Israel’s desert is vast and beautiful, and mostly empty. That makes it a perfect place to go if you want to enjoy the silence, be alone with yourself or friends, and just take in the scenery. There’s a completely different vibe going on in the south, especially if you’re arriving from a bustling city like Tel-Aviv, and even more if you’re coming to Shitim. Shitim was originally a military camp that was founded in 84’. It has since been passed from owner to owner until it reached those of a few “Osho” students (yep, that’s the bad guy from “Wild Wild Country” right there). Now it has a second name – Desert Ashram.
What the hell is an Ashram?
Well, according to the people running the place, and Ashram is “A place for learning and experiencing yourself”. Then they quote osho as saying: “To teach meditation, you need to do nothing but provide a meditative atmosphere”. As I recall it, he also took a bunch of people’s money and poisoned others or something like that, but let it stay in the past. Anyway, I have no clue what “experiencing yourself” means, but if you’re looking for a “meditative atmosphere”, this is a great place to start.
The Ashram was founded in shitim a few years ago by a guy called Rafeek and another guy called Musa. The place has grown significantly since its founding by the two date farmers and is now a home for tens of residents (that’s significant), plus many more that are passing through. It’s basically like a year-long hippie festival. If you stop by, you can stay in air-conditioned rooms, work in the meditation hall or tent, and enjoy home-cooked vegetarian meals. They also separate the trash and make compost and natural mud, because of course, they do.
What do you do there?
By now I would expect you to have a wild (wild) guess as to what’s going on there. Mostly meditations, yoga, rebirthing (no idea), vipassana, tai-chi, breathing (a gotta practice that breathing), qigong, chakra work and also dancing, singing, and writing. You can be a guest passing by, join a workshop or a festival (get updates on their website desert ashram), or even join the “Working Meditation Program” for anywhere between 10 days and 10 weeks.
Where is it?
It’s on route 40, 70 km south of Mitzpe Ramon. It’s actually quite close to Eilat, so you can continue that way. Make your life easier and use Waze or bus number 392 from Beersheva.