Sitting forty feet below the surface of the Red Sea and watching my son Oren being anointed “scuba ready” by Muhammad-the-Egyptian-dive master is an odd sight. Oren is on his knees, facing Mohammad and going thru five distinct exercises: taking out the regulator, off with the weight belt, buddy breathing…etc.
It’s all done in silence with hand signals; an underwater pantomime played to the background of ascending air bubbles and large colorful fish going about their business. At the end of the drill, Muhammad claps, shakes Oren’s hands and signals that we are ready to dive.
We are diving at the mouth of the Fjord, a bay carved in the red mountains of the Sinai desert about 10 miles south of Eilat. This is now Egypt, but forty years ago when I snorkeled and fished here with my Dad, it was Israel; my own little slice of paradise. Here inside the Fjord is where we used to camp and on the mountains above is where we used to chase the sunrise.
It’s no coincidence that I’m back here again. I’m not searching for my lost paradise; I’m looking to pass it on all over again to my kids. It must be some kind of calling that animals have. Like sea turtles that migrate back to their birth beach to continue the cycle, so must my kids feel the magic that happens when the desert and the reef meet.
While Oren is gliding underneath, Lior is snorkeling along the top of the reef and is engrossed in puffer fish, lion fish, you name it, if you saw it in Nemo, it’s here.
Both kids are getting kissed by the relentless sun and by the hair dryer like breeze. It’s a good day in paradise.
Back in Eilat we head to our favorite Café Beach eatery and take up our usual spot on the deck facing the Edom Mountains of Jordan. Moonrise should be in about an hour, or in plenty of time to consume some humus, salad and nana tea.
We love our waiters. Tonight Gal is on duty — a native from Eilat. His Mom tells him stories of a paradise lost. She reminds him that there is only a fraction, a very small fraction, of reef left in Eilat.
Back in her (our) day you could walk along this thriving reef for 10 miles and trip over exotic shells. Today there are plastic bags blowing in the wind.
Oren watches the cups and bags blow into the azure water and starts chasing them down hoping to keep them from polluting the reef. He is beginning to understand that this is his paradise too.