On Sunday of last week, the Big Trip Israel campers began the “Negev Challenge”. They spent 3 days testing their limits, hiking steep and rigorous mountains. Their LTP trip prepared them well for sleeping under the stars, cooking out, and too many days of not showering. Needless to say, it was a challenge–but they were all able to make it. Although, it was a close call for their counselors Jason and Hannah.
On the first day, they spent a night in a Bedouin Tent, learning about the Bedouin culture, of a nomatic tribe that emphasizes hospitality and welcomes all guests, and yes–RIDING CAMELS. They went to bed early to wake up at 3:30am to hike 4 miles up a mountain, until they got to a beautiful view looking over the Negev. From the summit, it seemed like they were on the top of the world. They found a spring to go swimming in and rest their legs for a few hours, before continuing their hike. Their tour guide, Geoff, had them individually walk 30 seconds behind each other for an hour so they could stop and take in the experience. It was amazing getting to be alone and free to contemplate on the journey, knowing that their friends were all around them.
After hiking 8 MILES in one day they were exhausted and so happy to see the campsite! They spent the night playing football and having a campfire before going to bed early. They continued hiking the next morning for a few hours, and were able to watch the sunrise together atop a mountain for a beautiful view. They were so happy to see Ali, the bus driver, singing Halleluya from an overlook above where they were sitting, surprising them that the hike was over and it was time for breakfast. They visited the tomb of David and Paula Ben Gurion, learned why Israel’s first prime minister fell in love with the Negev, and were able to take in the view that he chose as his final resting place.
The Negev definitely tested their strengths, physically and mentally, as they pushed each other through the rigorous hikes. It was like nothing they had ever experienced before and reaffirmed how much they love not only the urban cities within Israel, but its vast desert and natural beauty as well.