י״א באלול ה׳תשע״ט (September 11, 2019) Awe and an Ibex by Avi Shapiro (March 2019)
The first kibbutz in Israel, Kibbutz Degania, was founded in 1909. The founders had one goal: to live in a community in the land of Israel, their ancestral homeland.
Last week, we were able to experience the same feeling as those pioneers.
On Wednesday, we loaded up into the bus and drove four and a half hours to Kibbutz Ketura, a kibbutz about 40 minutes north of Eilat. Ketura was an eye-opening experience into the lives of those who helped found our country.
Thursday there was a sandstorm that darkened the sky around us, but Friday was the opposite — a pure, clear skyline. That morning we all piled into a bus, and drove to Eilat, all the while jamming out to music, our favorite being “Sweet but Psycho.” When we arrived, all I could do was look up. The multi-hued, crystal-clear blue skies surrounded my vision, and my jaw dropped. But wait, I was told, the view would get better.
Filled with disbelief, I joined the others and we started our hike up the trail. Step after step we climbed through the rocks, sand, and stone. Breath after breath, we reached our first stop. There, on that plateau, we decided to do tefillah. As we all sighed and dropped our bags in exhaustion, we were not only blessed with the sight of the beautiful mountain ranges over Egypt, but as we started to wrap our tefillin, an Ibex appeared. I stood there dumbfounded, my tefillin halfway on my arm. It must have been an act of God to be in such a beautiful place and to see something with such elegance, all while preparing to pray to God. I took a mental image right there and swore to myself that just as we sing that we will not forget Jerusalem in “Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim,” I would not forget that mental picture. During those 10 minutes of tefillah, I prayed my heart out as a way to thank God for all I was experiencing, and I truly believe that Hashem heard me.
After tefillah, I thought that the views could not possibly get better. But as I took those last few steps up to the summit of the mountain, I learned I was very wrong. From that peak of the mountain, I was awed to see for miles upon miles around — Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel, all from one mountain. That summit, with the clear blue skies and the beautiful horizon, made my day. I can’t imagine that any other view could match it.