The desert sings

Be’er Milka, Shirat Hamidbar. באר מילכה. שירת המדבר

August 8

I came to the desert Sunday. My cousin and I left Ramot Saturday for Jerusalem, taking the back roads to avoid tolls on the highway. Spent three hours with an atlas of Israel in my lap and New York Jew kvetching at the wheel. We stopped in Nazareth briefly, driving through some Arab villages to get there. Incredibly different feeling than what I’d seen so far.

Nazareth was quite visibly touristy and also it’s primarily Arab. Jewish residents are living next door, in Nazareth Illit (yes, like elite – although it means something else). Saw some swastika graffiti and “free Palestine”.

So Sunday I came from Jerusalem to meet the head volunteer at the Be’er Sheva bus station. I’ll always have this memory of coming in and seeing a huge smiling face on a chair and knowing instantly it was her. I’ll call her Leaf. And nearly a year later, we’re still friends. What a special soul.

From Be’er Sheva we took another bus, the 44, to a junction outside of Be’er Milka. BM is an agricultural settlement close to the Egyptian border. Not much else around except other farms, army bases, and solar fields. We hitched with a couple people to get through the moshav and into the farmlands.

Shirat Hambidbar – or, Song of the Desert – is a medicinal herb farm. Thyme, mint, sage, rosemary, lemongrass, lemon verbena, oregano … and more. All different herbs grown and harvested for essential oils. There are also fruit trees in an area called the “Bustan” – basically like a fruit garden.


The work here so far has been weeding in the argan field and cutting herbs.. We take breaks every few hours and have a siesta in the heat of the day. It’s nice like this. Waking up with the sun, resting when it’s blazing rays and picking up the rest of the morning’s work at the end of the day. The farm is owned by a super sweet family. I think they’ve got 3 or 4 kids. And it’s a real mix of volunteers. Leaf has been here almost 3 months, along with another Israeli and an American guy. Another American girl showed up last week with a young Israeli-pre-army.
One of the neighboring farms is owned by the host’s brother. A pomegranate farm. I’ve met some of their volunteers too. Incredible people. A Japanese girl, Yuki. Last year, an Israeli who left his orthodox community came to volunteer and ended up moving here after another year or so. He works on a neighboring farm with another resident of the moshav, managing the Thai workers. Thai people can come to Israel and work in agriculture for a couple years with a special visa.

Today Yuki called me “manly” or masculine, in describing my speech and voice and maybe something else? It was interesting to see her try and find an English equivalent to whatever she thought of in Japanese. Also since she just met me. I don’t commonly hear first impressions so blatantly. It’s refreshing. I think the masculine speaks of American/patriarchy and subculture I’ve grown up with.


So far I like the desert. It’s got a stark, endless beauty to it and the wind talks. A million stars punctuate the sky. Clouds cover in the morning and crystal clear in the day. We often hear the sonic boom of planes or  shooting from nearby IDF bases – or Egypt. It’s har d to tell.
It’s incredible all that can be grown in such a desolate place. All the surrounding farms have so much green (I’m sure with pesticides : 😦 . But still. And the community here is something I haven’t experienced much, just a little in New York. Eating meals together, cooking and talking and sitting. A slow, rich way of living simply.

August 9.

the smell of the desert is like the beach, but without water. Sun-drdied, sand and sweat. Our home base here consists of a small square house with 3 tiny bedrooms and a kitchen, compost showers and toilets and and outdoor covered living room. Everybody eats and hangs out mainly in the living room where there’s a good stereo. Outside the living room is a hammock in front of a small campfire. You could go weeks, months here without seeing the outside world. And that’s what I did for the month I was here.



“It’s the end of the world as we know it, but I feel fine” – Or, in other words: the bike is the answer

Since my post last week about climate change and the impending apocalypse for humans and the world as we know it (cue R.E.M., please), a massive chunk of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica broke away from the larger land mass. This shelf is the third one to break away in recent years, and this one only in 3 years time.
The headline from the The New York Times?
“Maps will need to be redrawn – an iceberg the size of Delaware broke away from Antarctica”
TL;DR version of the Times article:
“The collapse of the peninsula’s ice shelves can be interpreted as fulfilling a prophecy made in 1978 by a renowned geologist named John H. Mercer of Ohio State University. In a classic paper, Dr. Mercer warned that the western part of Antarctica was so vulnerable to human-induced climate warming as to pose a “threat of disaster” from rising seas.
He said that humanity would know the calamity had begun when ice shelves started breaking up along the peninsula, with the breakups moving progressively southward.
The Larsen A ice shelf broke up over several years starting in 1995; the Larsen B underwent a dramatic collapse in 2002; and now, scientists fear, the calving of the giant iceberg could be the first stage in the breakup of Larsen C.
“As climate warming progresses farther south,” Dr. Rignot said, “it will affect larger and larger ice shelves, holding back bigger and bigger glaciers, so that their collapse will contribute more to sea-level rise.'”
While our homes may not be under water yet, think of all the wild life that will soon be extinct at the South pole. We have already seen horrifying images of emaciated polar bears, dying of starvation or floating helplessly on a thawing piece of ice. Soon enough it won’t just be the wildlife we have come to love going extinct – it will be us. Of course, the industries of capitalism don’t want to tell you these things. Frankly speaking, they would eventually go out of business or dramatically fall in their stock holdings – something to do with money.
An article I link to at the bottom of my post cites that for each child a family has (or in this case may choose not to have), it’s equal to 58.6 tonnes of CO2 /per year!
Want to make a change but don’t know how? Check out this other article, or if you don’t want to read it, here’s highlight:
“The four actions that most substantially decrease an individual’s carbon footprint are: eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel, living car-free, and having smaller families.”
AKA – ride your bike! The bike is the answer. Riding a bicycle is one of the best things you can do for yourself and the environment… Endorphins released from the exercise or minimal effort of cycling can promote positive thinking and encourage a state of overall happiness.
Don’t believe me? Try it! What better way to take charge of your transportation than at the handle bars of your own bike! Ditch the traffic jams and car insurance for an investment in your health and the health of your environment. And if you’re in the Athens area, there are some radical bike shops more than happy to help you find your two-wheeled mate. Ben’s Bikes The Hub Bicycles BikeAthens are just a few to name. And the relentless Tyler Dewey, who is steadfast in promoting and supporting a bike-friendly Athens! For my St. Simons or South Georgia folks, check out Monkeywrench Bicycles.
#bikefriendly #thebikeistheanswer
Here is another article from The Guardian, discussing further in detail:
…And another, of a climate scientist who gave up flying, among other creature comforts, for the sake of our planet:
Click here for a link to a free carbon footprint calculator, from the folks at the Nature Conservancy.