Monday, July 9, 2007

In the Negev

Yesterday, we headed south, from Jerusalem to Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Desert, on the way to Eilat. We arranged with the hotel for the one-way three hour taxi ride; it cost a couple of hundred dollars but was the least expensive and most practical way to get here.

As we headed south, the terrain changed to the desert scrub and then desert emptiness; mostly brown rock with a few areas of plant life. At the northern edge of the desert, you could see several Bedouin encampments. These nomads now largely live in shack-type communities near the roadside; the population is significant (about 200,000) and they of course do not play by the rules of conventional law or borders -- creating opportunities for smuggling, terrorism, and other nasty stuff.

As we headed south, we saw ominous smoke billowing from an installation -- turned out to be a large prison. And then Vivian pointed out of the car to another site, with the remark: "How strange, I see mosques there."

I suggested to Vivian that it is unlikely that a group of three mosques would be located near something that looked like an Israeli military base. The domed roofs of the 'mosques' looked more like nuclear reactors to me. (Editor's note: these may not be reactors, I am not an expert, and the references here may be totally unreliable. It is easy to spout off in a blog without real fact checking!)

This of course is one of Israel's worst kept secrets -- its nuclear program and its purported (but never openly discussed) atomic arsenal. This report from the Federation of American Scientists (which comes up as the top listing when you key in "Nuclear Israel") has a credible report on the scale of Israel's nuclear program.

Here is a Google Maps view of Dimona, a Negev community near the Negev Nuclear Research Center exposed by Mordechai Vanunu, who recently was reimprisoned for violating Israeli gag orders on his commenting about the Israeli nuclear program.

Near Mitzpe Ramon, we passed the birthplace of Israel's first prime minister David Ben Gurion and his legacy -- a thriving university and research centre on desert practices and technologies that provides service and support around the world.

No comments: