5:30 am. There is a hint of blue in the sky. I’m standing on the edge of a canyon, waiting for the first rays of sun to rise over the horizon. It’s hazy. The sky begins to lighten, and I wait for the red and gold streaks of light to appear before me. It gets lighter. No colours in the sand.

A new day has arrived, deep in the desert of Southern Israel. While I didn’t see the sunrise I had hoped for, I did experience the quiet serenity of early morning in the desert, in the land I have hoped to visit for months.

The Israel I arrived to this week is not the same one I last visited in the summer of 2022. In recent months I have written about, and  I have shared my thoughts, about the attack on Israel on October 7th, 2023. And since that day, over 6 months ago, instead of fearing this place, I have longed to be here.  

I’m a “words” person, I often tell people. I can take random, often unconnected details, and string them together into something coherent, often beautiful. I tell stories. I even joke that data can’t tell me what I need to know. Data is just numbers. A bunch of numbers are meaningless. It’s what you do with the numbers, how you can connect them, to create your story.

Somehow, many different kinds of numbers came at me today, in the desert, and together they are forming my story.

Hundreds of Millions of Years          

That’s the approximate age of the Ramon Crater, where I watched the sun rise this morning. With its unique rock formations and colourful sands, it is central to the history of this land and its geology. I looked out at this magnificent vista, which holds the stories of thousands of years of civilizations who have lived in this land. It grounded me. It calmed me. It reminded me of where I was and why I worked so hard to get here.

The hint of sunrise over the crater

Three Attempts – on Four Airlines

For this one there are so many numbers that keep swirling through my head. We were booked to fly to Israel on April 13th, on Air Canada, non-stop. Stay with me as our saga has many twists and turns….

The flight was canceled, just after we boarded. With hundreds of drones and missiles being shot at Israel by Iran that evening, all flights were grounded. The flight was rebooked to take off the next day, but of course the rebooked flight was again canceled the following morning. We were determined to still fly (to attend our niece’s wedding), so we were rebooked, on Air Canada and Austrian Air to fly through London and Vienna.

With our second trip to the airport in two days, that flight didn’t happen either. But I didn’t give up. Our tickets were refunded and we rebooked on KLM, to fly on Saturday, April 20th, with a stop in Amsterdam. A couple of days before we were scheduled to fly…. Yep, that flight was canceled too and we were moved to Air France, to fly on Sunday, April 21st.

The third time was a charm, on the fourth airline, and we landed in Israel, on Monday, April 22nd.

Twenty-Six People

We landed in Israel just a few hours before the start of the holiday of Passover. After a week trying to travel here, and two long flights, during which I didn’t sleep, I was very emotional. As the pilot announced that we had entered Israeli airspace and to please fasten our seatbelts, I felt tears falling down my face. I couldn’t keep it in anymore, how I felt to finally get there.

Usually one of my favourite places, I felt sad as I walked this path.

When we got off the plane, I immediately felt that I had arrived in a different Israel. As I walked down the ramp to passport control, looking at the sign telling me, “Welcome to Israel,” to my right and left were the names and faces of the hostages. It was these people who welcomed me, who are being held captive, and that I must remember that every moment I am here.

An empty Seder table set up in front of an ancient winery in Rehovot.

We arrived at my mother-in-law’s house just two hours before the Seder, exhausted. There was no time to relax, as we cleaned ourselves up, and we felt the warmth and joy to participate in our family’s Seder, of 26 people.

We came here because of our love of Israel. And we came here to be with our family. I held back the tears as the Seder began, when it slowly started to sink in of where we were.

One Scorpion

It was 39 degrees today in the desert. I’m not talking 30 degrees plus humidity. I mean solid, wall of heat, with a beating sun and no shade, 39 degrees. All we could muster up was a visit to an alpaca farm and iced coffee and popsicles. But the heat disappeared in the evening, and some of us had the opportunity to go on an evening Scorpion Walk.

You are thinking, what’s that? As we drove up to the designated spot, at 8:30 pm, in total darkness, I wondered too! You see, the Negev desert is a rocky desert. Forget gentle even foot paths. It’s rugged and not for the faint of heart. The guide handed us special ultraviolet flashlights, and the group set off in all directions (on the edge of the crater!), to literally search for scorpions!

Best shot I could get of Nessa shining the ultraviolet. I’m not posting the photo of the scorpion!

I learned more about scorpions in that one hour walk than I had known in my whole life. They capture their prey with their pincers and snap their tail over to kill with the poisoned tip. They camouflage well with the desert landscape, but shine an ultraviolet light at them and they glow in the dark, like a fluorescent yellow light! They also don’t seem to be bothered by a couple of dozen crazy people shining ultraviolet flashlights at them and snapping their picture!

I saw one, yes one, scorpion tonight. Even I admit, that was kind of cool.

80% and 70%

As the day began to cool down, a few of us took a pre-sunset hike, along the edge of the crater. The haze was back, like in the morning, so we couldn’t see the vibrant colours pop out, but still it was a sight to see. Our guides shared their vast knowledge about the desert and the beauty that lies within it. And near the end of the hike, they challenged us with some numbers.

We had to do the selfie in front of the crater!

Two numbers stuck out in my mind, and together they brought together everything that I personally have experienced in the last six plus months: 80 and 70.

80% of the Negev desert is used for either Israel Defense Forces (IDF) army bases or training facilities.

70% of the Negev desert is protected as national parks.

How is that possible? 80 plus 70 does not equal 100%. That’s because, our guide explained, that the IDF shares its training spaces with the national parks, and the IDF rotates where they train. Both are responsible for caring for the land.

It took a moment for that to sink in. These numbers tell the story of the State of Israel, and the deep, and historical love and connection the Jewish People – the Jewish Religion – the Jewish Nation – has for this land. It must be protected and preserved. It must be defended and deeply cared for. It is a symbiotic relationship that is unique and so special.



Everywhere I turn here there are numbers, and I could write and write about how each one tells a story. I am taking in every moment of my short time here, and I’m thankful that I’m here. My children are surrounded by their cousins. My husband is surrounded by his siblings. And I am filled with joy.