Tsur Shezaf

Hatzeva: A playground for adults

Mishor Bulbusim naxal Zin

Every time I enter the yard of the Hatzeva field school, I feel as though I have been pulled back in time and have landed in a Nahal settlement from the 60’s or 70’s. Time passes slowly in Hatzeva. It is clear and transparent with a whiff of something pure and old.

For example, the ridiculous honeycomb structures that house the staff, where only bees can live, even though an architect named Godovitch won a prize when he built them. But he is not the first and will not be the last that did not understand how to build something and how this beautiful land does not need monstrous additions.

Despite the unsuccessful houses, which are hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and are impossible to clean or air out, I love this field school because it has simplicity. It will never not be a field school, it will never be privatized, and it has real guides from the Society for the Protection of Nature, who are only interested in nature, environment, people, plants and animals. A nature reserve for the Society for the Protection of Nature.
It was no surprise to discover that the person who protected the school during the worst period for the SPNI was Professor Amotz Zahavi, who is not only one of the founders of the SPNI and the Nature reserves Authority, but he is also one of the greatest zoologists.
It is always pleasant to come to the school, to travel to the nearby reserve on top of the amazing white Hawar channel or the desert streams on top of Nahal Arava with its grand white cliffs, and see the birds behaving the way birds ought to behave. Or as Amotz said after many years, when he already forgot from where he came – people behave like Arabian babblers. He is right. Except that the Arabian babblers cause less damage.

Around the field school there are many nice attractions. Thus when Gomer Lahav, the field school coordinator, asked me to come and present a lecture on opium and terror in the Sinai in exchange for a long weekend, excursions, and babblers flying over head, I jumped into my car and went down to the Arava.

Negev Israel naxal Masor

rock inscription in naxal masor, negev israel

Early in the morning, the field school van dropped me and Dorit who came to make sure I did not get lost (and we always get lost here) at the entrance to the Nahal Masur canyon. Any car can drive on the sign-posted dirt road that passes the air force training route and had dead Sky hawks scattered throughout the simulated route like disintegrating dinosaurs.
You should not come here on a weekday unless you want a guided missile honing in on in your head, but on Saturdays and holidays – why not.
A field of bulbs
Gomer said that there were stone drawings near the cistern that this year has water. We avoided the leopard trap under the knoll that looks like a saw and walked until the waterfall. I looked at the map. The trap was marked on the map. We climbed a path on top of the waterfall and we walked alone through the empty desert until we got to the second waterfall.

Orix Negev Israel naxal Masor

orix in the negev naxal masor, israel

White oryxs and antelopes neighed when they saw us and galloped away. Desert swallows came down to the water to gather some moisture with their feathers. It was very nice but there were no stone drawings.
We could not go back until we saw the stone drawings. We returned to the first waterfall. And there on the southern wall on top of the cistern were the drawings. In the most logical place where ancient shepherds would sit and rest in the shade and scribble on the walls. Thankfully we found it. Otherwise Gomer would laugh at us for hours.

Negev Israel naxal Masor

negev israel naxal masor

When we returned the canyon was full of families and children and convoys of jeeps crowded around the food containers. Israelis take into consideration that soon locusts will burst out and eat all the food and every meal has to be the last one. From here we only had 12 kilometers to get back to the field school on the Arava road.
“No”, said the people in the jeeps, “We’re full. We have the food containers in the back. It is not good for our jeep to take two people who do not have a jeep”. “We’re just going over there” pointed out ten other jeeps. But then the one car with real human beings stopped for us.
An old Daihatsu driven by Jackie from Netanya with mom and three girls in the back. There are human beings in this country and they do not drive jeeps and they live in Netanya. Jackie skillfully drove the dirt road until we recognized Gomer riding an ATV through the desert.
“I told the people in the jeeps what I thought about them”, she said. “When I asked them if they did not see two people walking here, they said yes – while their back seats screamed out in loneliness”. “Forget about it”, I said, “who wants to ride in a jeep when we could drive with Jackie from Netanya and smile the whole way in his nice car, or ride three way on an ATV when I know that Gomer and Dorit will make it back to the school and I will fall off on my behind?”

Maxtesh Katan Israel

maxtesh katan, negev israel

Dorit went home and the creaky van dropped me and Shoka Ravak, a young man aged 75 and one of the founders of the Society for the Protection of Nature who draws people from all over the world, on top of the cliff of the small crater. This was much better. Nahal Akravim and Nahal Matzlaot descend from here.
The van went down with members of the field school to serve as an information stand at the bottom of Maale Haakravim. It is a good place for those going to Nahal Akravim, Nahal Gov, Einot Tzin, the amazing field of bulbs under Mount Tzin, the lower canyon of Nahal Havah and the hidden canyons. There are many amazing sights nearby, an open playground that has not been touched by man and is therefore more worthy.
nahal Masor

Naxal Mizlaot negev Israel , Shuka Ravek

naxal mizlaot , negev israel

The pools were full of water, the chalk was white and wonderful and the desert bloomed as it is blooming now. Beautiful. The Tzin flowed strongly as we slid down the descent to the channel, passing the Tzin cistern that was full of the rain that fell this year.
We continued on the path on the slope of the stream to the Bahak cistern – an amazing narrow white cliff which has water flowing down it – but you can not swim there because they are full of the pollution from the phosphate factories, the same carcinogenic materials that flow in the stream.

Negev Israel Naxal Zin Gevey Sayish

Onward, another eight kilometers, the day gets shorter. Shoka quickly passes me. I have at least another 30 years until am 75. Will I walk like that then? I have to ask Shoka who refused to rest when we stopped for a cup of tea that the members of the field school boiled for us over an herb that is now greening in the desert.

Dorit Negev Israel Naxal Masor

In another channel, not far from the lower canyon of the Tzin, there was a large field of Jericho roses, a desert plant that can withstand years of drought until a desert flood causes its branches to stretch and shed seeds. There are many clever mechanisms here. And many animals that pollute and destroy everything.
But I did not care because we descended from the small crater through the cracks to the large stream that crosses the Negev and arrived at the lower canyon where a Palmach company inscribed their names sixty years ago on their arrival. Shoka met us with the approaching darkness.
Mechanical dolls crashing through the paths
“No”, said the people in the jeeps bursting through the path that crosses through the canyon to the Arava road, “we have no room in the back.” They were right. It was only out of honest worry for our comfort that they did not want to take us.
The beaten up van from the field school burst through the darkness, and collected two more or less old men, and two young men that will soon be drafted and today saw that the world is open and when they grow up they can choose:
To continue walking until their old age because there is something pleasant in the contact between your legs and the stones and water or they can buy a jeep and ignore the poor old people who do not even have a jeep for the weekend to trample the desert roads full of food and pride.
But I (and I think Shoka) prefer to walk through the desert and to look without a drop of jealousy or criticism on the mechanical dolls crashing through the paths. Because we, and Amotz and the man from Netanya, prefer the old world, which we will continue to protect until one day we will rest under the stones and know that we did what we could.

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