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Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Our next stop is an unfortunate part of Israel's history. Under British rule and despite the homelessness caused by the Holocaust, Jewish immigration to Israel was severely limited. We visit a British detention camp which at times housed 2,000 detainees, some who stayed here for over two years. It looks horrible and is even more despicable when one considers the plight of those detainees, their experiences in Europe, and their struggles trying to reach this land.

Imagine coming out of a Nazi concentration camp and having no home or, perhaps, family. You finally make your way to a ship to take you to Palestine. But your boat is sent back or you are taken to a detention camp. From the ship, you are loaded into railroad cattle cars similar to the ones the Nazis used to take away your relatives--or perhaps you--and brought to a camp of long “dormitories” within a barbed wire perimeter.

You are told to undress and you go through a de-lousing procedure in a shower-type environment. There are manned guard towers to make sure you don't escape. And you don't know your fate. How terrifying for the detainees; how cruel and inhumane on the part of the British.

gun tower

As tourists inside the dormitories, we see names carved into the wooden walls. Not graffiti. These detainees with no home to return to after freedom from concentration camps also were unaware if their families were still alive. The names represent desperate messages to others passing through who might pass on their names to people looking for them.


These detainees were Jews being punished for being Jewish and trying to get into their homeland—a land primarily owned by the Rothschilds. Baron Rothschild and his friends bought the land from the Ottomans. They owned nearly 70% of the land that became Israel. In fact, there are still areas owned by this family. The British Mandate from the League of Nations was to create that Jewish homeland. Tell me how the British could issue a White Paper in 1939 limiting and then denying Jewish entry. Explain why the Jews were forbidden the ability to defend themselves when the English knew what is going to happen when they left? Oh, oil....

This camp is horrifying on so many levels, but our day is not going to end on a depressing note.

Two wonderful events happen this evening. I could not foretell how I would react, but I want to share my feelings with you.

It is Friday. At 4:15 PM, I go into the main lobby of our beautiful hotel, the Dan Carmel in the hills high above Haifa. There I join other Jewish women to light Shabbat candles. To do this in Israel is quite a remarkable and wonderful event. I cry.


Then, in the evening, we attend Shabbat services in the hotel. These services are arranged by Margaret Morse Tours, and one of the guides, Allan, leads us. So many people attend that they run out of prayer books, and we share with our neighbors. Here we are, people from all around the U.S.A and from several other countries being led in prayer by an Israeli via England, and we are able to sing the same prayers in the same order to the same tunes. It is wonderful. No matter where I go in the world, the common language of Hebrew binds me together with other Jewish people in prayer. We are brethren.

Then the Margaret Morse family—we tourists—have a traditional Shabbat dinner in the dining room, saying the prayers over the wine and then over the challah which we share. There is a familial warmth that is impossible to describe, and on the second day of the tour there is a closeness among strangers.

Israel is a truly remarkable place. I am not alone in discovering the marvel. People of other religions—and we see busses and meet others in the hotel announcing their religions often by the tour tags they wear—will experience for themselves the wonder of this land because it is so important to all of us.

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