by the sea, although he obviously loves the desert.

I was reminded of my great-grandfather, a Russian immigrant, who left a wife and five children he couldn’t feed, in the North of England, and went to try to find a better life for them in the Goldene Medine - America. He didn’t find it there, but at least he tried.

Our new acquaintances are not hungry, they manage to make a very basic living, without frills, on her salary, but they feel trapped. They are not able to cut their losses and change their fate. He says there is work at his old workplace, but he’s tired of breaking his back for a pittance. I got the feeling he’d left as a result of a row. He seemed understanding of his former employers for not being able to pay higher wages.

They are nice, warm people. He has used his energy, creativity and skill to make a lovely garden, using materials he’s come across, and he is full of plans of how to improve it. He is spirited and engaging, what they call here: full of pepper. She is quiet, assured and sensible.

They said they’d been to Tel Aviv recently, with their children, for an “event” (probably a wedding) at one of the good hotels on the beachfront. They had been so intimidated by the heavy traffic that they hadn’t dared venture out of the hotel.

My great-grandfather returned to England to his family, in case you were wondering.

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