Five Random Memories from my Three Years Spent in Israel, Egypt, Gaza, and Sinai

My very first morning at the Tel Aviv Sheraton. I had a ‘raw fish’ breakfast buffet at zero five hundred. (And there were cucumbers, cheese, olives an’ shit too! Outrageous!) I had never had raw fish for breakfast until then. Cost me five bucks (a lot of money for breakfast in 1977 for a twenty-year-old-kid). I only gagged once and I drank a lot of orange juice, which was the only thing remotely resembling ‘breakfast’ to me. Well, “When in Rome…” I later discovered I could have had scrambled eggs and bacon down the street at the U.S. Embassy for a buck and a half…

My first R&R in November, 1977. I went to Tel Aviv for one week. This just also happened to be the same week Anwar Sadat made his historic visit to Israel and most important, to speak to the Knesset in Jerusalem. The Israelis actually fell in love with Sadat. I did too. Peace was in the air! Sadat was front page news every day in the Jerusalem Post. The atmosphere in downtown Tel Aviv every night was ‘Party Down!’ (Sadly, this could not last)

First Israeli Love. Her name was Gladys Lehani and she spoke French, English, Hebrew, and Lies. I was instantly enamored. She worked nights at the Tel Aviv Sheraton in the ‘Kum Kum’ Lounge, a bar. During the afternoons she was a cashier in the little lobby area of the hotel. A place where one could look out the huge windows at the Mediterranean, have a cocktail, read a book, and flirt with her. I spent many hours there doing all four.

Driving through Gaza. After I had been with SFM for some months, I was ‘promoted’ to driver (see this story). The most expeditious way to get to Tel Aviv was to drive straight through the Gaza Strip, so of course we did just that. Never felt any wisp of danger. Not once. Then one day someone threw a brick into the windshield of one of our vehicles. This prompted management (And S. State: Our ‘Client.’) to suspend all travel through Gaza.

Now let me tell you, this was bullshit. At that point in time we had been travelling through Gaza for many, many months. This was surely an isolated incident—“Just kids havin’ fun,”–to quote Croc Dundee. Hell! I had friends in Gaza. One in particular comes to mind. His name was Mohammad (go figure) and he ran the gas station where I would always fill up my vehicles when I passed through. We often shared gifts. I gave him American cigarettes and T-Shirts from Texas and he gave me various little Arabic statuettes and such. Once (on his request) I brought him a fifth of Jonnie Walker Red. I thought he was gonna adopt me over that!

The new route we were instructed to take took us through Beersheba and added two and a half hours to our travel time. This was unacceptable, so we (we drivers), ignored it, unless there were ‘uncool’, read, “USG” people riding along as passengers. Most of the rest were in a frantic rush to get to TA and did not want to waste one minute of their well-earned R&R over some State Department Bullshit, so I always conducted a poll before taking the turn off to Gaza: “Any of y’all got a problem with getting to TA in an hour via Gaza? Or do y’all wanna go through Beer’Sheba and get to TA four hours after yer girlfriends done give up on you?”

The usual response was something like this: “Marcom, I will risk Gaza, not ‘cause I am afraid my girlfriend will give up on me, but because I just can’t stan’ one extra minute of listening to your music!” (I had a boom box on the dash and ‘treated’ my passengers to four or five hours of continuous Bob Marley on my trips. I was famous for this. Sometimes I would throw in a little Joni Mitchell, if I were feeling benevolent on that day.)

The Orphan Benjamin. One night, I think it was in late ’78, I was staggering back to my hooch from our little bar. My walk took me through our game room: Two pool tables, a jukebox, shuffle board, ping pong… etc. Anyway, just by the exit door there was a table. On this table was a carton of Marlboro’s, a case of Heineken, a ‘doggie bag’ from the galley, and a one hundred dollar bill. Thinking nothing of it, I just kept on tacking toward my hooch, some fifty meters down the way… I woke up the next morning and instantly thought of all that unclaimed booty and for just an instant hoped that no one had stolen it.

We had a brother/sisterhood there in Sinai. I managed to drag my hung-over ass out of my rack and head in to breakfast in our galley. My trip took me past the table in question. Everything was just as it was the night before; waiting for the rightful owner to sober up and claim. If I had not already been in love with my Co-SFM’ers till then, I certainly was now. Two hundred folks at SFM, and nary a thief amongst us. I will never forget that minor little memory. It touched me deep.

And then I just went into breakfast. You see? This was not… ‘different’ then! Shit! Can’t explain. Won’t try.

You see? We had love. And respect.

***

I am thinking of continuing this series in light of the recent news from Israel and Gaza. Not saying that my experiences are relevant today, but I do feel the need to write them. Please let me know if you are interested to read of my times spent in the region.

Q&A: Have you ever been to The Middle East? Do you live there? Do you care? Have you ever had a desire to visit the ‘Holy Land’? (ahem). Do you find me abrasive? 😉

Do you know that I love all comments?

Salaam and Shalom,

Lance

Half-way to  Jerusalem

Vid Credit:

Käyttäjän leopahta kanava

39 thoughts on “Five Random Memories from my Three Years Spent in Israel, Egypt, Gaza, and Sinai

  1. Pingback: Ha Ha Ha! Bet Y’all Never Seen This One | Texan Tales & Hieroglyphics

  2. Loved these slices of your life! In 1992, I was on the Mediterranean fleet (US Savannah AOR-4), and spent time in Bahrain, Djibouti, and the UAE (Jebel Ali). There wasn’t much in the way of intrigue and adventure for me, having spent only five months there, bouncing around from port to port, but two big things stick out in my mind:

    One, the horror of Djibouti. When we were in port, we had to take the garbage off the boat in two-man details. I would be so nervous as a gang of 20 starving men would eyeball me and my partner for the entire walk to the dumpster, every one of them diving in and ravaging the bags the second we left. What disgust I felt as some Brit in a Rolls or a Mercedes would roll down the dock through the throng of living skeletons!

    Next, I swear, the Arabic people were so kind to me,an American sailor, everywhere I went. Those supposedly scary, insane Muslim types treated me better than my own countrymen! It seems that manners and respect still mean something out there, at least in the free Republics. Awesome post, dude!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks much J-Lives-Not,
      Awesome comments! Yay!
      I had a friend I worked with in Basra who told me tales of his time spent working in Djibouti… Never been there myself, but would most assuredly go.
      I need to look up USS Savannah, by the way. I was on the USS Callaghan DDG 994 I was also on the USS Frederick LST 1184, Gator Freighter. Did one world cruise on Callaghan and one WestPac on the Freddie. Sometimes I miss the Nav…

      I too found the Egyptians and the Palestinians much more ‘pleasant’ than I did the Israelis, but the Israelis grew on me once I got past that initial ‘abrasiveness’ they use as a shield.
      This whole mess over there is a damn shame and waste of life.

      Thanks again for your wonderful comments.
      Cheers,
      Lance

      Like

  3. I’ve never been to the Middle East but I’ve always been fascinated by it. Right now (like always)…it’s a mess. The world is nuts but what else is new? Do I find you abrasive? Do you care???? LOL! hehehehehe

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Duncan. I appreciate your time spent here.
      The horrors of this ‘new’ old war are worth a lot of introspection on my part, as much of what I am (good and bad), I became while living, loving, and working in the region.
      Cheers,
      Lance

      Like

  4. I am on my way to my office meat grinder and don’t have time for a proper comment but I just wanted to ding you and vote ‘yes’ on more of the same. A timely subject matter presented in a thoughtful, compelling manner. Who wouldn’t want more of that?!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve always made it a point to avoid that part of the world as if my life depended upon it. I was scheduled to be in Kuwait for the last week of July and first week of August in 1990, and my contacts there assured me that the Iraqi troops amassing on the border meant nothing… When it all was over the equipment I was to have worked on had migrated westward. Heh. It was broke when they stole it. 😀

    Just between us, I don’t see anything at all holy about that land. And, frankly, if I wanted to visit a bunch of militant Jews in the desert I’d just go to the annual (maternal side) family reunion in Palm Springs. No passport required, and I wouldn’t have to understand a foreign language to ascertain why a bunch of assholes are shooting at me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have read about some of your experiences & would definitely like to read more. That’s how I met you, reading about your time oversees 🙂
    Always love your music videos & “Time of the Season” is one of my all time favs! Paul Simon song was a new one to me, too. Keep writing, Lance!!! Peace Out, my friend ☮

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’d love reading more about your time in the “(ehem) Holy Land”.
    I’ve never heard that song before….but I can dig it.
    Oh, and the raw fish?
    Bravo.
    Me and raw shit?
    Never.
    Great post.
    T

    Liked by 1 person

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