Not more than a stone's throw from the border with Gaza in the western Negev, my wife and I took a couple of days off from the usual routine to cut ourselves off from civilisation (or so it seemed) and visit the "blooming" desert region of the country following the wonderful rains we have had.
The journey started at the Media Center (SMC) in Sderot http://sderotmedia.org.il/ . The center's media outreach, education seminars, and social media projects have brought the story of Sderot to millions of people across the world, including political leaders and international. As Noam Beduin, the head of the center told me, journalists visiting the area after being brainwashed in Gaza, see a town rebuilt with little outward signs of the effects 10,000 rockets over the last 8 years. however the trauma of the residents of this gutsy town has created many social problems.
The center offers tools to the Sderot community in the area of social media so that psychologically traumatized residents learn to express their suffering through the arts of the media in theater and writing. This year, SMC is running the Sderot Community Treatment Theater for Sderot high school girls. The theater company will eventually perfom across Israel and the world, with the aim of allowing outside audiences to listen and absorb the real life experiences of the Sderot "actresses" translated into their performance.
Our journey then continued south parallel to the Gaza border, where we spent time cyling and walking amongst the most incredible sights of fields, as far as the eye could see, as carpets of red and also white, yellow and other colours.
At one kibbutz, where we cycled around the fields, we came across a beuatiful carpet of red with tables and chairs set out amongst the flowers as preparations were underway for a barbeque lunch. To sit and enjoy a lunch in such surroundings can only be descibed as idyllic.
This, then is the Western Negev "desert", an area developed where human beings have reversed the threat of desertification as is happening in so many countries. Trees abound to keep the top layers of earth from being blown away and if one could imagine a true "Garden of Eden", then surely this area must qualify.