This series will soon arrive at Nitzana. Doors open on the left. The next stop is Nablus. This will be the last stop. Thank you for riding with Elisha Baskin and me.
(for the full, four part project, click here)
The country is magnetic. Several energy fields hide in the terrain, emitting the land’s intensity and mystery like orbs in a Tesla experiment. One such field is famously Jerusalem, another, far vaster one, is the desert.
A journey that began in a dusty ditch on a city’s outskirts, now furthers into the wilderness. Elisha and I take a bus from Be’er Sheva into the Negev. The Turkish wartime rails extended south of here, and the remains of a station await us at Nitzana, directly on the Egyptian border.
Nitzana, a Nabatean town, has not been a place of proper human habitat since the ninth century. A train station was built there in 1915, and was literally nowhere-central. It served a remote police station that guarded the empire’s border with the British controlled Sinai, and a hastily constructed hospital where war wounds were tended. The hospital’s ruins can still be seen atop the mound of the ancient town. It seems like a very bad spot to bring potential amputees. Go figure.
History moved quickly. A flood of Union Jack-waving Aussies and Kiwis appeared from the southern wilds and ousted the Turks from the holy land after centuries of dominance. Nitzana station began crumbling almost as soon as it was built. When we arrive there today only the limestone water tower is left to remind us of long lost wars. It sticks out of the wasteland in majestic mystery, much like Arthur C. Clark’s monolith. We wander over the expanse, finding a few more walls, recognizing traces left by the rails, taking in the silence.
Following the buzz of music and children’s voices at Be’er Sheva, silence seems to be telling a truth about history. We need to listen well, and not limit ourselves to a tower and a wall. We haven’t yet answered this project’s principle question: why are we even doing it? What’s in a station?
We climb the mound, or “tel.” A dry wind blows through the dead hospital’s windows. We are the only...Read More