A happy crowd on its way to visit Barzilai Hospital!
A group of 44 tiyul participants left Raanana en route to Ashkelon at 08:30 on a cloudy morning, although the weather soon cleared, promising us a great day ahead. The planned itinerary for the day started with a visit to the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon followed by a visit to Moshav Talmei Yosef in the North Western Negev.
Our journey which started with Dave Levin reading the Tefillat Haderech in Hebrew and in English, giving us a feeling of safety for the trip ahead.
During the journey, Peter Bailey spoke briefly about the origins of the Barzilai Hospital and then about the life of South African Dr. Mary Gordon in greater detail. This amazing lady and medical doctor had a proud record of military service which included the First World War, the Rand Rebellion in 1922, the Second World War, Israel’s War of Independence and subsequent service in the Medical Corps of the Israeli Defence Forces. Her service in the I.D.F. included the remarkable period of Operation Magic Carpet, which lasted from June 1949 until September 1950, during which 49,000 Jewish refugees from the Yemen were airlifted to Israel. Dr. Gordon established a tent hospital to care for the thousands of refugees including many infants who were living in the tent town established at Rosh Ha’Ayin.She was rewarded when the maternity wing of the hospital in Ashkelon, which opened in 1961, was named the Dr. Mary Gordon Wing in her honour. That hospital is now known as the Barzilai Hospital, our first point of call for the day.
The tour group was met on our arrival by hospital PRO Roxanne Lift who ushered us into a venue for excellent tasty and very welcome refreshments. After completion of the refreshments we filed into the adjoining auditorium where we were given an outstanding lecture by the Deputy Director of the hospital, Dr. Eliaz Miller. During the lecture we learnt about the origins and early days of the hospital as well as the trying circumstances under which the hospital, just a few kilometres from the Gaza Border, carries on functioning during rocket attacks. The audience were attentive and obviously enthralled during the lecture which left us all very much in awe of the services provided by Barzilai Hospital, even more so during periods of conflict. Our thanks to Michael Silver, a South African expat who serves on the hospital board as well as to Tzachi Cohen for facilitating and arranging a wonderful and memorable visit.
From the the hospital we set of in our tour bus, driven by our efficient favourite driver, Yossie, for Moshav Talmei Yosef, where our first port of call was to be a visit to the Salad Trail. Peter Bailey told the tour group about the vital role played by the northern Negev Moshavim and Kibbutzim during the 1948 War of Independence during the journey to Talmei Yosef.
The visit started with a delicious potjiekos (known in Israel as poyke) lunch which was enjoyed by all, leaving a happy and satisfied tiyul group ready to tackle the actual salad trail itself. Our lunch host and Salad Trail guide, expat South African, Peter Harris, introduced us to the tantalizing and tasty salad herbs and vegetables grown on the Moshav. These included carrots and tomatoes with various colours and flavours, which we were free to taste and sample to our hearts delight. We were also shown the carrier pigeon lofts and given a very interesting history on the uses of carrier pigeons during wartime before modern communications were available.
On completion of the Salad Trail visit, longtime Moshav Talmei Yosef residents, Ivan Fleisch and Ian Levin, accompanied us on the bus to the Kerem Shalom Border crossing with Gaza. This crossing which handles the transfer of goods from various points of departure globally, through Israel, to Gaza, with about 800 trucks arriving daily, is indeed fascinating. The trucks back into the crossing, are offloaded in a virtual no man's land, before being reloaded onto trucks on the Gaza side, with no contact between the transport personnel from the two sides. What was also interesting was stopping at a particular point from which the Egyptian flag can be seen to the west, the Gaza or Hamas flag to the north and the Israeli flag on the north east. This really brought home to us, in a very sobering fashion, the reality of how close Moshavim such as Talmei Yosef are to Gaza as well as the Sinai Peninsula, with its own brand of ISIS troubles. We are extremely grateful to Ian and Ivan for their efforts and the guided tour of the area.
We had an uneventful return home, arriving back in Raanana at around 18:30 in the evening. The participants who had boarded earlier in the morning in Netanya remained on the bus for their journey home. Thanks to Jeff Dritz for coordinating the boarding of the bus in Netanya and to Dana Ben Chail, Head of Volunteering at Telfed, who, as always, joined us for the tiyul, smoothing the way and making sure all went according to plan. Certainly another successful Telfed Tiyul.
Watch your emails for the details of our next tiyul on 25 April, when we will be visiting the Keter Plastics factory at Alon Tavor, just north of Afula and from there we will go for a very interesting and moving visit to the Golani Brigade Memorial and Museum.
Article written by Peter Bailey.