Meeting on the Israel Trail for the 12th Year

Sunday, March 19, 2017 12:46 PM

Following the songs of Israel's soundtrack

The Meeting on the Israel Trail - or Nifgashim Beshvil Yisrael - journey has begun for the 12th consecutive year. This year’s theme is “following the songs of Israel’s soundtrack.” The trek began on Feb 27, 2017 and will end on April 27, 2017.
Three years ago KKL-JNF joined this initiative as a strategic partner, and are involved in the content, instruction and administration of the trek.
During the first week of the journey, the hikers experienced the desert and the Arava’s extreme weather conditions - they walked in the cold and the heat, amid spectacular views.
Nifgashim Beshvil Yisrael  is a long and unconventional journey in nature, from Eilat in the south to She’ar Yeshuv in the north where two CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters crashed on the night of February 4, 1997 - a tragedy coined by Israelis as “the helicopter disaster”. One of the soldiers who died in that crash was staff sergeant Avi Ofner. His parents, Raya and Yossi, decided to commemorate him and his friends through this symbolic trek on the Israel National Trail.
 
The program consists of three parts:
Commemoration – every day of the trek, one or several fallen IDF soldiers and victims of acts of hostilities, are commemorated.
Renewal – renewal through meeting new people on the trek; people who didn’t know each other beforehand get to know each other and attend joint workshops on Jewish-Israeli culture.
Dialogue – unmediated discussions and structured dialogues (discussion circles) between different groups in Israeli society are part of the journey. People from different age groups engage in multicultural and heterogeneous dialogues, which seek to help them gain insight, deepen relationships and accept the other, whatever his/her opinions might be.
Every day, the participants hike 15-20 km, participate in structured workshops and end the day with a session that is connected to their location, whether it’s a person they’ve meet with, a personal or community project or even the specific date.
 
The journey always begins in Eilat and over a period of two months the hikers cover the entire state of Israel. You can follow the track and plan to join at different points according to the schedule published here (Hebrew).
 
This year’s theme is “following the songs of Israel’s soundtrack”. During the journey’s 45 days, the participants will walk in the paths of the songs which tell the stories of places, people and events along the trail.

Three years ago KKL-JNF joined this initiative as a strategic partner, and are involved in the content, instruction and administration of the trek.
 

Meeting on the Israel Trail – Week I

On the first day of the journey, following a short ribbon cutting ceremony marking the beginning of the trek, the participants are on their way. They start out by climbing up to Mount Tzfachot and finish the day at the Nahal Shlomo camp site.
 
In certain places the hikers don’t follow the sections of Israel National Trail that are particularly long and difficult, so that as many people as possible can participate.
 
When the hikers reach the top of Mount Tzfachot, the guide explains to them that they are looking upon Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel.
“The diversity of the Eilat Mountains is similar to the human diversity along the trail, and that’s the beauty of it,” says the guide, and adds that the Eilat region is filled with opposites and extremes. On the one hand, you have these very ancient boulders that form the base, and then there’s the Dead Sea region, the youngest geological phenomenon, which creates the landscape.
 
The participants continue on their way to Nahal Tzfachot, looking for some shade in order to have their daily morning circle session. The sun is beating down on them mercilessly and there’s no shade to be found, so the hikers continue up to the Ma’ale Bulbusim Ascent. The wind here cools the temperature down and the group settles down for a session entitled “difficulties and crises” – how the greatest things can sometimes emerge from difficulties, sadness and pain.
 
At Nahal Shlomo the hikers hear explanations about the immense ecological importance of the Acacia trees for the Arava region. The Acacias provide water and food to the animals living in the Arava, and since they are evergreens, the supply is guaranteed all year long. In addition, the fruits of the acacias are rich in protein and are food for large herbivores, such as the desert tortoise. The acacias provide places for birds to nest, and, of course, shade during the hottest hours of the day, which is very important in the desert.
 
The disappearance of the large herbivorous mammals has harmed the acacia trees, because those animals disseminated their seeds to new places. KKL-JNF, in collaboration with its Friends from the world, is involved in the “Adopt an Acacia” project, which aims to conserve and save the acacias.
The second day begins with a morning circle at Mt. Shlomo and continues on to Nahal Mapalim and Nahal Netafim, where there’s a discussion circle on the topic of nature. The weather conditions in this desert region change from extreme heat to cold and floods. The guides receive a flash flood warning and decide not to risk it. They settle in to spend the night at a higher step, above the stream. Indeed, in the middle of the night, heavy hail begins and wakes everybody up. The ongoing rain fills the dry streambeds and wadis with water and all the participants watch this beautiful and rare scene of a flood in the middle of the desert.
 
On the morning of the third day, the group leaders decide to evacuate the hikers. Benny Avigdol invites everyone to his place, and they all arrive at his ranch, soaking wet and happy. There, they continue their discussion circles and take a short trek along the ranches perimeter, from where one can see the spectacular view of the city of Eilat.
 
On the fourth day of the journey, because the quality of the roads has been damaged by the flood, it’s decided to switch directions and walk the trail from north to south. The hikers climb up to Nahal Tzfunot - which is also called “the hidden valley” - and walk up the streambed between uniquely shaped colorful boulders. Nahal Tzfunot has a striking combination of fine sand of the brightest white with pinky-red boulders and black granite cliffs. From the hidden valley, the hikers climb up to the seismic station, an artificial tunnel that was dug deep into the magmatic rock of Mt. Amram, where different measurement instruments were installed to learn about the ongoing activity in the earth’s crust.
 
After a day of floods and rains they continue the descent to Maale Amram, where, under extreme heat, they end the day at Timna Park.
 
By the last day of the journey’s first week, the hikers have bonded with each other and are saddened by their impending goodbyes. Throughout the week the hikers met new, interesting people, friendships were formed and here they were, about to return to the rat race. They began saying their goodbyes already in the morning circle. The stops for that day are at Mt. Timna and Nahal Alachson.
 
The trek on that last day begins with a steep climb to Mt. Timna. At the top of the mountain, the guide tells the participants about one of the most important revolutions in history that started right there in the Eilat Mountains - the copper revolution. He also talked about KKL-JNF’s activities in this region and the development of Park Timna.
 
After walking in Nahal Alachson, they ended the day at the Visitor Center, to say their last goodbyes and return home, energized by their experiences and the memories of the spectacular views that they saw along their way.