“Hey, Tom! Have you ever been to Tillsonburg?” No. But I’ve been to Jerusalem. It happened while I was stationed with the UNEF in the Gaza Strip. Somehow my name came up on a list of possibilities of taking a tour of the Holy Land. (I think someone organized a push to get rid of me for a while, and when push comes to shove, you shove.) I accepted the opportunity. We boarded an Egyptian aircraft at El Arish, which is an airport in the Mediterranean Sea not far from Rafah (in the Gaza Strip), where we were stationed. Except for black robed Bedouin women, we had seen no other females. Because we were foreign military and the war had recently ended, women were not allowed to show themselves in public while we were around. Boarding the airplane, it was a pleasant surprise to see attractive, well endowed, smartly dressed young ladies offering us pillows and refreshments. What a shock to the system after months away from life’s delights. Due to the turmoil between Egypt and Israel, the fact that we were aboard an Egyptian aircraft meant we were not allowed to fly over Israeli territory. Instead, we had to fly south across the Sinai desert, up along the Persian Gulf across part of Jordan and into Jerusalem. We were put up in a hotel between the old and new parts of the city. Yes, it had a bar. The next day, our tour guide took us to see the mosque called the “Dome of the Rock”, the Holy Sepulchur, the street best known as the Way of the Cross where Jesus carried his cross to Calvary. We also toured Bethlehem and the Wailing Wall. The next day, we hopped on a bus to see the River Jordan, where John the Baptist baptized Christ. From there, we headed to Jericho and the Dead Sea. After picking up some souvenirs and tasting the local wine, we donned our swimsuits and dove in. It’s true that you can’t sink in the Dead Sea! It’s 1300 feet below sea level and there is no outlet for the water, so it evaporates and leaves the salt. I found out by experiment that I could lie down in the water with a tray beside me holding a newspaper and none of us sinking. I would heartily recommend that trip. I’m sure a lot of changes have been made over the last 52 years, but most have to be for the better.
You know it’s going to be a bad day when your twin forgets your birthday. Happy birthday to Will, Christopher, Connie and Olivia. Hurry back to health Diane!