"Restore Our Fortune Like Streams in the Negev" The Beauty of Winter Israeli Deserts
Updated: Dec 2, 2021
The 126th Psalm
Maybe it was with your bunk mates at summer camp, or maybe only on Shabbat. Maybe you recite it several times a day. But whether it’s part of your daily ritual or associated only with fond childhood memories, King David’s 126th psalm resonates with us who know the magic of the desert in winter.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
What an odd verse
Like streams in the desert? That seems so odd. Deserts are dry, harsh, and inhospitable. Scorching temperatures for so much of the year, it’s hard to imagine throngs of people flocking to visit. Well, that’s true most of the time. But come winter, most Israelis will tell you that there weekend plans revolve around trips to the Negev desert. They pack their picnic baskets, tie bicycles to their roof racks and lace up their hiking boots for a desert escape that lasts only a few weeks each year.
The desert is alive!
As December draws to a close, the desert springs to life as cyclamens and poppies cover the landscape. The fields of moshavim (agricultural settlements) and kibbutzim (agricultural collectives) such as Be’eri, Sa’ad and Nir Am are transformed into magical red carpets welcoming visitors from across the country. In the Judean Deseret, wadis (river beds) swell with rushing water flowing down from the Judean hills.