By Roy Arad/Posted at;haaretz.com –
Dragot shows you there’s a world without boundaries – but living without boundaries ultimately breaks you.
On a small beach along the Dead Sea lies the last paradise of Israel’s hippies. The colony of tents at Metzukei Dragot, near the northwestern bank of the sea, is a haven for those who can’t stand the brutishness of modern society. Tucked away between the reeds and the gurgling of the springs, they somehow manage to survive, some for months, without working or paying rent. Wanting to experience it myself, armed with a tent, a sleeping bag, dates and a six-pack of mineral water in tow, I went there with friends for three weekends that stretched into weekdays.
“You feel as if you’ve crossed the boundary between the land and the sea, and the cliffs also create an at-the-edge experience,” said one of my companions on the trip, Benny Yonin, 31, a tour guide who’s a frequent visitor here. “I met a German tourist on the beach there who told me he felt as though Metzukei Dragot beach was the end of the civilized world. You see Jordan opposite you the whole time, and behind and above an army checkpoint. The sinkholes create the sensation that the place is going to disappear. People who live there feel that it’s all temporary. The topography changes by the month. That adds to the sense of bewilderment.”
Midweek, only hippies – a general, imprecise term, used in the absence of any more apt social classification – populate the beach. On weekends, though, the population is more diverse. I saw a motley group of Palestinians from East Jerusalem with an all-terrain vehicle; female tourists from Bulgaria; an armed settler couple; a newly religious family with sweet children; and a few completely nude hippies. Everyone mingles.
Some regular local denizens are contemptuous of those who come and go. I prefer the weekend pluralism, even when jeeps partly block the view or people play loud electronic music. By my cautious estimate, about 150 people are at the site on weekends, compared to the 30 or so long-term occupants during the week. Two people, Allan and Haim, have lived at Metzukei Dragot beach steadily for more than a decade, including in the brutal summers. (Most of the names have been changed to avoid infringing on people’s privacy.)
I made my first visit to the site almost a year ago, with female friends. A naked man of about 20 sat down next to us, helped himself to our food and told one friend he would like to sleep with her. When she refused, he continued to stare at us, like a child.
Here, people who are societal outsiders aren’t a problem to be thrust into a closed room: they are the charm of the place. If you’re leery of people whose behavior is driven by a different logic, whose mental operating system seems alien, there are other beaches for you. On Shabbat, the young man’s parents came to visit and brought a cake. They were regular all-Israeli folks, a little like my parents. Their son took drugs while in India and returned in a bad way, but it seems they didn’t want to forcibly hospitalize him.
On our first trip we also met one of the colony’s most colorful characters, who calls himself Benny Rambo. He barrels around here in one of his two jeeps – usually a Sufa (the locally made “AIL Storm” vehicle) that flies an Israeli flag and houses an irritable dog that never stops barking. Rambo helped pad the spring with the sandbags that turned it into a comfortable pool. He added a pipe that created a natural Jacuzzi and he also assists in keeping the site clean.
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/culture/.premium-1.777710