24 Oct - 31 Dec 2005 Ashkelon

Eastern Mediterranean
Jewish State of Israel, the Land Where It All Began
SY "Kamu II" with (i) her stern to the concrete jetty (Mediterranean stern-to mooring aka "mooring the roman-catholic way") and (ii) a permanent bow mooring in-between solid steel pilings, as safe as in the Bosom of Abraham.
NIS ("Israeli New Sheqel") 1,050.- or US$ 228.- per month, based on an extendable and very fair and generous 6-month contract.

Click below for an interactive satellite view of our marina berth:
N 31° 40.95' E 034° 33.29'

Ignoring the ancient wisdom of Shaykh al-Islām Ahmad al-Bashtakī's 451 CE seasonal Coptic Almanac (where a three-day El Shabeesh gale had been announced for the Med's Crusade weather area for the 21 October 2005), foolishly trusting the over-optimistic state-of-the-art satellite forecast from Weather Online (which had forecasted a moderate breeze with wind speed up to 15 knots for the Crusade weather area from the 21 through the 25 October 2005) and eventually coping with a fresh gale with gusts up to 40 knots and 3m-high waves with breaking crests and considerable airborne spray off the Israeli coast whilst chatting with the sexy voice of a young sabra lady, who represented the Israeli Navy on channel 11/16, about our passport numbers, about weird particulars during our stay in Beirut, our previous port of call, and about the queer colour shade of our underpants (navy blue, of course).

Arriving just before dawn and accidentally at exactly the same time as two American yotties, Jan & Doug on SY "Hanna", who came in straight from Turkey, at the sealed off Sterile Jetty in Ashkelon’s town marina, being thoroughly searched and interviewed by a friendly team of young security professionals who never lost their dry sense of humour and their welcoming attitude, and eventually, six hours later, being issued with a 3-month tourist visa on arrival, free of charge, printed on a separate piece of paper, thus leaving in our passports no visible evidence of our visit to the much-loved and much-hated State of Israel: עֲלֵיכֶם שָׁלוֹם aka aleichem shalom!

Meeting again our French friends Monique & Daniel from SY "Pandora II" and wishing them fair winds and godspeed for their upcoming trip around the Sinai Peninsula, the tricky passage into Israel's backyard at Eilat through (i) the 164-km long Suez Canal, (ii) the dangerous Gulf of Suez with many unmarked oil rigs and, up the wind, (iii) through the treacherous Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat, a natural wind channel and one-way road for sailing vessels.

Touring the Old City of Jerusalem, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably the most emotionally charged place on earth, (i) the holiest city in Judaism and the spiritual centre for Jewish people since c. 1,000 BCE when David, the King of Israel, established it as the first capital of the Jewish Nation and his son Solomon commissioned the building of the first temple, (ii) home to a colourful bouquet of different religious sites of key importance, among them the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Armenian Museum and the al-Aqsa Mosque, and (iii) a bizarre situation that is what every agnostic has just been waiting for: on one side of an old wall fanatics are banging their heads against it, on the other side fanatics are kissing a rug - maybe they should make the whole place an ununited-nations loony bin.


Exploring the modern, liveable and well-established Jewish/Israeli neighbourhoods of West Jerusalem (including the German Colony where we felt at home), the commercial heart of the city which had already been the focus of rapid urban development between the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948 CE and the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli control after the Six-Day War in 1967 CE, reading a verse from the Book of Psalms ("...ke'ir shechubra la yachdav..." or "...built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together...") and remembering Moshe Dayan: "This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour - and with added emphasis at this hour - our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples' holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity."
"Tell me again when the filth of the butcher
Is washed in the blood of the lamb
Tell me again when the rest of the culture
Has passed through the eye of the camp
Tell me again when I'm clean and I'm sober
Tell me again when I've seen through the horror
Tell me again tell me over and over
Tell me that you'll love me then..." 
(Leonard Cohen)

Matt (modestly dressed): Strolling through Mea Shearim (which looked like a small Eastern European shtetl from the end of the 19th century CE, frozen in time, with a unique haredi atmosphere - men with beards and peyos [long side curls] in black frock coats and black or fur-trimmed hats and women in black stockings and long-sleeved clothing), once the largest Jewish neighbourhood outside the walled Old City of Jerusalem. 

Enjoying the regular pre-Shabbat barbecues (with only two different grills: a strictly kosher grill for both carnivorous and vegetarian Jews and non-kosher grill for both carnivorous and vegetarian Gentiles) on Friday afternoon together with international and Israeli fellow sailors and cruisers; thank you, Mikhal, Hillel, Uri and Uzy, you are a great marina team and wonderful friends.

Hiring a rental car from Eldan Car Rental +97235579040, touring the western shore of the Dead Sea, with c. 400 m below sea level the lowest “elevation” on the earth's surface on dry land, visiting Ein Gedi, a modern resort oasis located in the Judaean Desert, between Masada and the caves of Qumran, and floating on our backs in the Dead Sea brine which has a salt concentration of about 31 % (...about nine times saltier than the mighty ocean). 

Examining the mystical 2nd-century BCE scriptorium and cave libraries of the Essenes at Qumran, the 1947 CE discovery site of the world-famous 972 Dead Sea Scrolls with ancient texts about Jewish beliefs and practices and with the earliest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, the oldest biblical documents ever found. 

Hiking up the snake path to the mountain fortress of Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, watching from high atop Masada a fantastic sun rise over the River Jordan and the Dead Sea, taking in the stark natural beauty of the Judaean Desert, learning from young soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces about the 1st-century CE Siege of Masada in the First Jewish-Roman War and understanding the zero-tolerance meaning of their vow: "Masada shall never fall again!"

Enjoying a wonderful pre-Hanukkah/Christmas Shabbat at moshav Orot, founded in 1952 CE by immigrants from the United States who were members of the Working Farmer movement, together with our American buddies Jan & Doug (SY "Hanna") and with ex-Seffrican, Israeli hosts and fellow sailors Chippie & Henry (SY "Mistral III"), Shula & Ralph (MV "Deja Vu") and Seth (SY "Peregrine"); thank you guys, for your warm and generous hospitality and for the excellent food and booze. 

Celebrating our brilliant number-one daughter Ulrike's two excellent university degrees in Sinology and in English philology, wishing 一路顺风 and wondering what will come next... 

Matt: Noticing the name of my German home town in the Valley of the Destroyed Communities at Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, mulling over the eye-popping insight of the Israeli psychoanalyst Zvi Rex, who reportedly said that “...the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz....”, and listening to Heinrich Heine, an old friend of mine: “...denk' ich an Deutschland in der Nacht, dann bin ich um den Schlaf gebracht…”
“Europe died in Auschwitz. We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslim immigrants. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, and talent. We destroyed the Chosen People, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world. About one third of all Nobel Prize winners are Jewish or half-Jewish, whereas Jews make up just 0.2 % of the world's population. And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to millions of Muslim immigrants, who brought us religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty. And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness, tolerance for jihad. We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs. What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe…”
(Phillip, a gentile friend from Spain)

Practising our rusty Russian language skills, stocking up with excellent Russian food (e.g. dark rye bread, smoked fish, pickled mushrooms and ... affordable caviar) and celebrating the New Year 2006 CE on New Year's Eve with genuine Russian bubbly aka sovietskoje champanskoje - thanks to all those tens of thousands of Russian immigrants aka olim who live as Jews in Ashkelon and show courage and determination on the Gaza border. 

Reflecting on the challenges and learning opportunities of the old year's logged 700 nm (with 80 engine hours), preparing the ship and ourselves for the upcoming short cruising year 2006 CE to Egypt and wishing Happy New Year to all fellow cruisers and landlubbers!
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