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Walk the Land : A Journey on Foot through Israel Paperback – November 8, 2008
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I wholeheartedly recommend this book for its glimpses of the people, history, and beauty of the land, and for the author's spiritual insights. --Jeremiah Greenberg, The Messianic Times, Jan/Feb 2008
For thirty years I have had the incredible experience of traveling the land given to Israel by God -- from Dan to Beersheba to Eilat. However, 'walking the land' with my friends Judy and John [by reading this book] has brought a whole new dimension and depth to my understanding of Israel and its people. I know you'll be enriched spiritually through Judy's story of the insights given her by her God on this journey of a lifetime. --Kay Arthur, Precept Ministries International
About the Author
Judith was born in Washington, D.C., but she and her Dutch-born husband, John, have lived in Eilat, Israel, since 1976. Thirty years ago John and Judy began The Shelter Hostel, a guest house for travelers from all over the world, a drop-in center for anyone searching for physical, emotional, or spiritual support, and a way of life for the Pexes. John is also the pastor of the Eilat Congregation, a multi-cultural, non-denominational fellowship.Judy and John are the parents of four grown children and the happy grandparents of seven. In her free time Judy enjoys reading, writing, hiking and camping in the mountains around Eilat, snorkeling in the Red Sea, traveling, and photography, but most of all spending time with family and friends.
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The best parts of the book are the descriptions of the landscape and especially their relationship to Israeli history. However, the narrative, written by Judith, is a little like listening to your aging hippie aunt tell you how wonderful the trail is while complaining incessantly about the discomforts associated with it. If you are looking for practical information about camping out, packing, gear, re-supply or any other associated logistical material, forget it. For most of the trip they simply day hiked from town to town and stayed in comfortable lodgings with friends in the evenings. A significant part of their journey is hitchhiking or taking busses back and forth from the trailheads. The few parts where they actually did camp out, all in the Negev desert, were broken up into 2 or 3 day weekend hikes with shuttles back home at the end of each leg.
They are very friendly people who constantly strike up conversations with fellow travelers. Being Messianic Jews makes them a slight oddity and some of the interesting material is about their interactions with others on the trail. Unfortunately, it was hard to shake the mental image of people speaking to them and nodding politely while they themselves longed to continue on with their own journeys. One encounter with a seriously focused through hiker resulted in very little conversation which seems to have insulted and perplexed Judith as she dwells on it several times in subsequent pages as quite different from what she was used to.
Judith is a very descriptive writer so even though there is not too much useful information to get directly, there is enough to draw some conclusions which may be indirectly helpful to a hiker. For example, she speaks several times about crossing dangerously polluted water sources. Since she resupplies every night in town she doesn't even think about this information as being helpful to a hiker concerned about potable water, but it is. She also is alternately pleased, concerned and annoyed about the springtime weather in the Negev without realizing or discussing the practical application regarding things like clothing and safe canyon hiking that can come from this information. Unfortunately, there is not enough of this sort of information to elevate this book beyond what one might find on a mildly interesting blog.
The most valuable information I gleaned was in where they started. They hiked the south to north route, which is uncommon, so their descriptions of the trail in English from that direction are somewhat unique. In the early part of their trip Judith mentions several times how the Negev is remote and beautiful. As they get further north into more populated areas they speak of the increasing density and ever-presence of modern Israel. This kind of information is far better communicated by someone chatty, like Judith, than your average hiking guide. In my hikes I like remoteness, so based on Judith's descriptions I am definitely leaning towards the north to south route which will, essentially, leave civilization behind the farther I go instead of walking into it.
"Walk the Land" is a quick, easy read. While rich in cul tural and historical detail, the narrative drives onward just as Judith and John did during their hike of approximately 600 miles from the southern tip of Israel, at the Red Sea, to the northern reaches of Golan Heights. We discover that she and her husband have lived "on the edge" for many years, with a free-spirited lifestyle of both hardship and adventure. Some would call it crazy. Others might envy the freedom from corporate American standards. John would consider it "bushw acking."
I've read other trail-hike narratives, such as Bill Bryson's humorous "A Walk in the Woods," and Peter Jenkins' spiritually-minded "A Walk Across America." This particular story also contains funny moments and spiritual concepts, with Judith weaving in straightforward lessons of life as a Messianic Jew, a follower of Jesus (Yeshua). She shows lots of respect for other people of other faiths, never forcing her beliefs. At times, the story seems to plod along through the days of the hike, driven by Judith's goal-oriented personality, and I didn't always connect emotionally. But it's this same directness that keeps the book from becoming a mishmash of navel-gazing.
In the end, this is a story of two people following a dream, sticking with it, and reaping the reward. It's the story of God's people walking the land, meeting others along the way, and returning to the simple lessons of life that are often lost in the urban rush. What a blessing Judith has given us!