Why I walked across the desert of Israel

I’ve lost track of days, objectives, and unnecessary material desires. Mornings begin when the dawn pierces through my sleeping bag with it’s blazing heat. Breakfast is a circle of song and dance motivated by the mission of us love-drunk hippies to spread peace and love in these war-torn lands. Armed with nothing but musical instruments and hugs (which we employ with equal force) we simply walk to spread a message of hope and unity. Amidst a stark landscape of visual artistry, embraced by shifting sands and a thick carpet of stars overhead, the desert of Israel became my home for six weeks, and this tribe, my family.

The ‘Walk About Love’ is a yearly event which essentially follows the Israeli National trail from Eilat in the south all the way to Mount Hermon in the north of the country. This bohemian pilgrimage spans 100 days and sees people join from all over the world. I had heard about it while traveling in India, though I had no idea then how much it was going to transform me.

The unending emptiness of the desert acted as the perfect mirror to deeply reflect upon.  In its vastness there was no noise to drown my inner voice out, no distractions to keep me from turning inward and nowhere to escape when I faced the parts of myself that I would’ve rather hid from.
At first, it was challenging not to shower but once a week, especially when I was actually caked in sand and sweat. But with time the feeling of being ‘dirty’ began to feel like being a part of the landscape. Living in the open amongst all the elements was daunting. The desert is especially confronting for its lack of walls or even a bush to huddle close to for comfort. It is like swimming in the middle of the giant ocean with no horizon in sight. The desert is life or death. Conditions are so extreme that any ray of sunlight can be enough sustenance for a small plant to struggle its way to blossom.  Similarly, walking through this desert removed from the modern world felt like that same beam unfolding the potential within me. 

It is no wonder some of humanity’s greatest prophets received their revelations while wandering the desert. 

Some dormant part of myself came alive in these weeks. My soul drank nutrients from storytelling at the nighttime campfires, sharing hardships with this community, and the space my soul was afforded to search. Surrendered between the enormity of the Earth and Sky reminded me that I was a child of a great Mother whose wisdom exceeds all that Man has accomplished in his feverish attempt to control, dissect and analyze all aspects of her intelligence. The moon and stars have hung in the sky like lanterns long before Moses wandered the desert or Jesus walked on water. Her tides have thunderously inhaled and exhaled millennia before Einstein discovered relativity or Socrates taught Plato. While Shakespeare composed his great romantic tragedy, our Cosmos danced like lovers in a continual meeting and parting.

Upon arriving back in civilization, I immediately felt walls. There were real walls like the ‘Wailing Wall’ in Jerusalem, the claustrophobic walls of the bedroom I now slept in, but more palpable were the walls in people’s hearts. As we danced our way into the city, bringing with us the unfettered wilderness of the great outdoors, I felt like an alien descended on another planet. How long would it be until I too conformed to the standards of society by dulling my thunderous inner voice? My only hope was that the sand and the sweet smell of campfire clung to my skin long enough to shield me from the perilous clutches of convention, so that I may continue tending to my inner desert now in full bloom.