Monday, April 23, 2007

Beit Hogla

Independence and memorial day posts will be coming soon, just as soon as I've had time to assemble the photos into some sort of coherent narrative. Meanwhile, I'll continue with yesterday's post, A Journey to the End of the Earth, with a tour of the outpost at Beit Hogla...

The name of the city "Yericho" (Jericho) is rooted in the word "Yareach" (moon,) because the original Canaanite inhabitants were moon-worshiping pagans. Today, the name still seems appropriate, not only because the Muslim inhabitants of Jericho use the crescent moon as the symbol of their religion, but also because the landscape itself often looks like a deserted, wasted moonscape.

Beit Hoglah is next to the Army base called "Mul Nevo," literally, "Across from Nebo," referring to Mount Nebo, on which Moses gave his final testimony, Sefer Dvarim (the Book of Deuteronomy.) God then stretched out the Land of Israel before him as he died. Directly south of Beit Hogla is the region of Gilgal, where the Jews encamped under the command of Moses' successor Joshua, while sending out war parties to conquer the land and establish settlements.

Yours truly, at the entrance to Beit Hogla

The "Welcome to Beit Hogla" menorah.

The outpost, such as it is, resembles a Bedouin encampment, with makeshift shelters and seemingly temporary dwellings. Erna, an immigrant from Greece, is the only permanent inhabitant. Her husband, who lives in Ofrah, near Beit El, visits whenever he can, and her children live in settlements and outposts throughout Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank.)

David, fellow yeshivah student, and Erna, at Beit Hogla. Note the lovely picket fence.

Most of the guys from yeshivah have been working on repairing and expanding the drip irrigation systems . Beit Hogla produces medicinal herbs and spices, as well as olives.

The soil is extremely tough to work. One can see why Yehoshua (Joshua, Moses' successor) referred to Jericho as "cursed." This land was once at the bottom of a vast inland sea. As the sea dried up and shrank to become the Dead Sea, heavy salt deposits remained in the earth. Today, when rain falls, the water absorbs the salt from the soil and brings it to the surface, resulting in a thin layer of salt dust over the land. The salt is poisonous for the plant life, and limits the types of crops which can be grown.

And this is where you will be staying tonight. A lovely five-star modified shipping container.

The shipping containers are arranged in a semi-square. they provide the walls for the Beit Midrash (study hall) and Shul (synagogue.)

The Beit Midrash/Shul
Working on the drip irrigation system

When she first arrived, there was very little for Erna to work with here. The Army had permitted her to use the land, but nothing grows out here on its own, and the Army was uninterested in providing her with water. Down the road, however, is the a Greek Orthodox Christian Monestary. Erna, a native Greek speaker herself, was able to negotiate a contract to purchase water to run the farm.

The goat pen. Back right in the distance: The Greek Orthodox Monestary

David at the goat pen

The Greek Orthodox Monestary

The southern side of the farm is bordered by a Wadi, which periodically floods during storms, and acts as an underground river. Filled with an unusual belt of green, the Wadi leads down to the Jordan River. In the distance, palm trees poke up over some sort of old defensive position. One of the guys working tells me that this was an old defensive position from either the independence or six day war. That, of course, piques my curiosity.

New irrigation piping. Note white the salt deposits at the low points. In the distance, an oasis formed by the underground river. In the far background one can see the old defensive positon.

And that will be my next stop...

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