My First Trip to Israel

In Honor of the 75th Anniversary of Israel, I wrote this article remembering my first trip to Israel.

My first trip to Israel was a 10 day Daphna Tour, December 1967, the first Chanukah after the Six Day War.

I remember seeing the whole country of Israel from the air and being moved with tears of joy. I felt deeply connected to Israel.

Israel had more tourists than ever before, so all the Hotels were full.

My friends were at the Hilton in Tel Aviv. I was at the Ramat Aviv hotel outside of Tel Aviv with only an electric heater that gave no heat.

I took a sherut (shared taxi) to the Hilton in Tel Aviv to meet my friends for dinner. In the middle of the lobby stood my luggage, which was delivered to the Hilton by mistake. They delivered it to my hotel.

We enjoyed dinner and entertainment at Chez Jeannette nightclub in Jaffa, a memorable evening. This was years before the alley-ways of Jaffa had shops.

Our 10 day tour was wonderful, the archeology and history bringing the bible to life.

Ih Haifa, I visited a Druze village with 3 friends. I had a cough from the summer resorts I stayed in with no heat. The Druze owner gave us all thick cups of Druze coffee. I drank all 4 cups which soothed my throat. The Druze man returned and gave us 4 more cups of coffee. I drank all those as well.

We visited the Golan Heights, still dangerous with many minefields, Syrian tanks, and torn bloody uniforms.

In Nablus, our bus broke down and our guide and driver left us to get help. The Arabs and Samaritans greeted us with Shalom, were very friendly, peaceful, and thankful that Israel won the war.

They told us that the Jordanians made them pay “backsheesh” (bribes) in order for them to work or have stores. Now, they told us, Israel gave them jobs, no backsheesh! They were very grateful to Israel.

I wondered the narrow lanes and passageways of Nablus, first accompanied by others from my tour. Some Arabs joined us and the Americans went back to our bus. I bought items at the outdoor shacks, where the owners were friendly and helpful. Two Arabs showed me the way to the post-office. I felt completely safe, – and I was safe. They walked me all the way back to our bus. We talked and laughed. We were in Nablus three hours until our driver and guide returned and fixed the bus. The residents of Nablus were peaceful then and wanted only peace with Israel. They were grateful to Israel.

I will always remember that precious day.

In Jerusalem, we stayed at the Mount Scopus hotel, an Arab Hotel on the highest peak of the Mount of Olives, towering over the Dead Sea.

Until the 6 day war, this was Jordan. Jewish gravestones were used as the path to the entrance. The brochure had “No Jews Allowed” crossed out. The staff was friendly, respectful and gracious to us. We enjoyed our stay there.

In Jerusalem, we visited the Wailing Wall, men and women, together, equal at the wall, together, no separation!
I put my note to G-d in the crack, prayed and cried.

We visited Dome of the Rock, took our shoes off, and prayed. Everything was peaceful and so hopeful.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Natalie (Goulston) Baff

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