The Tower’s photographer traveled south until he reached the Red Sea, then took in the people taking in the spectacular area.
The southernmost tip of Israel is a strange place, a borderland in every sense of the word. At its extremity, it is within sight of three countries – Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. It is a place where an arid wasteland meets a fertile sea. It is a place where nature rules and mankind has built cities dedicated to indulgence and hedonism. It is a barren landscape that hard work and modern technology have made fertile. It is, in other words, a place where the many paradoxes that make up Israel itself become one.
Tower photographer Aviram Valdman headed south to capture fleeting images of this extraordinary place. He visited Kibbutz Samar, an agricultural community that has succeeded in cultivating date palms despite its unforgiving desert surroundings – an oasis of green amongst the rocks. It also includes a large community of American immigrants who arrived following Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War. Outside the kibbutz, Valdman found Timna Valley Park, where the stones take on otherworldly forms that attract tourists from around the world.
This, however, is nothing compared to Eilat. Israel’s southernmost city, Eilat sits on the Red Sea and is a Mecca for visitors who come to enjoy its temperate waters, white sand beaches, and extraordinary opportunities for water sports. In particular, Eilat is a center for scuba diving due to its extraordinary diversity of marine life. Along with this, Eilat cultivates a honky-tonk atmosphere suited to the many revelers who head south to enjoy some time away from the tensions that often beset the Jewish state.
But Eilat is now facing new challenges. ISIS is active in Sinai, just across the border with Egypt, bringing the threat of terrorism and war with it. And more importantly, the town of Akaba, just over the Jordanian border, is being swiftly built up as a major tourist attraction, with its cheaper prices threatening Eilat’s only industry.
Nonetheless, Israel’s deep south continues to thrive in the most unlikely conditions, with prosperity derived from what seems to be a completely unforgiving environment. As it has always done, Israel refuses to allow itself to be defeated by the forces of men or nature.
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Banner Photo: Aviram Valdman / The Tower