Abandoned British munitions dumps stretching across a dusty field near Gaza. If the rains keep up long enough, it might just yield a wheat harvest. 2005:02:19 15:18:44
Astro-Tiyul continued on from Pura to Kibbutz Be'eri and the nearby nature reserve.
An excerpt from the notes I took on the road back home illustrates my impressions:
...fields dotted with raised berms, abandoned ammunition dumps of the British army. The roads also clearly dated back to the Mandate, too. Even older, Byzantine cisterns poked from one hill, near an improbable -- if very small -- waterfall.
I could see Gaza in the distance, faint through dust-bleached sky. I could probably have walked up to the fence.
The Gaza Strip is hardly Mordor, but sometimes it might as well be, spoken of as it is, as a bogeyman land of danger and foes. So this verdant land between the road and the fence, littered with the detrius of old rulers and past wars, has a distinctly Ithilien quality.
Map of Gaza and the northern Negev illustrating Be'eri and Pura. For scale, S'derot is about 10 kilometers from Gaza City.
Even during the supposed "greening" of the desert, the Negev around Gaza is still desolate country. While we found a good deal of grass and flowering near the seasonal streams, the fields in between are a dusty, dry affair. This is an ecologically curious observation, since the Strip is beachfront property. My understanding is that the prevailing winds tend to blow either due east or due west. Farther north, such as around Tel Aviv and Haifa, this means that dry mountain air alternates with Mediterranean moisture, and the ecology is appropriately subtropical. Here in the Negev, though, the changing weather merely switches between Arabian and Sahara dessication. (See here for a map of the wider region.)
The combination of lots of Egyptian tanks and a large Palestinian city kept Israel from conquering Gaza in '48, but it and the Sinai Peninsula fell in the war of '67. Egypt eventually agreed to make nice with Israel in exchange for the peninsula, which was fine by Sharon and company since that had never really been considered part of the Land of Israel. Even so, the howls of protest over uprooting the Sinai settlements apparently bore striking resemblance to today's state of affairs.
A recently planted grove. The straight rows of relatively young trees are dead giveaway. Almost certainly about 50 years old, it would have been planted on the remains of a destroyed Arab village to prevent its former occupants ever returning. 2005:02:19 14:44:33