English-born Israeli journalist and psychologist Lesley Hazleton (Israeli Women, 1978) fell in love with the desert and out...


WHERE MOUNTAINS ROAR: A Personal Report from the Sinai and Negev Desert

English-born Israeli journalist and psychologist Lesley Hazleton (Israeli Women, 1978) fell in love with the desert and out of love with the Israeli vision of ""making the desert bloom."" That heresy gives her soundings from the Negev and the Sinai a collective weight; but their attraction is largely individual and personal, or metaphorical: she discovers the desert as if it had been designed for her contemplation. Thus, she waits out a sandstorm, burrowed into a dune, in a ""state of excited tranquillity."" She climbs up into a hermit's low, dark cave--midway in a discourse on St. Onuphrios and Byzantine hermitry--and decides that, far from finding the godhead by such willful self-abuse, the hermits probably went mad. (Forty years or days in the desert were a different matter--""times of preparation for return to the world."") She explains the snail's extraordinary ability to survive--in a twelve-year life, the snail is active for only 240 days--and wonders at the meager outcome: one more snail to repeat the ""contorted"" process. She learns the rudiments of tracking smugglers, tries to figure out (""partly because of my English upbringing"") how they can avoid being caught, and has to admit failure. One way or another, all these essays speak to the ""rich expansiveness"" of the desert (with only a modicum of dumb-struck awe or existentialist muttering), and many also attest to the freedom and fatalism of the Bedouin. A second group looks directly at the use and misuse of the desert. Here is botanist Michael Evenari, who has successfully reproduced the ancient Nabatean system of runoff farming (whereby four inches of rain, the annual yield, were converted into 35) and his complement, hydrogeologist Ariegh Issar, who proved that a huge fossil aquifer exists under the Sinai and Negev--and with whom Hazleton argues the merits of ""making the desert bloom"" via modern irrigation. Here too--for Hazleton doesn't equivocate--are the bullies of the Green Patrol, who track down and confiscate forbidden Bedouin goats. She concludes with a measured appraisal of prospects in the Sinai, now that the Egyptians have resumed control, and a damning indictment of Israeli seizure of Bedouin land--especially under Begin. Save when she strains for Ultimate Meanings, her interest in the desert is infectious, her concern contagious.

Pub Date: July 15, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1980