A scant two weeks of serious touring in Israel and Palestine, we have a free day. How to spend it? Some of us head for the desert.
We arrive early morning just in time to climb a sand dune and watch the sun slowly rise above the thick, low clouds on the eastern horizon. We turn west and start our descent to the Greek Orthodox monastery that looks for all the world like a Mid-East Shangri-La.
The monks monitor our approach through binoculars. Iyad our guide tells us the rowdy, disrespectful, and inappropriately dressed do not gain entrance. We walk slowly, silently, in single file. When we arrive, the door is slightly ajar.
We’re there early enough the monks are still doing morning chores. One is censing every single one of the hundreds of icons. Another is washing and squeegeing the bathroom floor. We tread lightly on their space and leave as quietly as we came.
The next few hours we hike the Wadi Quelt where nothing is more important than our hats and water. The sun has a way of keeping you focused. As we make our descent into Jericho, the canyon segues to pure dessert. We walk past Herod’s castle ruins to an air-conditioned van waiting to take us out to breakfast.
Iyad has a better idea. We stop at the market where he picks up fresh pita, just fried falafel, and supplies for what he calls Palestinian breakfast.
We arrive at Iyad’s home. He heats canned fava bean that he mashes with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and parsley. With it he serves cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions that had likely been picked that morning. In minutes we’re dipping pillowy pita in fava puree and munching on crisp vegetables and falafel.
Yesterday we arrived home from our trip to an empty fridge. What to eat for lunch? I found a can of pinto beans and made Palestinian breakfast.