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January 2-week tour of the Holyland

Shalom Dear Friends,

I apologize for the delay in writing of our ?family?s? 2-week tour of the Holyland last month (January) as I have been very busy trying to catch up with work and other obligations. Two and one-half week?s time away and my desk piled up!

But since this trip, our third tour of Israel since 2003, I have spent much time thinking about how wonderful it is to visit and see all of the spectacular sites that are in the Promised Land. For whatever reason, both Stephanie and I cannot stop thinking about Israel and our trip. It was very different this time being in January and in the winter with temperatures quite comfortable. We even enjoyed the light rains, especially up in the Galilee. Seeing snow on Mount Hermon was memorable too. It was also different from our end-October / early-November time visits before because so much of the land is transformed from brown to beautiful green. We were amazed as we left Jerusalem traveling down to the Dead Sea, how lush and green the hillsides were. We had no idea these areas actually offer such abundant pasture land for the Bedouin herds. But this is the beauty that an outsider could only see by visiting at another season of the year.

And so dear friends please know, with all of these wonderful memories still with us, we have scheduled another Holyland tour in January 2007! While many here in the U.S. vacation to Florida or other seaside resorts in the States, we will continue to look to Israel as our haven of rest and relaxation seeing the beauty of the country and spending time with her People.

However, prior to our 2007 return in January, Stephanie will return in June of 2006 and I am also looking forward to the CQWW Phone Contest from 4X at the end of October. This will be my fourth CQWW from Israel. I am hoping we can coordinate a multi-multi operation of some kind for this contest. Jerry, K8OQL has indicated that he wishes to return and possibly Dave, WA8WV will return as well. It is my wish that we can have several of the 4X ops combine for a weekend Contest Party operation. More on that in the next several weeks.

Back to our latest trip? I was not sure about taking amateur radio equipment with me last month because I was not sure how I would be able to operate from hotels as 4X/W8HC. I was also not sure how much problem it would be getting an aluminum travel case filled with amateur radio equipment through airline security as carry-on baggage. This proved to be NO problem anywhere. With special permission from Stephanie (HiHi) I took an ICOM-706MKII, switching power supply, SGC auto-tuner and portable vertical antenna. I was indeed able to spend some time at night operating from some of our locations with some success although band conditions were not very favorable most of the time. I will comment on my results in a moment.

But first of all, one of the most memorable highlights of our trip occurred on the first evening upon our arrival in Tel Aviv. We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel and had invited IARC Honorary President Joseph Obstfeld, 4X6KJ and his charming wife Ruth, 4X4CM to join us for dinner. In my previous visits to Israel, I have never able to actually meet the man who had been so helpful to me in initiating contact with other 4X amateurs that would allow me to operate radio from the Holyland during the CQWW Contests. We have traded many, many emails and greetings over the past 3 years. So it was a pleasure for me and Stephanie to finally meet Joseph and share such a lovely evening with him and Ruth. It was as if we were with family. Stephanie and I both look forward to seeing Joseph and Ruth again soon.

The Renaissance Hotel is located on the Mediterranean coast and during that single night?s stay at Tel Aviv, I made QSOs only with DL8PG, OK1DN, YU7CB and UR3IFY on 40m CW again with very poor conditions on the portable vertical antenna located on our balcony.

The second night was spent at the Dan Carmel in Haifa. Although the view of the city and Haifa harbor was beautiful from our balcony, I was unable to have any luck at all on the radio. No contacts were made from there.

We then journeyed our third day to kibbutz Nof Ginosar near Tiberius on the Galilean Sea and during the following 4 nights stay there, I was able to make 30 QSOs (all CW on 30m and 40m), mostly European stations. One exciting moment for me was hearing my friend Dave, WA8WV back home on 40m. He was calling me precisely on our pre-determined time and frequency. Dave?s signal was a copiable 339 with his 3-element 40 meter beam and full power with his Alpha 87A. Unfortunately he could not copy my weak signal. So I was not able to make a QSO with Dave or with any W/K stations during my visit.

From the Galilee, it was next up to Jerusalem for 4 days where we stayed at the Dan Panorama Hotel. Unfortunately, I was unable to operate at all since I could not install an antenna system. The hotel has no balcony and I was afraid to drop a wire out of the window. Our room was located on the 7th floor-- but on the front of the building. I didn?t want to create any problems.

The absolute highlight of the trip for operating radio occurred on January 16 from Masada. I am sure that Ruben, 4Z5FI was surprised to see me when he met me as I just appeared with my portable ham radio equipment at his workplace. Ruben is the electrician at this famous historical site and was one of the operators during the December 24, 2004 4X0MS operation from on top of Masada. Ruben was able to secure permission from his manager for me to operate radio from that same location where he, and 7 others operated those two days in 2004. Meanwhile, the other 6 members of our small tour saw the historical sites on top of the plateau with our experienced guide and dear friend, Ido Keynan. I was excited traveling on the tram to the top of this ancient fortress some 434 meters above the Dead Sea. Ruben set about getting the power to the rig and setting the vertical antenna on top of the 2,000 year old stone structure. The modern day metal roof made for a nice ground plane for the antenna. We had less than one hour to operate and I was hoping to finally be able to find a band opening on 20 meters, especially from this rare location! Ruben stayed with me during my operating time. I am grateful to his manager for allowing him to be away from his job for this time. I was not disappointed by our results. 4X/W8HC made first contact at 1243 UTC with RV3UC on CW and followed QSOs with OK2PFY and HA1DVI. I then made my first SSB QSOs of the entire trip with a nice QSO with Mark, VK2GND who gave me a 59 report. His signal was 55 but his audio was like he was in this same room! QSOs with Daniel, F5BBD and Kay, SM7VZH followed. I then spent the next 15 minutes calling and calling JW9VDA from rare Svalbard. This was for a new DXCC entity for me from Israel and I was anxious to make this QSO. Finally, I was able to get through the pileup thanks to Ruben?s insistence and put JW9DVA into my logbook. Ruben and I now had only a half hour to take down the station and walk back down to the tramway station perched on the side of the mountain so we could catch the next tram down to bottom. I wish I had had more time to operate from Masada but I will gladly take the 45 minutes and 7 QSOs in my logbook any day! I also wish I did not give Stephanie my video camera to take with the group as I had no photos of me and Ruben at our ?station.? However she took a short video clip showing the building and the vertical antenna plus I have two great photos of me and Ruben at the top of the tramway that I will always treasure along with the memory of my short DXpedition. After all, how many people can say they have made QSOs from this famous site Masada? I am grateful to Ruben, 4Z5FI for being my host and for his help making this possible for me!

Leaving Masada, we next traveled to the Dead Sea and from the lowest point on earth (land), I was able to put another 11 QSOs into the log during our one night stay at the David Meridian Hotel. All of these QSOs were CW on 40 and 20m and included a QSO with Eric from ZS6ME. The recent 4X411A operation from the Dead Sea by the 4X-Boys during December 23-24, 2005 was very disappointing for me. I had very much hoped to make a QSO with Ruben or Mark, 4Z4KX or Ros, 4Z5LA with their operation but was unsuccessful. Band conditions to West Virginia were not favorable and I could only copy 4X411A with ESP. So for me to operate from the Dead Sea was an opportunity to get some final comfort from my disappointment. HiHi.

My final operating time was at Eilat at the Red Sea with 11 more QSOs entered into my logbook. I was pleased to work very good DX stations of VQ9JC, 5R8HL and 4L0B with my small signal from this beautiful resort city. Also, Stephanie and I were able to make 3 scuba dives while at Eilat and enjoy the beauty of this area from the underwater coral reefs that few people get to experience. We will be doing this again next year for sure!

And so now, Stephanie and I will have to be content to view the 8 hours of video and hundreds of photos that we took from this trip until our return. This way, we will keep the memories of our trip fresh in our minds and our anticipation alive for next year?s visit to Israel.

In the meantime, we shall continue to keep Israel and all of you in our prayers. Peace, Prosperity and Health to all?

Very 73, Shalom?

Hal, W8HC

4X0WV CQ WW PH contest 2004
4X0WV  Hal Turley, W8HC : David Ellis, WA8WV 4X0WV CQ WW PH contest 2003