I have mentioned before my late father Professor Joseph M Yoffey`s inability to throw away a diary or a letter, which he inherited from his father Rabbi Israel Jacob Yoffey. I inherited that family gene, if no other! I have been transcribing a handwritten notebook made by my father on a visit to Palestine in August 1932. He was 30 at the time, still digesting the ideology of passionate religious Zionism which had come to him from Rabbi Yoffey. At the same time he was starting to build what was to become an illustrious career in medicine. His secular education had been at the great Manchester Grammar School, where he had been taught by Edwardian teachers whose faith in the values and prejudices of British Imperialism was never in doubt. In 1933 he became a lecturer in Anatomy at Cardiff University, and in 1940 became Professor of Anatomy at Bristol University. His 1932 impressions…below. If you would like to read the whole thing please contact me through the website….
“August 16th 1932
After days of smooth seas and brilliant Mediterranean skies, we finally reached Port Said. The quay front is occupied by big shops, & the head offices of tourist organizations, shipping companies and coal merchants. At the far end of the quay is the Customs House with three green domes, a large central dome and a smaller one on either side.
From the boat to the Customs House we were conveyed in a fast motor launch, & after much trouble, we finally managed to extract our baggage from a confused heap of packages, surrounded by swarthy gesticulating porters all offering their services. Our Jewish courier – speaking seven languages – successfully piloted us through all this, & then we left him to take charge of our luggage, & set out to explore Port Said. We had for the purpose five hours at our disposal.
It was a hot day, a glaringly bright sun, the air dry and arid. We were pestered the whole time by itinerant vendors, & little boys pestering us to have our shoes cleaned. By repeated “Yalla rinshi”s we managed to rid ourselves of all but the most persistent. For these latter something more forceful, if less polite was essential. (Mention also conjurers, Yemenite shopkeepers, exorbitant prices.)
At 6.15 in the evening we entered the train which took us along the Suez Canal down to Cantara, where we crossed the canal; in a ferry, passed through the Customs House, showed our passports, & then waited for 4 hours at the station. Cantara Station is not an ideal waiting place. Nevertheless, in spite of the cockroaches in the waiting room, and the exorbitant prices charged for `Gazoz,` we were pleased with it because it was here we first saw Hebrew used as an official language, and here we first used our Palestinian currency. Also we found on the station platform a kiosk entitled `Zionist Information Bureau.`
When the Jerusalem train arrived we found the conductor and sleeping car attendant were both Jews. The conductor we shall always remember. His name was Cohen – short, but broad, with a round and cheerful face. This was our first opportunity of airing our Hebrew, & it seemed to give Mr Cohen as much pleasure as it gave us.
At 11.15 pm we moved off, into the Sinai Desert, which our ancestors had taken forty years to cross. The moon was at its full, the sky unclouded, & in the clear night visibility was perfect. Long stretches of sand, with an occasional patch of cultivated land were all we saw. Once a more imaginative companion saw the ghost of Moses, with flowing robes & stately tread.
Dawn over the desert was a magnificent spectacle, & in the light of day we passed by Rehoboth, with its beautiful plantations, the trees in long straight rows, in strong contrast to Arab estates, with trees straggling and irregular, & an impression of disorder and inefficiency.
At Lud we changed into the Jerusalem train, & for two hours we turned and twisted through the Judean hills, gradually climbing higher and higher, past the birthplace of Samson, past many a group of unkempt & dirty Arabs, till finally we entered Jerusalem.”