Beach Camping on the Red Sea - The Israel/Jordan border

We were living in Israel for a year in 1972/73. I was a teenager. My family was  under the U.N. umbrella and this allowed us access to places native Israelis didn't have. This made for some serious exploring of the country. Including Crusader castle ruins and other ancient sites most can only dream of.

Egypt's Sinai Peninsula was still under Israel's control after the 67 war just a few years before. This vast desert held many amazing gifts if you are willing to take the risk, both man-made and natural. Being only 5 years since a major conflict it was still a war zone of land mines and live ordinances that had to be dealt with. The burnt out shell of tanks and half-tracks were a common sight along the roadside.

One of these gems was Eilat Israel. Eilat sits on the northern tip of the Red Sea right on the Jordan border and just North of the Egyptian border before the war and once again now. The harsh desert terrain meets the crystal clear waters on the Red Sea. It's a beautiful place. It had a small tourist following at the time. Mostly jet setter hippies and American Jews on pilgrimages.

This is where I first snorkeled. I hit the water having no idea there were corral reefs there. I was immediately skimming just over the Corral worried I might get stung if I brushed the sea creatures beneath me. I remember walking alone past the huge signs on the beach that required the buddy system because of the deadly sea snakes and assorted dangers I was blissfully ignorant of. I spent the day solo snorkling the Red Sea. My mind was blown!

I swam down along a field of long sea grass rythmicly waving back and forth in the current. When I got close all at once the grass disapeared with a swirl of sand so fast I never saw the trasition. It was a huge collection of eels or something. I started seeking these groups out and swimming at them to watch them pull back into their holes on the sea floor. I found out later on a glass bottom boat ride that they were deadly Sea Snakes. One bite and your dead. Like won't make it back to shore dead...

I almost panicked when I realized what I thought was my shadow below me was a monster grouper bigger than my skinny little ass pacing me. The whole time I was awestruck by the beauty of the corral and thought how a real reef like in Florida must be real amazing. I didn't find out till later that I was swimming in reefs considered some of the best in the world. And we had no idea they were there when we stopped to go swimming.

We explored all day before searching out a place to camp. I'm not sure how we came to pick it but we settled in right on the beach just a few hundred feet from where the Jordan/Israel border meets the sea. Then it was a sand berm topped with barbed wire that led down into the water. The white U.N. license plates on our VW Bus let us wander close to military sensitive areas without raising to many flags. This had it's advantages and disadvantages.

We cleared an area on the beach to camp. Stones, shells and debris that washed up had to be cleared. Watching for any signs of landmines when out in the country side was second nature. We had camp set up in plenty of time to sit back and watch another spectacular Israel sunset. There is no better sunset in the world.

While doing the final clearing before pitching my tent a small piece of metal in the sand caught my eye. After cleaning it up I saw it was a Military Insignia! This beach has been fought over for thousands of years and some soul lost an insignia during battle. Only to be retrieved by some runny nose kid from Missouri pitching a pup tent.

I've kept that insignia ever since and recently had my research expose it's origins. I didn't know if it was Jordanian, Egyptian or Israeli. All three countries were in walking distance and they have pushed this string of barbed wire back and forth over the years.

It turns out to be Israeli. An insignia of the IDF Combat Engineering Sapper division.

These are the crazy bastards up front clearing or laying mines and blowing up anything in the way of the following troops while under combat. Somewhere along the way the threaded nut on the back spun loose setting it free and it fell to the sand. Hopefully not the hard way.

Sappers are skilled in infantry, basic sabotage, landmine planting and demining, use of explosives, breaching and opening routes and trench warfare. These are the guys blowing enemy shit up in the night so the troops can do their job.

Eilat is now a major resort town. The shoreline in lined with huge hotels and tourist traps. I'm glad we got to enjoy Eilat in it's raw form before the developers took over. Our next destination from there was to climb Mt. Sinai, Where Moses received the 10 commandments. That turned into an epic adventure and a story for another time.