The Approach to Jerusalem


Morris B. Ullman, 1953

This note was written to himself by Morris Ullman shortly after his arrival in Jerusalem for the first time in August 1953. Much later it was discovered among his papers and typed in its present form by his daughter, Carmel Ullman Chiswick.


Our first impression of Israel was not very exhilarating. We had flown all night from Paris. The plane was full - more than 60 passengers. Sleep was interrupted when a blaring speaker asked us to fasten our safety belts at Rome and then at Athens. We were involved in the press of passengers anxious to get through immigration and customs. Finally, when we were through, there was not enough room for all our bags in the car which met us, so arrangements had to be made to have them sent to Jerusalem - all in all-a trying and tiring two hours before we were ready to ride.

Less than a week before, we had left the green lawns of August suburban Washington - the barren brown of the August Jerusalem corridor was bleak by contrast. The hills of Judea had been described as rocky - and I guess we had visualized New England. The omnipresence of boulders in layers was not expected. The crop of rocks was indeed impressive - in a very negative way. The bleak rockiness of the area was thus very depressing.

But our companions - one a native born Israeli and the other a resident of many years - did not notice or share this reaction. As we drove along they quietly pointed out the land which Samson roamed in the days of the Judges. Later, they described to us how that stretch of road had been built after the main road had been captured by the Arabs during the siege of Jerusalem in 1948. Working in the area not occupied by Arabs, but within rifle range of their forces, the road was cut through at night with heroic effort so that the passage of supplies to Jerusalem could be continued. Farther on we saw the trucks left to rust at the side of the road to remind those that traveled the road of how the convoys had run the gauntlet between the hills to supply the beleaguered city. The hills rising on either side of the road, perfect for ambush, bore mute testimony to the courage of the drivers who took the hazardous trip to keep the city of Jerusalem as part of the newly created State of Israel.

The trees on either side began to break the monotony and the newly planted areas and the recently established settlements were pointed out to us. The terraces bore witness to the painstaking efforts made by both new immigrants and old residents to make it possible for soil again to cover the barren landscape. As we went up and down the hills gradually the panoramas began to broaden - and then - as we rounded a curve in the road perched precariously on the side of a hill - the city of Jerusalem came into view - seemingly a few houses perched on the top of a hill.

The city itself, as we drove along Jaffa Road, seemed narrow and inhabited by unkempt persons in oriental type stores - mere holes in the wall where small open fronts without plate glass or other modern devices, served as the places of commerce.

As the weeks passed we took the trip again several times. More rested and more attuned to our surroundings, the patches of green seemed more numerous, the hills higher, the surroundings less drab and the panoramas more breathtaking. But our first approach was indicative of the inspired vision of the new State, who saw the land of milk and honey where only rocks and barren hills strike the eye.


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