You are an eighth grade student on your graduation trip to Israel. The trip ends tonight, after a final tiyul (hike) in the Negev Desert in Southern Israel. You are hiking with your classmates, through the rocky and dry riverbed. Suddenly, a sand storm catches and blows sand in front of you, behind you, around you. You are temporarily blinded as you collapse to the ground, covered in sand. Minutes later, the storm settles.  You stand up, and brush yourself off as you look around, trying to get your bearings.  Amazingly, your classmates have disappeared. Instead, there are throngs of people walking slowly by, although they don’t seem to notice you. You stare closely at their clothes, long robes, strange looking sandals, and each with a different kind of cloth wrapped around his head. They look weary and dusty, as do you. Each of the adults is carrying a small bundle and there are a startling number of children. Slowly you realize that you are no longer in modern times.  The sand storm has brought you back centuries – no, millennia, into the past.


It seems that these people are Israelites (Bnei Israel) travelling from Egypt to Israel. This should be interesting. You throw your backpack over your shoulder, and keep in step with the group.



Before leaving for the class trip, your teacher assigned your final project of the year. You are to write a fictional diary, describing what it was like to live in the desert while crossing from Egypt to Israel. Your diary should include at least five entries, including a list of survival tips. Each entry should explore a different aspect of desert life—geography, plant and animal life, lifestyle of desert dwellers, survival methods. In your diary entries, you should describe all the things that happen to you while wandering with the Israelites. You should also describe the people you meet, and events that occur.  Your descriptions should be as realistic as possible according to the research you have done.


You will need to complete the following research steps to find the necessary information. Online resources are listed after each step to help you—but feel free to search for more material.  Keep a record of all your research in your portfolio or word processing document so that you can refer to it while writing your diary entries and analyzing the Biblical texts.


You will be graded on both your work in progress (research notes) and your diary (see the rubric below). 


Good luck, and remember, always wear a hat and drink lots of water!!!




Before You Begin


Using the dictionary and encyclopedia resources below, look up the following words: desert, wilderness (Midbar). Write down short descriptions of these terms in your notes.


In order to get a better idea of the size and scale of the Midbar, find a map of your state/province and another map of the Midbar, each with the same scale (for more about scales, read this). Print the maps and draw the outline of the Midbar next to or inside the outline of your state. Make sure to label your diagram well, including an approximate scale.


*  See the route that the Israelites took during their wanderings in the Midbar. You can also see the text (Bamidbar 33) to read about their  journey.


*   The term Midbar is found dozens of times in the Tanakh. Mostly it refers to a desert, but other times it seems to be referring to a grazing area with natural water resources. See Bamidbar 20: 1-5  and  Bereshit 36: 24 for examples.  Keep this in mind while you complete your quest. This quest focuses on the Midbar as a desert. 




Step 1 -  Desert Geography

“Wow, it’s hot,” you say to yourself. How hot is it really? These Israelites seem to be dealing with the oppressive heat much better than you. You'd like to take off your sweatshirt but you know cold it gets at night in the desert. You decide to bear with it and protect yourself for later on. Who knows how long you will be stuck here.

Using at least three web sites, research the climate and landscape of a desert. Which deserts do you think the Israelites wandered through? Check your answer with our resident Tour Guide in the Midbar!


Remember you are preparing a diary, and you can include pictures/diagrams.




Step 2 – Desert vegetation and animal life

While you are walking you notice lizards, scorpians, and other creepy crawlers. You also see strange looking plants and weeds. It's amazing that any living thing can survive in these extreme temperatures. At least you haven't seen any snakes. Your teacher told you to watch out for them, and you are not looking forward to your first encounter.

List five types of animals and five types of plants that are commonly found in the desert. What are the factors that are true in every desert that cause these to survive and live in the desert?  Which of these are definitely found in the Midbar? Ask our resident Tour Guide in the Midbar this very question.

Find one reference of a desert animal and one of a desert plant in the Tanakh. (If you can’t find any, look in the following chapters: Devarim 8 and I Melachim 19). How is desert life reflected in these references? How do you think that the existence or lack of  animals and plants impacted on the lives of the Israelites living in the desert.


Resources: (photographs- Hebrew)


Step 3 - Desert People and Culture


You imagine spending the rest of your life out here in the desert with the Israelites, far away from everything. Where are the malls, movie theaters, pizza places? How do these people eat? Buy clothes? Where do they sleep? What do they do for fun?


Many different groups of people live in the desert. Using the links below, research the life and culture of one type of desert people.  Explain how you think the desert and its way of life has affected these people.  Now think about the ancient Israelites. How do you think the desert affected their way of life, culture and religion?


Resources: (Hebrew)

Step 4 – Living/surviving in the Desert


You look through your backpack once more: a half-eaten chocolate bar, your discman, a bottle of water. How did the Israelites cope without a modern survival kit?


What are the challenges that ancient people, like the Israelites, faced living in the desert?  Explain five ways desert dwellers coped with these challenges. For your assistance our Tour Guide in the Midbar has a couple of ideas for you! 




You begin to feel tired and decide to take a short break. You sit down on a flat rock and suddenly, another sand storm brews and you find yourself flying through the air in a violent whirl.  You land with a thud on the rocky ground.   "Are you okay?" Your classmates are hovering around you. One leans over to help you get up. "What happened?" they ask. You get up, brush yourself off and begin to tell them. They won’t believe what happened to you.


Step 5 – A Second Look at the Midbar in Tanakh


Later, around the campfire, your teacher reads the story of Moshe and the striking of the rock. You are eager to analyze the story again, with the help of today's trip back in time.


Read the following Tanakh text that describes a incident involving the Israelites in the Midbar:


Moshe and the striking of the rock (Bamidbar 20)


Read through the story, making sure you understand the text and the part the desert or desert theme plays in the story.  Although you may have studied this text before, you are now approaching it from a new perspective, so be sure to read carefully!   Answer the comprehension questions on the text.




Congratulations and well done! You have survived piercing heat, grinding sandstorms, nighttime howling jackals, and a few poisonous reptiles.  You now have a better understanding of desert life and how it affected the Israelites.









Work in Progress (Steps 1-5)

(30 points)

Incomplete, inaccurate answers.

Poorly drawn maps, diagrams with poor annotations.

Messy, disorganized notes.

Little use of class time. Little effort.

(0-14 points)

Incomplete, but mostly accurate answers.

Well-drawn maps, diagrams with clear annotations.

Neat, organized notes.

Some use of class time. Some effort.

(15-19 points)


Complete, accurate answers.

Well-drawn maps, diagrams. Clearly annotated.

Neat, organized notes.

Satisfactory use of class time. Good effort.

(20-24 points)

Complete, accurate answers which demonstrated extensive research.

Excellent maps, diagrams with clear annotations. Neat, organized notes.

Excellent use of class time.

(25-30 points)


(70 points)

A basic diary demonstrating: some efforts at analysis and research, little ability or attempt to apply research to storyline, and little creativity or effort. Presentation is messy without illustrations.

(0-39 points)

A good diary demonstrating: Clarity and direction, some research and analysis skills, some attempts at applying research to storyline, some creativity, and some effort. Presentation is satisfactory, but illustrations do not demonstrate essential points.

(40-54 points)

A very good diary demonstrating: Clarity, good research, analysis, attempts at application of research to storyline, creativity and high levels of all round effort.  Presentation is neat, illustrations demonstrate essential points.

(55-64 points)

An excellent diary demonstrating: Clarity, extensive research, good analysis, a good application of research to storyline, creativity and very high levels of all round effort.  Presentation is neat, illustrations demonstrate essential points.

(65-70 points)


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