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"Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth" (Genesis 1; 8-10)
For centuries humans have been dependent on artificial light to illuminate our streets and homes after sunset, the consequences of which not only further disrupt nature in various ways, but also deny us seeing one of the most amazing shows on earth.
There are very few places left in Israel where light pollution is low enough to experience the night sky. Only the Negev's barren landscape still offers the rare opportunity to disconnect from everything, including your cellphone coverage, and experience natural light at its most elegant. So it was off to the middle of the the Ramon Crater to find some good company, a cup of coffee in the middle of the desert (per the lyrics of Meir Ariel in B'tzaarei Yayom), and the milky way.
I joined Kfir Veler's workshop for star chasers - a mix of Israelis from all walks of life who wanted to... well chase the stars. Our group included a retired police interrogator, two pensioners, two professional photographers, a geology student from Beer Sheva University, two IDF soldiers, and some high tech junkies like myself. The melting pot of Israelis away from their natural habitat and dumped in the middle of a crater.
A short round of intros done, it was time to let the desert land and evening sky take the stage in a daily show of 3 acts
Act 1 - Sunset Silhouettes
Every location, from the Sea of Galilee to the Tel Aviv beach, has as it's unique sunset experience. The summer desert sunset, along with some models on hand (some admittedly a little creepy - thanks Kfir), created the backdrop for natural light photography simplicity.
Act 2 - Trees, Rocks and Stars
Within minutes of the dusk settling, and the dark blue of night taking over, it was time to relocate for the main act - (warning, pun) - to capture the stars of the show. Nothing can prepare you for the stunning beauty of the star constellations, the milky way, and what a camera can produce from them. All that was left was to focus and leave the cameras to their own - capturing the rotation of the earth as it spun around the north star, relax, and enjoy the brisk desert night chill.
Act 3 - Sunrise
The finale of the show included a trek back up the crater's winding road to stand on a precipice in howling winds as we watched the sun reappear, staring at the land below while it recaptured its browns and tans.
The day started, the show ended, and life continued. But not before the group shared one more cup of coffee together.
Israel's first prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, spent the latter part of his life in Sde Boker. It was his staunch, almost religious belief, that Israel's future would depend on this piece of dry land, and making it bloom. And while many parts of the Negev indeed grow - in human population, technology, agriculture and more, its certainly not a bad thing that a large enough area is left as is - untouched and protected - so that we have where to escape to once in a while.