Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Father's Trip to Israel

The City of Jerusalem

   When I was in high school, my Father traveled to Israel. His trip was not any sort of personal spiritual pilgrimage, though. He was a radio officer in the U.S. Merchant Marines, and he was simply on a cargo ship making a routine stop to drop off some grain. 
   I remember how impressed he was with the people and things he saw in Israel. I took note of this because my Father is not easily impressed by much of anything. Among his trinkets that he always brought back to Tennessee from his long voyages, he also came home with a handful of little silver crucifixes that he had dipped in the Jordan River. He gave one to each of us and to some of our neighbors, too.
   I asked him to share his personal log with me. Here are the highlights from his trip, starting on New Years' Day in 1992:

01-01-92 Wednesday

   Jim and I earned our pay today. We had to send the
ships payroll report to headquarters. What a pain. 4
pages of numbers. Also learned how to send telephone
telegrams (TEXTEL). We are about 1/3 of the way to
   Supposed to get there late on the 14th. Ship feels
like a ship today,lots of pitch and roll. Not bad,
just different.

01-02-92 Thursday

   Sea fairly rough today. Ship rolls constantly. 
Tiresome, but tolerable.
   Stood normal watch, sent 5 telegrams. Clock 
advanced another hour. Now 4 hrs ahead of Tennessee.

01-03-92 Friday

   Smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Ship 
still flopping around like a fish out of water; 
really wears on you. Passed a sail boat this
afternoon. First thing except clouds and water I've
seen in three or four days. Weather still nice. Water
still pretty, but mean. Washed clothes.

01-04-92 Saturday
   Still rolling. Stood normal watch, sent 4
telegrams. Finally got about 2 hours sleep, extremely
weird dream.

01-05-92 Sunday

   Normal watch. Rolling seems a little less severe 
today. Maybe just getting used to it. Supposed to hit
rougher weather in another day or so when we get near
the coast of Africa. About 10 more days to Haifa.
   Clock up another hour, now 5 hrs ahead of

01-06-92 Monday

   Normal watch, sent 5 telegrams. Still rolling 
along. Cloudy and beginning to rain a little this
evening. Pretty good case of homesickness today.

01-07-92 Tuesday

   Normal watch. Sea a little smoother today. Called
home after last watch.
   Worked on radio log program. Clock up again, now
6 hrs ahead of Tennessee.

01-08-92 Wednesday

   Normal watch. Weather foggy, can't see much of
anything. Supposed to reach the Strait of Gibraltar
tomorrow at midnight. Washed clothes again, must 
bring more socks next time.

01-09-92 Thursday

   Normal watch. Passed through Strait of Gibraltar
around 9:00pm this evening. Lots of lights on both
sides. Hope we pass in the daytime on the way back. 
We are now in the Mediterranean Sea. Weather has 
improved,smooth sailing for now.

01-10-92 Friday

   Normal watch. Advanced clock again, now 7 hrs
ahead of Tennessee. Weather is a little cool, but
nice. We are sailing about 6 miles off the African
coast. Passed the city of Algers around 11:pm. Should
arrive in Haifa around noon on Wednesday the 15th.

01-11-92 Saturday

   Normal watch except for the overtime pay, because 
its Saturday. Weather is still good. Thought I was 
dead when I woke this morning. Dreamed I started 
shaking and couldn't stop. It got worse and worse 
until I knew I would explode. Then I woke and
realized it was the vibrations from the engine.
Probably had something to do with the 4 english
muffins with grape jelly I ate at 3:00 am.

01-12-92 Sunday

   Passed the Island of Sicily around supper time 
today. It looks just like Santa Barbara, only much
larger. Thousands of stucco houses and churches with
red tile roofs. Real pretty from the sea. Heard my 
first real SOS during my late watch this evening. It 
supposedly came from a ship off the coast of Malta, 
here in the Mediterranean. We weren't close enough to
respond, but I listened on all the emergency channels
for 2 hours just in case. Don't know what finally
happened, there was a lot of conversation on the
radio, but none of it in English. (Heard the first 
call in Morse code.)

01-13-92 Monday

   Normal watch. 700 miles from Haifa at noon today.
Should arrive before noon Wednesday. Clock up again, 
now 8 hrs ahead of Tennessee. Weather is brisk, but 
still nice.

01-14-92 Tuesday

   Busy watch today, sent lots of messages.

01-15-92 Wednesday

   Up at 3:00 am this morning in order to send
special arrival message to Haifa Radio. Had to send
it CW (my first morse telegram). Managed to send it
without too many mistakes. Arrived at Haifa at 11:30
am. Tied up to warf around 6:30 pm. Raining off and
on. Will wait until tomorrow to go ashore.
   Exactly 4 weeks since leaving home. Seems like 4 
01-16-92 Thursday

   Went ashore with Jim this morning. Walked around
Haifa for about 3 hrs. Place is old and crowded.
Hundreds of little hole-in-the-wall shops.
   Found post office and mailed letter. Hope it gets
home, no one there spoke English. Surprisingly,
hardly anyone speaks English, and practically all
the signs are in Hebrew. After supper, walked about
5 miles looking for a phone. Finally found one and
called home.(Naturally found it about 1/4 mile from
the ship on the way back). Captain says we will be
here until at least next Wednesday. May be able to
take a tour or two around Israel.

01-17-92 Friday

   Interesting day. Went on a tour of Northern
Israel with Jim and 4 other folks from the ship.
We went to Nazareth first and saw the family homes
of Mary and Joseph. Then we went to Cana where
Jesus performed his first miracle. I stood in the
same place where he changed the water into wine.
   Then we went to the Sea of Galilee and ate lunch
where he did his second miracle of feeding 5 thousand
people with 2 fish. Then we went to the place at the
River Jorden where he was baptized. We also visited a
local diamond factory. Northern Israel reminds you a
little of Tennessee. It has lots of hills. The ground
is even rockier. Everywhere you look, there are piles
of rock. All the houses seem to be made of concrete.
There are new houses being built all over the place.
01-18-92 Saturday

   Do-nothing day. Today is the Jewish Sabbath,
nobody does anything. I was a good little Jewish boy,
I didn't do a damn thing. Caught up on sleep.

01-19-92 Sunday

   Fascinating day. Went on another tour. This time
just me and two others.
   First we drove south down the West Bank of the
Jordan River valley. We saw Armageddon and Jerico.
As we continued south along the Jordanian border,
we saw lots of Israeli Army patrols. We drove on
into Bethlehem where we visited the Church of the
Nativity, which is built around the manger where
Christ was born. We saw the place where he was born
and the manger. Had lunch about 1/2 block from the
   Then we drove on into Jerusalem. It has to be the
most incredible city I've ever seen. It's built on
the tops of several hills. (Mount Zion is the
highest I think.) Everything is made of brown rock.
Thousands of buildings, walls and churches all
interconnected. Every square inch of space is
occupied up and down steep hills for several miles
in all directions. It's really impossible to describe
and no photograph could do it justice.
   We stopped at most of the churches built around
the 14 stations of the cross. We saw where Jesus
was crucified (I put my hand in the hole of the
rock that held up the cross he was crucified on.)
We went to his tomb and Mary's tomb. We visited
the garden where Judas betrayed him. We saw the
rock he cried blood on and the one he ascended to
heaven from. We saw so much I can't remember it all.
My friend Scotty Jones took pictures, and will give
me copies. Maybe they will help me remember more
details of this incredible place.
   We left Jerusalem around dark and drove through
Tel Aviv on the way back to Haifa. Our guide's name
was Sami. [Blogger's Note: Dad mentioned later in his
log that Sami was a professional tour guide and a
former Israeli Army officer who weighed about 250
pounds and spoke 5 or 6 languages. Dad said Sami had
never been out of Israel.] He spoke English pretty
well and explained most of the history behind
everything we saw. A very long and very good day.

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