Saturday, 22 March 2008

Letter 41 - June 30, (1919)

Hotel Central, Damas Rue Sanjakdar, Damas (Damascus)

Dear Family,-

Two days ago it was suddenly decided that I take a ten day trip, following a rush trip up here to Damascus to see the American Section of the International Commission which is supposed to be here now. I left Jerusalem at 5 A.M. Our little cook, Tsivia, stayed at he house last night in order that I have breakfast before leaving, and some fresh sandwiches to take along. At 5 I left by machine for Ludd accompanied by Dr. Ungar and Azmu dentist and Capt. Levin. – both of whom were going to Jaffa. We arrived at Ludd in time – but the train was late so I had another breakfast at the canteen. Then I realised that I had no Movement Order to travel up here and would require one. So I went to the R.T.O. and talked nicely to him and he issued one to me gratis to Haifa. The R.R. runs almost parallel to the coast about 12-15 miles inshore, close by all our Jaffa district colonies. They look very attractive from a distance. En route we passed the ruins of Richard Coeur de Lion’s castle, a picturesque old structure, isolated, on top of a hill.

In one of the compartments I found two officers I knew from the 8th Battalion. They gave me some rather startling information – that one of their officers had written an article to several London papers criticizing the fact that the Z.C is employing two brothers who were conscientious objectors during the war in England. They didn’t mention his name – but I know him. Luckily in Haifa, Mosseri was at the station to meet me, so I told him the story that he can advise the Commission to take necessary action when he returns tomorrow.

At Haifa I made close connections with the Damascus train still without a Movement Order and got into a small compartment with an officer and an old lady, a Syrian & Palestine Relief Fund Worker, a Presbyterian missionary, she was, but still a nice old lady. From Haifa to Damascus is an 11 hr. trip. We shared our lunch, tea, and supper together and had a fine time. The poor lady’s son was killed in France and all of her daughters are married or away at school.

Funny, what a little place this is after all. On the train was the adjutant to the French Consul in Jerusalem, with whom I’ve had supper. At the little station at the foot of Lake of Galilee I got out to fill a bottle with fresh water and I bumped into one of the Hadassah doctors, waiting for the train back south. As we stopped at the siding to let the west bound train pass, looking out of the window was a girl I knew from Jaffa. An old Major saw my suitcase and told me that Falmouth was his home town.

The train descends 1200 feet from Haifa to the lake of Galilee (in Tiberius) and then starts to climb, winding thru the hills and mountains. The heat in the lowland is terrific; one perspires freely sitting still, when the train’s moving, with all windows open. Gradually as the train ascends the air becomes cooler. The hills are most barren and picturesque. Here and there a little stream trickles thru them or a waterfall gushes over them. At about five o’clock, after constant winding, passing over bridges and thru tunnels, we passed around the top of a last hill and found ourselves running along a level plateau. The country appeared to be most fertile, judging from the looks of the Arab crops cultivated here and there.

Late in the afternoon we reached the “town” Saraa, which contains about 5 houses and a group of Arab huts. The train stopped for water and I convinced the R.T.O. there to fill my bottle with some tea. Suddenly a cavalcade of barbarus looking horsemen came galloping along – dressed in every color of the rainbow, some with stirrups, some without, some on nice looking horses, some on nags, about 15 in all. On enquiry I found out that they are the armed force of the town and had just returned from a “manoeuvre”. Two neighboring towns were fighting and Saara was about to enter the dispute. So its warriors had a little afternoon practice before departing for the fray. Each was carrying strapped about his waist and shoulders at least 75-100 rounds ammunition.

On arriving here at 10.45 I inquired of several officers for the best hotel. The consensus of opinion led me here – but it’s an awful place, tho the bed looks clean. Tomorrow I’ll look for the Commission and then find some local people to direct me to a better place, although I’ll be here only two days. I expect to locate a number of prominent Jews and want to meet Hada Bey, the man who runs Damascus. He’s an anti-Semite, I understand, but a polite one and I’m going to try to get a car from him to take me to Balbeck and possibly Safed. I plan to return to Haifa and colonies and then home to Jerusalem. It is possible we will leave Palestine shortly after my return.

I’m still waiting for your answer on my trip to Switzerland! I’m sending you another, assuming you didn’t receive it.

Lots of kisses and loads of love,


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