Sunday, April 07, 2019
Some 80 intrepid hikers from France, Switzerland and Belgium came to Israel to embark on KKL France’s 22nd Walk for Water.
The walks focused on the Arava and Negev regions, which are now blooming due to the recent rains. We met with the participants on March 27, half way through their 8-day journey.
“I’d been hearing about the Water Walk for years. I’d always wanted to take part, and now, finally, I’ve taken the plunge,” said Michel Haziza, who hails from Paris. “It’s an amazing trip that gives us an opportunity to observe other aspects of Israel, not just what ordinary tourists see,” he said.
Every year in springtime dozens of Israel-lovers from all over France arrive for a week of KKL-France Walk for Water excursions that facilitate meaningful encounters with the country, its landscapes and its heritage. This year the event is taking place for the 22nd time, with the main focus on the Negev and Arava regions.
The opening ceremony took place in the Arava’s Sapir Park. KKL-JNF emissary to France Fino Edery welcomed the participants and told them: “On every Water Walk we get to know new areas of Israel, and this time we’re inspired by the desert and the vision it represents. As we walk, we learn about Jewish history, which connects us all: we walk, and history walks with us.”
This year’s delegation comprises some eighty people from all parts of France, together with participants from Switzerland and Belgium. Although many of them have taken part in previous Walks, around thirty are experiencing this remarkable event for the first time.
“It’s important to me to support KKL-JNF and Israel,” explained Dominique Beyreuther-Minkov. “Israel is a small, courageous country that deserves to be supported by all of us. By the end of the route your feet might hurt, but your heart soars skywards.”
“When you walk through the desert you can really understand just how important water really is,” said Gerard Doukhan as he made his way up Scorpion’s Pass (Maaleh Akrabim) in the eastern Negev. “I love Israel and I’m glad of this opportunity to be here.”
The recent rain had brought the desert to life and covered it with greenery and colorful flowers that attracted every passing butterfly. Even experienced tour guides cannot recall having seen the water holes of Maaleh Yamin and Ein Yorqeam this full for many years now. Tadpoles swim in the water, and the croaking of frogs can already be imagined. Some of the Water Walkers dipped their feet, while braver souls dived in.
While enjoying the magnificent desert landscapes, participants in the Walk also learn something of the fascinating history of the Land of Israel. At Metzad Tzapir, for example, they heard how this fortress was built in the 3rd century to guard the ancient route that led from the copper mines of the Arava to the Mediterranean Sea.
“We are walking in the footsteps of our forefathers the Israelites,” emphasized KKL-JNF’s Tourism and Missions Director Shlomo Ben-Haim. “And along the way we can enjoy the remarkable desert landscapes.”
Sisters Sarah Karp and Deborah Nouchi had left their husbands at home in Paris with the children and set out to join their mother on the Walk for Water. “Our mother was here last year, and she kept telling us what a wonderful thing the Walk for Water is, so we decided to come along too,” said Sarah. “We’ve made it into a women’s empowerment excursion – girl power!” Her sister Deborah added: “We’re discovering the State of Israel as we’ve never known it before.”
Swiss participant Corine Stup of Zurich was taking part in the Water Walk for the eighth time. “I keep coming back again and again because I enjoy myself so much here. The weather’s wonderful, and the views are very different from what we’re accustomed to seeing in Europe. Walking is my hobby, and I love Israel, so as far as I’m concerned, this is the perfect combination,” she concluded.