Cleaning up After Desert

by Brian on October 19, 2009

in Only in Israel

We recently joined a group of 30 friends for an inspiring hike in the Judean Desert. We started at the Dragot Cliffs just south of the checkpoint on the Dead Sea highway, and ended some 7 hours later at the Mitzpeh Shalem kibbutz.

The hike itself was stunning, with plenty of steep climbs up, down and around the gorgeous moonscape canyons below. We took a break at the Muraba’at Caves which our tour leader Asher (see picture) explained had been used in both the Great Revolt against the Romans and the Bar Kochba uprising 60 years later (written fragments and coins from both eras were found).

As we ate our pesto and salmon sandwiches, it was hard to act blasé about this amazing country, with its huge variety of ecosystems, from lush forest in the north to harsh desert further south, all within several hundred kilometers of each other.

That was until we came upon the trash. We had just started our final descent back towards the Dead Sea. There, strewn along the rocks, was a scattered pile of rubbish that accompanied us for a good 10 minutes of our hike down. Dirty plates that once held meat or hummus, bottles of cola, plastic cups.

How could people be so thoughtless to ruin such a pristine landscape, we remarked with little of our former glee? We thought back to our trip last summer to Africa where the strictly enforced rule on safari was GIGO – “garbage in/garbage out” (otherwise the animals would surely devour any trash bin in the game park).

Just as we were feeling down on our adopted country, something remarkable happened. Members of our group began cleaning up – picking up the trash, placing it into bags and carrying the result down the cliffs where it could be disposed of properly.

Mind you, carrying an extra load where you need both hands to safely navigate was a mitzvah in itself. And this part of the hike wasn’t short – it took us an hour and a half to reach flat ground again. But no one complained – it was clear to all that this was the right thing to do.

Yes, we have a beautiful country. And a (mostly) beautiful people too.


This article originally appeared on the Israelity blog.

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