Ketura, Ketura — Part 3

You don’t always get what you want…

We all knew that some of the group would be spending Tues. at Petra; what I didn’t imagine was that it would be most of our contingent. The rest of us were scheduled to participate in the four activities that I wrote about in the first post: a bike ride, a watercolor workshop, a tour of the off-grid village, and something called ‘Desert Montage,’ an opportunity to dip a figurative toe in making collages – which, as you may remember, was what I chose. Except…

There were enough riders, young in spirit or just overly exuberant, to join Bill Slott in pedaling around the kibbutz; there were a few folks eager to watercolor away; a bunch of people interested to explore the off-grid village; and then there was me, all by my lonesome, the only one prepared to ‘draw images from our unconscious and create compositions that reflect the complexities of identity that confront us daily.’ (Actually, that is quite a mouthful, enough to scare off anyone less intrepid than myself.) Bummer. I had really wanted to try my hand in something new and different, but I can understand; they weren’t going to schedule an activity just for moi. What else would I like to do? I guess I’ll off-grid it with the best of them.

It’s a funny thing. We have friends, whose son and daughter-in-law have made their way to Portugal with all intentions of living off-grid. For most of the billion or so folks world-wide in that situation, it is a reality not a life choice. Only people with a special (?) mindset would volunteer to live with no electricity, no running water, and no sewage system. For the rest of the folks who are so deprived, the off-grid village is working on solutions for those involuntarily deprived.

There we were, inside a small building, the kind found in rural areas in Africa, and Mike (the other guide) and Leah were demonstrating how solar energy can be used for cooking. Not the easiest way to make cookies, but they were tasty. The water for tea we were served was also heated by the sun. But there’s more to this venture than serving refreshments to curious visitors to the kibbutz. The main idea is to harness the sun’s energy to power small generators, the kind that would make sense in remote areas, and then you’re off and running; as they used to say, you can live better electrically. And if you’ve had the temporary inconvenience recently of being without, you probably get the point.

After touring the ‘village,’ it was time to be lectured to. We headed over to the ‘blue room,’ for the first of a series of lectures, this one entitled, ‘What is sustainable agriculture?’ A good question, don’t you think? Like many good questions, the answer cannot be adequately provided while standing on one leg in an elevator. But if I had to perform that exercise, I would respond, growing enough food to feed all the people you need to, while not making things worse in the future. As Noah Marthinsen, the guy giving the PowerPoint presentation, explained, organic farming is good, but if you’re covering the crops with tons and tons of plastic sheets to keep out the bugs, maybe that’s not exactly ‘sustainable.’ Got it.

An old bus and an ever older cultic site

Lunch, and then we were off, this time to the Leopard Temple at Uvda. Rather than try to explain what this is all about, let me link to Bill Slott’s article from the Times of Israel, which will tell you all you need to know on this subject. OK, almost everything. We were there with Mike, who was trying to talk to us over the planes flying overhead. This site is so inconspicuous, how did anyone stumble onto it, thousands of years after it was last used for cultic purposes? The answer: thank Jimmy Carter.

When that former president, along with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, was negotiating the peace treaty between two countries technically at war, one of the many details that needed to be ironed out was the status of two Israeli military airfields in the Sinai. No problem: Israel will give them back and Uncle Sam will build a new airfield for Israel. After all, there’s plenty of empty space in the Negev. How about in the Uvda Valley? Lots of benefits for all concerned. With the American involvement came…. American products. (Think, Heinz baked beans!) And in the process, assuming I got the story straight, somebody noticed this cultic site, which is just a collection of stones artfully placed and easy to overlook. As there are other sites like this one in the region, archaeologists could figure out what this one was all about. (Remember that leopards used to roam the Land in days of yore. Right next to Har Halutz where The Levines live is an actual leopard trap – not that there are any customers these days.)

From there, we journeyed down to Eilat, passing through some of the new residential neighborhoods – always a good sign – on our way to the History of Eilat Museum. There are some things of interest in the museum, notable a reconstructed bus from the 1950’s, the original having been destroyed in a terrorist attack. But that’s about it. The museum seems to have been frozen in time somewhere around 2005, as if Eilat itself had stopped growing fifteen or twenty years ago, which is not the case. A few of our group chose to head over to a shopping mall across the street. In hindsight, perhaps the better choice. At least the stores there weren’t selling merchandise from that era. Anyway, a word to the wise, which is the best I can do for now. (But never fear, there will be more.)

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