Strong volunteer Manfred wrote, "Arbeit Macht Frei" on his bed foot-board. His father had been a Nazi lager warder, and Manfred did penance for him. Volunteers did all sorts of work, and Moshe shuffled jobs, stopping boredom and kibbutznik volunteer friction. We packed guitar-strings in a guitar-string factory, while kibbutzniks made guitar-strings. I passed welding tools to Moshe. I unloaded girders from a truck with Jacob. We unpacked chicken-house equipment from containers. In date-palm groves, we climbed date-palms, cutting off green spikes on palm leaves, stopping sun-hardened spikes jabbing date-pickers. Leah worked in the laundry, gardens and onion fields.
Some volunteers machine-milked Friesland cows in a dairy. Cattle lived permanently on a fenced concrete-slab, with an iron roof to one side for sun-protection. As there was no grass, cattle were fed lucerne, hay and nutrient pellets. Extra milk was sent to nearby Yotvata kibbutz, which processed milk into dairy products. We drank much yoghurt. Yotvata Hai Bar Reserve preserved desert oryxes, but not Palestinians. When tomatoes ripened, we packed tomatoes at Yotvata, and ate ethane-ripened tomatoes.
Grofit onions and dates were computer-controlled, plastic-pipe irrigated. Jackals chewed holes in pipes and drank fertilised water. (Later in SA, we saw Israeli computer-controlled irrigation- systems). When we worked in the onion packing-shed, sorting, grading and packing onions, we all cried. Leah, allergic to onion juice, cried most of all. There were several onion juice allergies, so toilet rolls for sniffers hung at points along conveyors. Poms laughed at Leah's accent when she wailed, "Mah arse!" when rubbing her eyes. Using an overhead suspended sewing-machine, Leah sewed at the end of the production line, where she received full onion bags, conveyed from a hopper.
Outside the shed where I liked working, groaning tractors tipped onions onto wide, clanking conveyors, where onions bounced along upside-down to a grate, where rotary-blades cut green leaves. Besides tractor-conveyor-cutter-cacophany, a loudspeaker blared disco music. There was only one earmuff-set to protect outside workers. The noisy packing-shed left me with insidious nerve-deafness, which would remind me of Israel for the rest of my life. But I would only realize that years later.
Manfred palletized full bags, then fork-lifted them onto trucks for export. Once Manfred threw Negev sand in the air shouting, "I haf Holy Land saints in my hairs." After work, we boozed Goldstar beer on our stoep. When afternoons lengthened, Leah and I hitched to Eilat, as Egged buses were rare along Eilat Road. Thorn trees and Jericho Roses battled to grow in wadis, which stretched out from valley-wall rock fans.
Across Gulf Waters, we saw ships taking materials to Aqaba for the Iran-Iraq war. Eilat had shops, hotels, Israelis, outcast Arabs, topless sunbathers and troops, as Israel was returning Sinai to Egypt. White UN vehicles whizzed about, bulging with Uzi toting soldiers. At hitching places, soldiers strutted to queue fronts, as lifts for soldiers were a priority over tourist or civvie hitchers.
Marginalized Arab youths, practising their English, were aggressive when rebuffed. If we strolled a street, checked out a bloody street -shambles, lay on a beach, sat on a park bench, Arabs hassled us. Souk merchants said, "Hello, welcome, what's your name? What language you speak?" We spoke Afrikaans or Fanagalo, while discussing prices, to block Arabs.
For our Sinai trek, we loaded barbeque-wood into a kibbutz bus, as there was no firewood in the desert. South of Eilat, down the Red Sea coast, we camped at an oasis, and barbequed under date-palms by a ruined Turkish fort near the coral beach. Bedouin men arrived from a settlement, begging water and food. Their water-truck, which Sinai kibbutzniks filled weekly, was empty.
A barefoot Bedouin woman arrived with her goats. Kibbutzniks gave her nothing. Her nearby tent was black. Long sleeves and collar of her black robe were embroidered red. A black mask decorated with coins hid her mouth, a black scarf covered her head. Her earrings also dangled coins.
Two Bedouin men, dressed in white jelabiyehs and keffiyehs, squatted by our campfire. Smiling- Bedou fanned the flames with his jelabiyeh. Beg-Bedou, unsheathing a curved dagger from his belt said, "Trade my knife for your watch!"
"Sorry," I said, stroking my throat. "We need to catch Egged buses on time... Coffee?"
Smiling-Bedou drew "UN" on sand then said, "Brrrmmm!" and ham-acted steering a car. They didn't know Israel was returning Sinai to Egypt. We explained.
Beg-Bedou said, "Every date-palm owned by Bedouin. These palms - ours." After coffee, we gave them our firewood. They left, and sang under their date-palms, beside their fire. We fell asleep, listening to their camel munching palm-leaves.
We picnicked at dirty Nuweiba port, and admired desert views - red, grey, brown rocks and sand. Dry turds littered town. Israelis were leaving...
We bussed to palm-hutted Dahab and its ganga smoking dropouts...
At Ras Nasrany, we climbed a stony hill. Saudi Arabia coastline shimmered across Tiran Strait. An Israeli soldier strolled up, pointing his Uzi saying, "See Tiran Islands there. They caused the Six Day War. Nasser's Egyptians blockaded Israeli shipping going through Tiran Strait into Aqaba Gulf. Egypt remilitarized Sinai. Israelis took Sinai during that war. Now we must return them to Egypt. For fifteen years Israelis have settled kibbutzim in Sinai. Now we must leave..."
From Sharm-el-Sheikh, on our backspoor to Eilat, our Arab bus -driver swung his speeding bus round corners. Soldiers shouted, "Slow down!" Our driver shouted back, only behaving himself after the biggest soldier strode up the aisle and threatened him. South of Eilat, we passed a ruined castle, crumbling on Farun Island. We spent our last shekels at an underwater observatory on the coral shore. Later, cheap Egged bus fares would enable us to visit other parts of Israel.
Unrest: The Jerusalem Post reported that in SA Treurnicht had left the Nationalist Party, forming his own Conservative Party.
Coda: Two decades later, long after Israel had returned Sinai to Egypt, Arab terrorists repeatedly bombed Dahab, Sharm-el-Sheikh and Eilat.
See Tiran Isles, Sinai.