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Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: Rappelling, Hiking and Snorkeling by Eilat

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
As regular readers were able to tell, I took a couple of days off at the end of last week. I took my older boys on a tiyul for a couple of days, in advance of them returning to their schools.
Besides for the great tiyul we had, spending some great time together, and spending time together with the friends we went with, the next best part was being offline and missing all the rehashed talk that happens year after year of who stood and who did not stand during the memorial siren. Thankfully I knew nothing of what was and was not going on for two days.
Here is a recap of our great tiyul:
The plan was actually originally to go up north for 3 days, and hike Yam lYam - from the Nehariya coast until the Kinneret. We have don't this, in full and in part, a few times already, but this time would have been with our sons. Unfortunately, the unusual weather forecast predicting storms forced us to change our plans. We rescheduled for a two day trip of rappelling, hiking, and snorkeling, down south, on the outskirts of Eilat.
Day 1:
We drove down, heading south, and stopped near the Dead Sea for some rappelling at Nahal Tamar. We hiked up the mountain to the rappelling spots. Nahal Tamar is a short hike up a very steep mountain, and it has two spots for great rappelling.
The first, lower, spot, is the bigger drop from the cliff, for greater rappelling. The lower cliff, however, was populated by a group of tourists with a rappelling company., which meant we had to continue on to the higher cliff, with the shorter drop, to do our rappelling.
That was fine, as this was going to be the first time rappelling for some of us (me included), so the slightly shorter drop was just fine, as the rappelling experience would be great anyway.
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
After hiking up to the top level, we set up the rappelling gear, and took turns rappelling down. The experience of rappelling is very cool. As long as you are careful with setting your equipment properly, it seems that it is pretty safe, even though it can be frightening going over the edge of the cliff... It was a thrilling experience, and we each did it two or three times, so we could get the hang of it and enjoy.
After making our way back to the car, and enjoying some refreshments and some cold drinks from the gas station, we watched for a while 2 truckloads of dairy cows that had been shipped in from Russia. The trucks were parked there for a bit while the drivers took care of some things. One of the things was one of the cows had fallen over, and they had to figure out how to get it to stand again, or else it would likely be killed with other cows stepping on it and falling on it. They were trying to force it to stand, by both screaming at it, hitting its rump and using a "shocker". I have no idea if ultimately they were successful or not, as we left before they finished.
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
These cows were heading to an isolation farm down south for a couple weeks of isolation and inspection to make sure they were not carrying any diseases, before they will eventually be released to whatever farms bought them.
We then continued on our way down south to Eilat.
Arriving in the very late afternoon, we decided on a short hike before nightfall. The weather was already getting cool, and the rain-clouds were forming in the distance, but the hike in Red Canyon is a short one, so we decided we could probably do it before nightfall or rainfall.
Note: down south rain does not just mean getting wet, but it runs the risk of getting caught in flash floods.
The Red Canyon hike is a short circular route, taking about an hour and  half, maybe a bit less, and that includes our breaks for enjoying the scenery and pictures. The red rock is amazingly unusual - red, wind-swept, smooth.
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
The hike is easy, and we finished it with plenty of time before it got dark or rainy. The rain actually began shortly after we finished, though it was just a very light rain - though it lasted a few hours.
At that point we had to decide whether to continue with our original plan of finding a place to camp out overnight and barbecue for dinner, or worry about the rain washing things out and instead finding a place to sleep and eat indoors.
We decided to wait out our decision a bit and see what happens with the rain. An additional problem was Wednesday night was also the night of Yom Hashoa, meaning stores and restaurants had to close early.  We decided to go into a supermarket in the city and stock up on some supplies we needed - pita, water and some snacks, along with some additional snorkeling equipment in the sporting goods store next door.
The prices in Eilat were better in every instance than the prices we get at supermarkets in Bet Shemesh. The main reason being, there is no VAT in Eilat. That means prices are almost automatically about 18% cheaper, on most things. And every item we looked at was significantly cheaper. We considered doing some shopping just to take advantage of the cheaper prices, but we did not really have any space for that.
By the time we were done, it was still raining lightly, but we decided to look for the camping spot anyway. We found a good spot by the Eilat Field School - we wanted to take advantage of their bathrooms and showers, and went with that instead of just camping on some beachfront property. The ground still seemed relatively dry despite the light rain, and we enjoyed a nice BBQ and some good hot showers. We set up the tent and fell asleep pretty quickly.
Day 2:
In the morning, it is difficult to sleep in a tent once the sun is up, and we woke up pretty much with sunrise. After davening and eating breakfast, we were on the road. We were all set to hike up to the top of Har Shlomo. The Har Shlomo hike is described as a full day hike. The hike actually includes two mountains - both har Yehoram and Har Shlomo. Har Yehoram peaks at 680 meters above sea level. From there you climb down and then back up to a peak of over 700 meters on the top of Har Shlomo. The hike is difficult and challenging, and the views were exhilarating and the air refreshing.
Har Shlomo is named after King Solomon, who supposedly had mines in that area. The rock of Har Shlomo is a blackish-reddish rock, and is in stark contrast to the white rock of Har Yehoram right next to it. Interestingly, from the top of these mountains, one can see the line delineating the division of the white and red rock, both on the mountains and in the desert opposite.
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
When we got to the top of Har Shlomo we decided to not complete the full day hike and instead turned back. After all, we still wanted to have time to go snorkeling.
We returned to Eilat, bought some more pita, and looked for a place to eat. We found a quiet beach and parked ourselves there to eat  a much-needed late lunch.
After lunch we went to Chof Almogim, Coral Beach, for snorkeling. We had some of our own equipment, and rented some from the station there. There are not really many places for swimming on this beach, as the coral is right up against the edge of the beach. Because the coral is sharp and dangerous, they have much of it roped off so you cannot swim there. Instead, they have a bridge that takes you out a bit deeper, past the coral.
From the bridge we went in snorkeling. We saw some schools of little fish in that area, but we did not really get the really impressive sights we had been expecting. Snorkeling is tiring, so at some point we all ended up going back ashore to rest a bit.
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
Tiyulim in Eretz Yisrael: rappelling, hiking and snorkeling by Eilat
Funnily enough, we then went back in the water, but in one of the small sections available right off the beach. Even though this section was relatively small, when snorkeling there we were able to see some of the really beautiful fish - I saw the blue fish with the yellow tail, some striped fish and some others. It was really cool.
Eventually it was time to leave, and we began our long drive back home. On the way, it was getting dark and as we drove through the Ramon Crater, we were able to see the amazing sky full of stars - the sight of which we normally don't get when living in a well-lit city. Google Sky helped us identify some of the stars and the planet we could see, but it was still just a bit light outside and not quite dark enough.
By the time we were out of the crater it was fully dark. We decided to make a short detour and stop near Har Gamal, a mountain nearby that has a hump like a camel. It was pitch black out there, and after killing the car lights, we were able to see the amazing night sky. We identified Jupiter and Venus, along with the basic constellations such as Orion's Belt and the Big Dipper. Google Sky helped us identify some of the other thousands of stars, most of whose names meant nothing to me. It was freezing cold out there with a strong wind, so we kept it short and got back into the car to continue our drive home.
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