MITZPE RAMON, ISRAEL–Melissa and I had a fantastic day, much of which will stretch over at least another couple of blog entries. We traveled to the Dead Sea region with our Israeli geologist colleague and friend Yoav Avni and his wife Noa (an education specialist and botanist). We saw extraordinary things at the Dead Sea itself, and then on the way back we visited with some Bedouin friends of the Avnis in a tiny village of three families a few kilometers north of Mitzpe Ramon. In the image above we see the family patriarch Ali, one of his sons, and two visiting neighbor boys. We are gathered around glowing coals in their tent — welcome warmth in the cold. Note that we have just been served sweet Bedouin tea in glasses. (Empty your glass and it is immediately refilled.) Ali, Yoav and Noa conversed in Hebrew and occasionally translated for us the stories Ali was telling in a very animated way. Melissa and I later commented to each other how interesting it was to watch a conversation we could not understand. So many moving hands!
We enjoyed this brief cultural moment very much. The Bedouin are in transition from their original nomadic state to settlement. Ali and his family wish to preserve some of the old ways to educate others (like us) and pass down traditions to succeeding Bedouin generations who will not know life in a tent.