Eilat—Red Sea

Note: Picture credited to the Israeli Ministry of Tourism (www.goisrael.com)

Time to Go 

During the last week of our stay at the Dead Sea, my husband’s relatives thought that we must go and see Eilat. They were so in love with that place that they deeply felt that we must see it too.

Eilat is the city located near the Red Sea and is known for tourism, relaxation, and entertainment. It is the southernmost city in the country, and it sits on the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba.

There are plenty of hotels, upscale restaurants, and many other places to visit, such as its many beaches, glorious mountains, and trails and surely, the one and only—the gorgeous Red Sea. 

Personally, I did not want to go there. I don’t know why. I just had a strong feeling to not go there.

However, under the pressure of family members and their enthusiasm, I finally gave in. (Note to myself and to others: Do not do it again! Follow your intuition only.)

They made reservations for us for three nights. I agreed to go. I said to myself, “I should be flexible. Maybe they know what they are talking about and I should listen to their suggestion.”

So here I am, packing up for the trip to the Red Sea. In our last night at the hotel, we had dinner as usual. During the night, I woke up with a high fever and vicious vomiting. 

I got so sick overnight that we could not check out of the hotel on time. I was so ill that hotel personnel had to call a doctor and send him to the room. The doctor said that I had some stomach virus, or in other words, I had food poisoning.

However, according to the doctor, the diagnosis of food poisoning could not be “on the record,” so to speak, as it will require them to close the kitchen for several days for investigation. Therefore, it was left as “stomach virus.”

I did not care one way or another. I still was sick as a dog. So stomach virus it is! What can I do?

The hotel management was very kind and let us stay until 3:00 p.m.  In reality, it would be great if we could stay at least one more day and let me heal, to get better.

But we could not stay in the hotel any longer because we did not have any more reservations. And there were no more cancellations that day.

Therefore, the only thing we could do is to travel to the Red Sea. Though I still had a fever, I knew it was time to go. I knew that we have to go.

The End of Me

The bus station was across the hotel and had a bus that could take us directly to Eilat. We went and waited for the 3:30 p.m. bus. We had to wait only a short time, not more than 10 to 15 minutes.

The time came and passed, and the bus still did not show up. No bus. It was more than 100+ degrees Fahrenheit. It was the hottest month of the year. We were in the desert. In the middle of the day. It was brutally hot.

Also, after vomiting all night and not able to keep anything in my stomach, I was feeling dehydrated now, weak, tired, and was totally out of balance.

I started to feel ill again. I could not stand any longer. I could not keep waiting under the open sun, during a heat wave, with a fever. There was no shade and no place to sit, and we had no idea when the bus was coming. 

However, people at the bus station told us that there should be one more bus to Eilat. The last bus of the day. But now the schedule was out, as that last bus missed its time too.

No one knew when the bus will be coming, if at all. Therefore, we could not go back to the hotel and wait there. No one could go anywhere. The sun became our enemy. The heat became our prison.

Everyone tried to hide from the sun the best way they could. The afternoon sun was so strong that I felt as if my feet were melting beneath me. That was it.

I felt interrogated by the sun. It was right in my face. Nowhere to hide. My feet suddenly became so weak that I just slowly went down till I reached the ground.

Here I was. On the ground. In my white jeans. On the dirty ground covered in who knows what. It was a bus stop after all. I did not care. I had no energy to care. I was numb. Not feeling anything. 

And as I sat on the ground surrounded by cigarette butts and covered in dust and dirt, I thought the following: “What would my children think of me if they saw me sitting like this? What would they say?”

Then I asked, “G-d, is this what you want from me? Is this it? What do you want with me?” I was wondering the purpose of all that was taking place. Did G-d really want to see me covered in dirt on the ground? Sick and weak and numb? Is this it? Did he want to break me? Why? Where is the healing in that?

I felt that I had reached my limits and have reached the end of “me.” My thoughts stopped coming too. I could not think anymore. It is what it is. That was it!

During the course of my entire life, I had never reached the end of “me” no matter the obstacle. And now it felt like the end of the world. Since my son shifted, how many times have I felt this way? Is it my new way of being in this world? Regularly being pushed to my limits? Why?

It felt like there was no energy left in me to even move a single finger. Even if I wanted to do something or say something, I had nothing in me to do it.

I had an absolutely profound experience of my limitations. I thought that I had no limitations. I always was thinking that I can do anything. I was not aware of my limitations. Not this way. Not that vividly. Not that clearly.

There at the Dead Sea, sitting on the ground of the bus station, with a fever, covered in dust and dirt just like a homeless woman, I finally faced the end of “me.” For the first time in my life, my limitations were right in front of me. I could touch them. I could feel them. And that I had to face.

My New Place in the World

The bus finally showed up, and I was in its way. I was still sitting on the ground, exactly where the bus usually makes its stop. But I could not pull myself up. I could not move.

I was looking right at the bus as it was moving right at me. Strangely, I did not care whether it would or would not run over me.

I had no feelings. Inside of me was an empty space. I never was so empty and indifferent before. The bus kept getting closer. I kept sitting. My husband kept staying next to me without moving too. We were frozen. Together.

So the bus had to stop before reaching its regular spot of full stop. I don’t know if it was the fever or the heat, or the night of vomiting, or something else that contributed to the feeling of not caring if the bus left without me.

I just didn’t care. I knew that I could end up spending all night, right there on the ground if we missed this bus. We had no place to go. Yet I kept sitting on the ground.

People started exiting the bus, and since I was right there, the people walked over me. Few purses hit my shoulder. I did not respond or even move.

Since the previous bus did not show up, there were a lot of people waiting in line for this last bus. I was not up to fighting for a place on this last bus.

I silently watched as they all, one by one, tried to enter the bus. The bus was packed like a can of fish. Even if I could and wanted, I could not get on the bus because now people were even packed on the stairs as well.

There was no room at all. None. The doors of the bus could not be closed. The last time I saw this picture was 25 years ago, back in the former USSR. It felt very familiar. The “beauty” of public transportation.

The bus driver suddenly got up and asked if I was coming. I replied back with “It’s packed. There is no place for us.”

The bus driver walked out of the bus, stored our luggage, and told us to come and sit by him. He made a way for my husband and me by moving everyone around. People listened to him. No one argued. No one said a word against it.

Then he sat on his seat, looked at me, and said, “Sit.” I asked, “Where?” He replied, “The floor.” Once again I was back on the ground, on the floor. People were staying on the stairs and everywhere else. Pushed against one another. No one complained.

On the floor, in my space, I had more space next to me than anyone else. My husband was also fine right next to me. We had our own territory. Our own world. Protected by the rails that go around the driver’s seat. It was much cooler there too.

The door of the bus slowly closed, and our journey to the Red Sea started. The entire way, I sat on the floor with the sun shining directly on my face. It was still very hot. I could not find a position to hide from the sun. My fever was up too.

Yet I could not help but wonder why the driver showed too much care for me and my husband. Without him and my husband pulling me from the ground, I would not be able to stand up and make it to the bus. Why did he even pay attention to me?

Why was I pulled from the ground? And “why” am I on the floor, what am I, a dog? Long drive, many thoughts. None of them were useful and/or made any difference. I closed my eyes and shifted away. The bus was stopping on its regular stops.

People were coming in and out. Still very packed. Still no one complained. Not once. Not about a shifted schedule, not about lack of space. Everyone was more or less polite. No conflicts! None!

It was about a four-hour drive. By late evening, we reached Eilat.

Red Sea

After some struggling, we were able to find a taxi to take us to our hotel. I went straight to bed. The next day when I woke up, I felt much better. I just wanted to be in the water. I needed to be in the water. So we decided to go to the Red Sea for a swim.

We asked for directions and suggestions about different beaches nearby, got a taxi, and went to the Red Sea. However, inside I still was feeling awkward. Something was off. I did not know why I was there, and I did not feel right about it.

Even seeing the sea and swimming did not sit right with me. Usually swimming always made me feel better, but not this time around.

Music was blasting at full sound everywhere. People were having a great time. There were lots of young people. Everyone looked happy, enjoying their time, their vacation. Lots and lots of children.

But it was not my vacation. It was not my time. I had no children next to me. And the worst thing was to see that the world continues its life as if nothing happened.

The water was beautiful. The sky was blue. The people were laughing. Yet my world did not exist anymore, and I knew that I did not belong to this “happiness.” It was too much “life” for me.

Everything inside of me was weeping. Screaming from pain. And the only thing I wanted is to hide. I did not want to be a part of this “celebration of life.” I was mourning in the desert of death. That is where my journey was. That is where I belonged. 

The day was very hot. Somewhere around 105 to 107 degrees Fahrenheit. My husband decided to take a swim. The bottom of the Red Sea was rocky, and when my husband took a step into the sea, he ended up stepping on a stonefish.

This fish looks like a rock, and when you step on them, they rupture your skin and release a poison. Since it’s poisonous, you have to place your leg in the hot sand to draw the poison out, which we didn’t know at the time.

My husband was in excruciating pain and hardly made it to the beach. We could see that his big toe got swollen very fast. We had no idea what to do, and it was getting scary as the pain was increasing, and his toe was getting swollen more and more.

I left my husband on the sand and started to walk around looking for help. There was no one whom I could ask. I wanted to call for help, but our cell phone had no service. No bars on the phone. What? Were we on the moon or something? No service!

Finally I saw a restaurant. When I entered, I noticed a few people behind the counter. I told them what happened. They were able to tell me what to do, and they also told me that we had to be advised in the hotel what beaches are in danger of having stonefish and which one are not.

However, the hotel did not inform us of this creature and its existence. So my husband had to find it out on his own. I, on the other hand, was not hurt during my swim. Maybe it was my day off from trouble.

After keeping his foot in the hot sand for about an hour, we decided to go back to the hotel. The pain in his toe eased a bit.

It was close to lunchtime. There were no taxis around. The phone was not working, and I could not call. My husband could barely walk or stand.

So I left him sitting under the shades of some trees and went to the open road trying to catch a taxi. There were no cars. Empty road! Just the waves of the heat rising and moving above melting asphalt. Desert!

After about two hours or so in the open sun, I finally waved down a taxi. When we made it to the hotel, it was late in the day. We were tired, to say the least.

The air conditioner in the room was not working properly, and the smog from the cigarettes from other rooms was entering our room. We literally could see the smog getting out of the vent.

It smells as if we were in a bar. I could not breathe. I was choking. We could not use the air conditioner.

After we complained, the hotel’s manager visited our room and then tried to fix the issue. It did not work. Nothing was going right. Nothing was working.

I opened the windows. The blow of the hot wind entered the room. It brought within the loud conversations by the pool, the smell of cigarettes, the laughter, and the screaming music too. Everything from which I tried to hide and escape was following me into my room, into my space. I stood by the window. My tears could not stop running.

After the chain of events and the incident with my husband, it got very clear that we were not meant to be there. Just as I felt it anyway. We did not even unpack.

We decided to interrupt our stay and to leave for Tel Aviv early the next morning. We wanted to take the first bus out.