Mizpe Ramon

To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, me and the bloke headed off to Mitzpe Ramon.

We were there 25 years ago, just after the ‘Ramon Inn’ first opened, and we thought it would be nice to go back and bring things full circle. One of the things we did all those years ago was take a jeep tour through the Ramon crater, or makhtesh, so we thought to ourselves: lets do that too!

==

Our first jeep tour through the crater was with a tour guide I will call ‘Ron’.

He picked us up from the hotel, and first drove us through a couple of the streets of Mitzpe Ramon itself. (Honestly, it really only has a couple of streets…)

There was no planning, in this town, there is no connection between the communities here, he told us, as he drove down one particular street.

Here you have a yeshiva; across the road you have a bunch of Russians, most of whom are xtians. Then, you have a community of Black Hebrews. Then the Chabad house, and across from them, a community of lesbians. We are having a pride parade here on July 1.

How can you have a pride parade in a community as small as Mitzpe Ramon, with its 5,000 residents?

Ron told us: Last year 700 people showed up for it.

We were stunned.

==

I learnt some interesting things from Ron.

The interesting things I learnt about the Ramon Crater is that it contained every element required to literally build the State of Israel – which was useful, because Israel was under international sanctions for years and years, and so couldn’t import the stuff required to make basic concrete.

But everything was there, in the Ramon Crater, and up until 2006 when production finally closed down, they’d shovelled out 1 1/2 billion tons of things like gypsum.

Ron also told us that they will never open the Degania dam, no matter how high the Kinneret rises, because if they do that, they will stuff up the potash works operating around the shores of the Dead Sea, which are apparently owned by the Ofer family, and the Chinese.

We’ll probably come back to the Ofers some time soon, they are a big part of the story of who really owns the State of Israel.

==

The more interesting stuff that we learnt from Ron is that people like him – staunch secular ‘zionists’, in their 60s and 70s – are totally despairing of what is happening in this country.

Ron told us that he has an only son, and he forbid him from going into a combat unit in the army, after what happened to Elor Azaria.

The only safe way to serve in the army today is behind a desk, he told us. The politicians are corrupt and the judges have ruined everything. I’m sure they are getting bought secret apartments in Miami, or something. If it was up to me, I’d have Smotrich as PM, and Ben Gvir as his deputy. And there are a lot of people like me. I really fear for what is going to be here, in another 10 years. I don’t know what sort of country we will be passing down to our children.

Ron doesn’t like religious people very much, although he likes to quote a lot of Tanach.

And so, he is caught in a very despairing paradigm, where ‘religious people’ are the enemy… but ‘secular people’ are even more the enemy. And the biggest enemy of all, according to Ron, are the Muslims, who he feels are going to take over the whole country, one day, and nothing and no-one can stop them.

I really got the impression that Ron was kind of waiting to die, as his own personal ‘answer’ to what is going on today in Israel…But I digress.

==

The following morning, we decided to retrace the route through the crater we’d taken with Ron, in our own little jeep.

We bought it second hand after the first lockdown, as a way to get away into untamed nature, a little, when all the masks and Covid restrictions and horrible police were suffocating me to death.

We’ve been driving it for around two years, and we’ve ‘off roaded’ quite a bit in that time, on less and more challenging routes.

So, I got a detailed map of the crater from the nice lady at the reception desk, that clearly showed all the trails marked, and their degree of difficulty, and we headed off.

==

What can I tell you?

Either the map was totally and utterly wrong. And / or the markings showing you where to go where either totally missing, or totally wrong, too.

I’m pretty good at following maps – we don’t have Waze or a satnav, because I have a map book in our car, and a really good sense of direction. But somehow or other, we got totally lost yesterday morning, in the Ramon Crater.

The path we were following, that was meant to be suitable for 4×4 driving, suddenly brought us to a really steep incline, full of dust and boulders. It looked do-able, just about – and I mean, it’s not like they would mark a trail as suitable for 4×4 if it was totally UNSUITABLE for any vehicles except dirt bikes, right?

Not right.

Long story short, half way down, my husband couldn’t get the brakes to ‘catch’ on the dust, and we found ourselves gliding into a boulder. Before we got there, though, Hashem decided we should instead get caught on a big bush, which stopped the car in its tracks, as we kind of dangled sideways.

I was yelling at him to hit the brakes… and when he told me he was hitting the brakes, I knew we had a problem.

====

I started clapping my hands furiously, to ‘sweeten the judgements’, as Rabbenu teaches.

I didn’t stop clapping for the next two hours.

Miraculously, my husband managed to restart the car, back it up a little, and to guide it down the rest of that steep dirt pile.

Phewee… now hopefully the trail would even out, some, and go back to being drivable again.

Some hope.

Next we know, we are going up and down some MASSIVE HILLS, all dirt and dust tracks, and each one loomed massive ahead of us, like a mini-Mt Everest.

====

After ten minutes of that (I’m still clapping furiously…) , we get to a sign post in the middle of the desert, at the intersection of 4 paths.

And that’s when I realised that the map I had was totally wrong, and that I had no idea where we actually were.

Because while the signposts were saying that the trail we’d just come down was 4×4 suitable, we already knew from experience that was a lie. And I couldn’t even find one of the other locations being signposted on that whole, big map we had of the crater by Mitzpe Ramon.

When you are stuck in the middle of a desert terrain, with massive, huge cliffs everywhere, you can’t just drive around and hope to find your way. It’s dangerous.

At this point, we both started to feel notably anxious.

I redoubled the clapping, and then we decided to ‘go right’, because the Gemara teaches that whenever you don’t know the way, you should ‘go to the right’.

==

We drove on really slowly, and then 10 minutes later – a miracle.

Three angels were in a landcruiser just ahead of us, taking measurements for some new electricity pipe thing, in the middle of the desert.

Hey, do you have any idea how we can get back to Route 40 from here? My husband asked them.

Meanwhile, I gave him the map to show them, so at least I could try to get our bearings and figure it out myself, if they couldn’t help us.

One guy looked at the map with a perplexed expression on his face.

Where you are right now isn’t on the map, he told us.

Well, that kind of explained the problem we were having.

==

Long story short, they said we should follow them out of the wilderness.

There’s one big incline on the way, but yiyeh beseder, they reassured us.

I told my husband I was just going to keep clapping, until we were finally back on some tarmac. He told me to go right ahead.

At least we probably won’t die in the desert now, I told him. Worst comes to worst, they’ll give us a lift out and we’ll just end up losing the car to the bedouins…

==

Twenty minutes later, the ‘big incline’ suddenly loomed into view, and that feeling of anxiety intensified.

It was like a 60-70% incline, up a mountain of dirt.

Totally impossible for us, in our small jeep without a 2.0 engine and totally exaggerated tyres.

Lucky, there was a ‘snake path’ by the side, which meandered from side to side around a bunch of boulders, that lead off down ravines on both sides. That was the ‘easier’ option.

Long story short… our car got stuck half way up, because we didn’t have the revving power of the landcruiser we were following. Yet again, we found ourselves tilted close to a bunch of rocks, seemingly unable to move forward or backwards.

(I’m still clapping furiously….)

====

The angels ahead of us stop, and one of them walks back down the hill.

Can I try and drive it up? He asked my husband.

We were only too pleased for him to try, because at that point, we were basically cacking ourselves.

It just doesn’t have the koach to continue up the path, my husband told the guy.

Join the club, I thought.

Somehow, tho, that guy revved the engine through the roof, managed to get it past the small rock that had been holding the car back, and swung it around so that he didn’t go over the side of the ravine, and continued straight up the path.

An open miracle!

====

(I’m still clapping….)

We walk up, get back in, and they reassure us that the worst is over.

I’ll believe that when I’m back on Route 40, I whispered to my husband. Let’s never do this again.

Half an hour later, the same thing happens again.

Another very steep incline – but not as drawn out – and again, our small-engined jeep is struggling to find the koach to continue.

Again, the angels ahead stop, again the guy walks back to us, again, he revvs the car through the roof, and somehow manages to get it up the hill.

(I’m still clapping….)

====

They turn right on a path clearly marked with a big skull and crossroads, because it goes straight through an army firing zone.

I really hope these guys checked beforehand, that this is an ‘off’ day for the army….

I’m still clapping.

Then we go past a Bedouin encampment, and the road finally starts to resemble more of what we’d got used to, as a regular 4×4 track in Israel.

Route 40 – tarmac!!! – suddenly looms into site, and the angels stop again, to tell us which direction to take, to get back to Jerusalem.

We were miles and miles away from Mitzpe Ramon.

I still can’t understand how we managed to get so totally lost.

====

Nothing happens for nothing, and I learnt a lot of important things from this whole episode.

The first thing I learnt is that the deep South of Israel is still very undeveloped, and that ‘off-roading’ there is way more dangerous, partially because of the terrain, but mostly because the paths and tracks just aren’t properly marked, so it’s very easy to take the wrong turns without realising it.

But the main lessons I learnt yesterday, were 100% spiritual, and here’s a rough outline of what I got.

====

  1. If you don’t have an accurate description of the terrain, then even if you are ‘following your roadmap’ to a tee, it can still lead you off the edge of a cliff.

The only accurate ‘road map’ is the Torah, which is God’s ‘user manual’ for how to find our way through this labyrinth called ‘life’ in one piece, and to actually get to where we’re headed.

Connected to this, is the idea that you also need ‘guides’ you can really trust, and who are willing to put themselves out for you, in order to help you reach your destination in one piece.

That is the TRUE tzaddikim.

====

2. Even when you think you know things, and you’re ‘prepared’ and experienced, God can and will throw you curve-balls where you’ll end up feeling totally lost.

When that happens, don’t start blaming yourself, or your spouse, or your kid, or your friend. No-one makes ‘bad decisions’ on purpose, not even retards. It’s just sometimes, Hashem blinds us to certain things, or kind of ‘fools us’ in to thinking that certain stupid ideas are good and useful.

Hashem is orchestrating everything that happens to us, to a) pay down old spiritual debts (aka ‘tikkun’) and b) get us to develop our emuna, and to pray, and to work on our negative character traits.

And that’s why we sometimes make really bad decisions, or take wrong turns in life.

====

3. Clapping away the judgements REALLY, THE HECK WORKS.

We met the three angels 10 minutes after I started clapping, and we met no-one else – at all, the whole time – until we were by the Bedouin village.

Without those three angels, we would probably still be driving around the crater… or worse.

====

4. Don’t give up half way.

That was really the main message that came through again, and again and again, yesterday.

It’s true, I really wanted to give up about 3,000 times yesterday.

Hanging off cliffs in the middle of no-where is not really fun. And we were feeling pretty paralysed and ‘stuck’ and scared at various points in our drive.

But if we hadn’t continued inching forward, cautiously, we really would have been in trouble.

So, don’t give up ESPECIALLY when you hit the tough spot. That’s when the prayers and the clapping need to go up, massively – but don’t give up.

====

5. We can’t do this by ourselves.

So many people say to me they don’t need a rabbi, they don’t need a spiritual guide.

They have the right roadmap – the Torah.

They have the right ‘vehicle’ – a good brain, good middot, a good spiritual grasp of life.

But the truth is, in our lowly generation – we still can’t do this by ourselves.

The vehicle is good, but it’s simply lacking the strength to drive up some of the mountains we now have before us.

Sometimes, we have to get out of the driving seat – aka ‘throw our brains aside’ – and just let Rabbenu, Rebbe Nachman get that jeep up the hill, or tell us to turn ‘right’ into an army firing zone….

Otherwise, we end up stuck, despairing – or worse.

====

6. Appreciate everything.

The last thing I learnt, is how I should mamash appreciate every small, little thing, that God is doing for me.

For example, I spent two hours yesterday really appreciating tarmac.

Now when I drive up hills on the motorway, I’m seeing that whole experience through totally different eyes.

====

Am Yisrael is currently still on the ride of our life.

We are still driving through the desert, and up and down cliffs, on our way to geula and moshiach.

There are so many dangers, on all sides.

And there is no ‘safe, easy’ way out of the predicament we are already in.

The parallel is obvious.

====

I came back to a couple of messages from my contacts by Rav Berland.

  1. Is that the situation is seriously hotting up again (even though it looks to us like everything is ‘calming down’ at the moment, because it’s the olam hafuch.)

2. Is that the Rav is trying to sweeten things by taking on more bizayon – hello, Channel 13 expose number 258!

3. The Rav is asking people to start saying 7 Tikkun Haklalis a day, until Tu B’Av.

Personally, I don’t know if I can manage 7 a day, but I can certainly manage 3, so that is what I’m aiming for now, BH.

====

I know, this has been a long, arduous and exhausting few years.

And it’s not over yet!

So take a breather if you need, but don’t give up in the middle.

The end is looming into sight.

And there’s just a few more Everests to climb until we get there.

Only with God’s help, and by following the advice of the true tzaddikim.

====

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3 replies
  1. nechama
    nechama says:

    This was also one of your greatest outpourings. This contained great “Lessons” for all of us. Just love your sense of humor. Gets a laugh out of me each time. Humor sweetens (as u say) the panic and anxiety. Maybe the experience also says that one cannot go back to old experiences and revisit them. The two of you have gone through so much in the time since then, growing and deepening the connection with HaShem. IY”H you both will continue to grow with your children guided by HaShem and stay on the “right path” (pun intended). Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Daisy
    Daisy says:

    Just saw this now: wow, Rivka, ay, ay, ay, what an experience….

    Baruch Hashem who sent you angels! Glad you made it, and thank you so much for the lessons, I will do my best to internalize them; feeling at a breaking point, on the verge of tears from overwhelm, I needed to hear this. And the idea of clapping, dancing, Tikkun Klalis -and hitbodedut too of course… yep; the only things that keep us sane.

    Mazal Tov, Yasher Koach, and Hatzlachah!

    Reply

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