Following our delicious dinner and overnight with the Bedouins in Mitzpe Ramon, we awoke on Wednesday, packed up and then headed for more desert adventures. Wednesday was a dry and cloudless sky and after a short bus ride, we arrived at Sde Boker -- a magnificent city and kibbutz in the desert that was home to David Ben Gurion. As you most likely know, David Ben Gurion was Israel's first Prime Minister and served as such for last 20 years of his life. Because Israel is 2/3desert, Ben Gurion believed that the key to the State of Israel's success was in settling the Negev Desert and making it bloom. While as a diplomat and head of state, Ben Gurion spent his working life in Tel Aviv, following that, he retired to a quiet and modest life in Sde Boker. His small and simple home was left just as it was when he died in 1973; complete with his library, his honors and awards, and his family photographs. Now, Sde Boker is a booming desert metropolis (of sorts!) and, in addition to the large Kibbutz that has been there since 1953, there is also a college that attracts students from all over the world because of its programs and research on the topic of desert agriculture. Even Ben Gurion's bedroom slippers remain on the floor at his bedside and have never been moved. His homestead is now surrounded by beautiful gardens and olive trees -- a living legacy to this man who truly believed that the desert could be a productive and fruitful part of the State of Israel.
After our visit to Ben Gurion's home, it was time for some fun. The Puzzle Israel guides divided the group into 4 biking teams and, very early that morning, had set up a desert scavenger hunt for us. Each student got a bicycle and helmet, and was given a map of the area and navigational directions. The goal was to correctly bike to and find 10 stations in the desert -- and to bring back proof of being there upon return. It was a blast! The scenery was gorgeous, the views were spectacular, and through this interactive experience we learned so much about the wilderness terrain. After taking photographs and relaxing for a bit, we headed from the Negev Desert to the hills of the Judean Desert and arrived at our next overnight destination -- another tent experience in the wilderness very close to Masada. This time, rather than being hosted for dinner, Chef Nir led us in a cooking experience that resulted in a delicious and healthy dinner outside -- cooked by our group of students and staff! It was a fabulous feast: we prepared everything from salads to dessert outside under the stars, using a couple of camping burners and an open fire for cooking. Everyone was involved: peeling, chopping, dressing, seasoning, grating, cooking, tending the fire. We even made our own middle eastern style breads and a pear crumble for dessert. There is nothing like outdoor cooking and dining --- especially in the fresh and dry and pure air of the wilderness. We sang by the campfire until we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer and tried to get at least a few hours of sleep before our early wake-up for our hike up Masada.