…Just Different

Eilot -> Dead Sea -> Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine

I’ve heard so much about the stark differences between Israel and the Arab world, so of course it’s the first thing I looked for as I came across the border.

You can see it in the city of Eilot: cleaner, neater, and more central European in architecture. In the people, for sure! I haven’t seen so many mullets outside of Lower Chanceford Township, nor so many leggings since the 80s, not to mention the short skirts – far too short for my high school dress code! It’s also much harder to pick out the foreigners on sight.

But pass outside the city limits, and one side of the Rift Valley is pretty much like its opposite. It’s still Wadi Araba. It may be a touch more green.

I’m fascinated by the date plantations: hundreds of palms, all the same height and shape, in a perfect grid of straight lines and right angles, the dead fronds trimmed neatly away.

It’s at the northern end of the Dead Seat that I started to see a real difference in the natural scenery, about where I spotted the distinctive Wadi Mujib Bridge over on the Jordanian side. From there most of the way to Jericho, between the road and the Dead Sea, was miles and miles of salt marsh, thick with reeds, acacia trees and the occasional palm, and bordered with short grasses in vivid earth tones. All of it was protected by chain link fence topped with barbed wire. It was just beautiful, even if segments of the trees had been ruined in a fire in the last year.

Then we turned left at the top of the Dead Sea and went up, up, up to Jerusalem. As we wound our way through the hills, which on the Jordanian side are barren and rocky, on the Israeli side were covered in a soft fuzz of green and yellow grass. Where the road cut into the hillsides, you could see a thick layer of fertile soil above the sharp, white layers of rock. Then we got to the top and it was greener than the greenest parts of Ajlun. How much of that difference is Mother Nature and how much human (mis)management is not mine to judge, but it was a dramatic difference.

Then we ducked into a tunnel and…
…there it was, the holy city, with the golden Dome of the Rock glowing in the late afternoon sunlight.

Promised land, indeed!

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