All was red, dry and lonely

by Abby, one of our current scholars at the JBG

This week we went on a botanizing tour with the Israeli Friends of the JBG. We traveled through the Negev. One of our stops was in Maktesh Ramon, a massive glacial crater in the south of Israel. Driving through, it was as if we had left all civilization behind us and had entered a different world. It looked as I would imagine the planet Mars to be. Great piles of red rocks were everywhere. They rimmed the edge of the crater in tall spires. They blended together to create an impenetrable barrier to the outside lands. All was red, dry, and lonely. The sheer emptiness of this land was enchanting. Outside the bus there was no sound except for the whistle of the wind through the boulders.


Walking through the dry wadis, the wind moaned eerily. Only the croaks of ravens testified to the hardy creatures that call this unearthly place home. Wandering through this wilderness, the imagination is free to roam unhindered from the daily distractions of this busy life. My mind conjured up deadly dragons guarding stolen gold, angry Orcs from Mordor and two horses and their children searching for Narnia and the North.  I expected to see Anakin and his pod racer streaking toward us. Storm troopers would have been no surprise, and I kept my eyes open for banthas and Sand People.

Instead I saw tall mountains, shaded valleys, steep ridges, dry stream beds, vast level plains, and menacing towers. Pinks, purples, blues, grays, reds, white, and cream swirled together.  Multicolored layers of stone created a striking portrait of the past telling a story none can know for sure, yet everyone wants to know. Every hill was painted as if by an artist’s hand. The colors were vivid, illuminated by the morning sun and creating a masterpiece of nature.


Everywhere I looked there was some new wonder. Black hills rose and fell in a steady line marching parallel to the road.  They were ancient volcanoes, their danger long past. Lava had created great black avenues that stretched for hundreds of feet in all directions. One could easily imagine the molten rock spewing out of the depths of the earth. Shiny flints scattered the ground. Basalt lay where it had been thrown in primeval times. fullsizerender_1

These ancient hills inspire man today and will continue to amaze for generations to come. The desert is a place where imagination can run free, the spirit can fly, and one can find freedom from the stress and pressures of everyday life. The desert is a beautiful place, a magnificent component of nature that serves to illustrate the grand masterpiece that is Maktesh Ramon. None can describe the arid landscape better than the man known as John of the Mountains, John Muir.

“Surely faithful and loving skill can go no further in putting the multitudinous decorated forms on paper. But the colors, the living, rejoicing colors, chanting morning and evening in chorus to heaven! Whose brush or pencil, however lovingly inspired, can give us these? And if paint is of no effect, what hope lies in pen-work? Only this: some may be incited by it to go and see for themselves.”  John Muir, “The Grand Canyon of Colorado”



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