Friday, August 19, 2011

Red black mountains' majesties

I can understand why people would opt to drive down to Eilat along the scenic and remote Route 12, scene of Thursday's fatal terror attacks, rather than the more popular Arava route, with its many heavy trucks, heavy traffic and just far less evocative views.

Route 12 is the highway we like to take when driving by day. Just a few minutes after leaving the urban sprawl of Eilat and you are out in the untamed wilderness with views into Sinai, dramatic rugged red, black and orange mountains punctuated with dramatic wadis, the occasional ibex wild goats and dashing black and white wheatear perched on every other roadsign. In migration season you can see large numbers of majestic raptors from mountainside overlooks along the route.

By night the highway is positively spooky, shadowy dark mountains looming over the road like giant monsters and black wadis in the gaps between become bottomless voids waiting to swallow hapless motorists. Yet night has its beauty too - endless clear desert skies sparkling like a field of diamonds, the Milky Way a bright shimmering swathe across the heavens, maybe a desert fox or even hyena crossing your path, caught for a brief moment in a cone of headlights.

While this section of the road is usually considered safe for civilian motorists, it has always had its dangers. Bedouin smugglers use this long wild border to bring in illicit firearms, drugs, people and domestic animals. There are military checkpoints along the highway and often very visible military traffic and patrols. We've certainly been stopped along this route often enough and asked for ID. It's certainly always been my impression that the IDF takes the security of this vital road and adjacent border very seriously.

And now it's another dot on the map of terror.

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