MITZPE RAMON - Dror Gurion first fell in love with the desert as a teenager, when he attended the High School for Environmental Studies in the Sde Boker educational community, located in the heart of the Israeli south, the Negev.
"It was my first connection with the desert," the Galilee native said. "From then on I was hooked. Even when I was traveling in other countries, something always pulled me back there."
Like several other nature enthusiasts in recent years, Gurion saw the Negev Desert's spiritual potential and settled down in Mitzpe Ramon, a small town on the edge of Machtesh Ramon, the largest karst crater in the world.
Gurion's move produced Silent Arrow, a hostel-like resort that hosts travelers, spiritual workshops and other desert lovers.
When he first moved to Mitzpe Ramon in 1997, Gurion began working in the local archery park, and in Succah in the Desert, another resort.
"I realized then that I was in the right place," he said. "I wanted to live outside of town and manage my own business."
More than four years ago, Gurion chose a site down the road from the town itself, which would later turn into Silent Arrow.
On the site, Gurion built his own house and worked for the Nature Reserve Authority, where he helped return the Arab White Oryx to nature. The Oryx were born captive, Gurion explained, and after they were released someone had to make sure they were healthy, that they ate and that they kept a proper social structure. Gurion was in charge of this stage.
"I love animals," Gurion said. "I also helped other wild animals that were hurt get back to nature."
Nine months ago, Gurion opened the Silent Arrow, which is composed of three Bedouin-style tents that he built from heavy cloth. The main tent holds 35 people, and another smaller tent is designed for couples or families who want privacy. The main area of the site is used by campers who come with their own tents.
"I do not want the number of people in the place to go over 40," Gurion said. "I want to keep an intimate environment."
The third tent serves as a comfortable kitchen, which operates without a refrigerator. In fact, the entire entity operates without electricity. The tents are lit with candles, oil lamps and torches, and the food that requires refrigeration is bought in daily portions stored in coolers.
"We mostly eat vegetables, anyway," said Gurion. "We have a vegetarian kitchen."
According to Gurion, the reasoning behind the lack of electricity is to use the least wasteful and polluting factors. The siding of the few buildings is made of palm leaves, and the desert plant gardens that Gurion established around the premises are watered by recycled water that flows from the sinks through carefully constructed canals and terraces.
"We built it all with our own hands, with love and attention," Gurion said. "We want to create a pleasant, natural atmosphere."
The conditions are not so primitive as not to have a decent bathroom facilities; there are three roomy bathrooms and showers with constant hot water.
'This a way of life'
Silent Arrow is placed in an unbelievably silent desert location. Away from any artificial noises, like cars or appliances, the place is so tranquil it is unsettling for an untrained city dweller's ear.
The tents were built with consideration of the direction of the wind; their openings face east, while the wind in the area usually blows from the west.
During the summertime, Gurion said, the Mitzpe Ramon climate is better than in the rest of Israel because the town is located 900 meters (2,950 feet) above sea level, which makes for cooler, dryer weather. In the winter, the resort stays cozy with bonfires.
Many workshop groups find their way to Silent Arrow. People come with their guides, and use the spiritual atmosphere for their meditation needs. Gurion said that the place often holds shiatsu, tai chi and yoga workshops.
"It fits people who want to have a natural experience, but not just ecology enthusiasts," Gurion said. "This place gives foundation for every alternative interest that requires silence and inspiration."
Each night, after witnessing the desert sunset, the place becomes dimly lit with candles. The lack of electrical light on the premises creates a very clear view of the stars. Drinking tea made of homegrown, fresh herbs, like lemongrass, sage, louisa, rosemary and basil from small glasses in the silent darkness is a unique experience.
Aside from managing the Silent Arrow, Gurion guides jeep tours, paints, carves in stone and writes poetry, though he does not consider himself an artist. He also considers Silent Arrow more than just a business.
"This is an outlook on the world, it is a way of life," Gurion said. "It comes from creativity; we find alternative solutions and make things more beautiful."
- Dror Gurion: +972.52.548.9851, email@example.com