E44M DX Pedition article by Giorgio IZ4AKS
One who devotes his spare time to the realization of a dxpedition hardly never reveals all the endeavours made from the moment the idea is bounced around till the radio is switched on and transmit. Normally praxis obliges not to give pieces of information about how licence is obtained, how materials are transported and preliminary phases of the work itself are arranged.
Let’s definitively break this deep-seated taboo. The dxpedition diary will therefore be someone’s task.
So let the clock hands go back to 2004, when I visited Israel for the first time. It was a business trip, but I got acquainted with various people and native colleagues. Palestine was there, just a few kilometres distant and I started making questions on how getting there, ensuring safety and collecting information on hotel accommodation and standards etc…
The following year I decided to come back to Israel with my wife to visit the Holy Land. I spent there nine days and on that occasion I went to Palestine for the first time in my life. I visited some tows and I started thinking that Bethlehem was the right place to transmit from. I contacted a hotel and inspected its roof despite the receptionist and the tourists’ scepticism. I realised that at least the roof might host two verticals. The hotel owner’s son committed himself to help me obtain licence, since nobody had answered me at the Minister office and rarely did I find someone speaking English. Unless someone helped me, it was impossible to communicate, and I decided to come back home. Then, various months passed while sending e-mails, making phone calls and faxes; then one day my mobile rang: “Tomorrow you will be granted the licence, but one document is still missing, they would like to know whether you will broadcast music or politics! Can you send it to me?”. Can you recall the image of a crystal falling to the ground dashing into uncountable pieces? I felt as disintegrated as that crystal, because I was going to obtain broadcast installation licence! Fantastic! But it was not what I wanted!
I decided not to give up and I went on looking for a solution. To be precise, I did not want a licence, but to make acquaintances at the Minister; yet, due to the forthcoming elections, everything changed and the already established contacts were to be totally re-created. I soon got convinced that I would have never obtained the so longed-for licence if I had not personally been there.
What could I do? Suddenly an idea came to my mind. I needed someone understanding what I was going to tell him, speaking English, keen on certain basic topics. I opened skype, then selected the location “Palestinian territories” and pressed the button ‘search’. I contacted all the accounts springing from the research and I tried to explain who I am and what I wanted. I was offended various times before finding an engineer in telecommunications living in West Bank. He was Arabic, Catholic, had a high university culture and was surprised that someone from Italy like me was interested in his work. He was perfect, it was the man I was looking for, Ibrahim did the same work as I did, so it was easy to become friends. A fortnight after that I touched upon what I what wanted to do. He was so kind that only two day after he went to the Minister to personally ask the documents I needed. The licence was going to be in my hands in a few months. However, it was already the year 2007 and the documents would have been sent me when I had already got involved in another project. Frankly, I was very satisfied about how the work was going, so I decided to keep the licence in the strongbox for future better times; it was too hard to manage such complex radios at the same time.
At Friedrichshafen exhibition I met 4Z5LA at the Israeli Association booth and I mentioned our idea. My friend Ros, who had approved it from the beginning, promised to help us and we decided to keep in touch as soon as our idea progressively blossomed.
Meanwhile CQWW SSB 2007 was terminated, I was now free after some very hard working months.
At the same time I did not mind reading that OM2DX announced his activity from Bethlehem. On those days I got lot of information about QSO and that activity positively raised my mood.
Summer holidays had to pass before starting working on the radio project again. However, the end of August was a beehive of activity, so I met Sobhy in Rimini. Sobhy had organised the pilgrimage I participated into in 2005 and as a student in Rome, he had developed a pirate radio station from a amateur radio operator’s home, he was a man with a humanity which could not remain unnoticed and a great heart. I asked him to help me find a suitable logistic location. He answered me: “Don’t worry,son”. I suspected something would go wrong since everything was too easy to him. Therefore, only after a short period of time, I decided to accept help from friend Sobhy and agreed to meet him in the period from 1st to 11th January 2009. He would be there waiting for us. He booked a Hotel in Biet Jala big enough to host our facilities. Moreover, the location was safe and nobody would bother us.
At the same time we discovered that another team was trying to visit Palestine and I received a phone call from Fabrizio IN3ZNR informing me that they were soon going to obtain the allowances and that shipments should be almost contemporaneous. We got confronted about the dates; since my team was approximately a month early, with a certain fair-play their group withdrew. We tried to postpone the outset, there were so many task to be accomplished in E4 that such a sporty deed made us wonder about the opportunity to unify our work; yet, our flights had a flat rate, so we decided to postpone our desire for the future. I would like to point out that such a behaviour is not so frequent and witnesses the cooperation growing between radio amateurs and a common feeling , that is a sense of uniqueness, which is typical of those who share this passion.
Afterwards, we started the preparation of the material of our equipment to be transported : our weight limit was 20 kg luggage per passenger and the over weight cost too much. We reached the conclusion that we would bring something with us and we would ship the remaining material on a container, so I contacted a famous shipping agency in Ravenna port which has offices all over the world and also in Israel. This was the first mistake made in the course of this adventure. In fact, the courier informed us that every Saturday left a vessel to Israel provided that we brought the material two or three days before the departure. After that, it would reach the final destination after six further sailing days. Thus, we started to prepare the wooden box full of material: amplifiers, cables, fyber barrels, antennas and radios(please keep in mind this particular). The fumigated wooden case was 1.4 cubic metres wide and was more than 200kg; when IZ4DPV sealed its covering we understood that our shipper’s assurances were far to be real. Delays began just the estimated day of the case collection; the courier delayed its arrival of approximately 72 hours and we risked to miss the booked vessel. So, we started calling our shipping agent who showed his difficulties and justified them with a finance inspection. I suspect that this inspection is a common topic used by shipping agencies towards their customers when being in a difficult position. You can clearly understand that we risked having a complete radio station loaded on the plane transporting us to Israel without the necessary missing material for our project. This convinced us to ship that material on an air cargo. After two days, everything arrived at Tel Aviv airport; yet our courier had not arranged for all the necessary documents to be shown for custom purposes and custom blocked our shipment due to its communicating nature.
We managed to clear our equipment by heading them to Les SP3DOI who luckily accepted to start one day before the custom clearance phases.
I do not think Les, who worked in the shipping sector, would have ever imagined to face such a nightmare which compelled him to spend a whole day with difficult custom clearance operations. If we succeeded in obtaining our material, this was due to Les’ tenacity, but also to our friends Ros’, 4Z5LA’s, Dov’s and 4Z4DX’s help, enrolled as a IARC member, who sustained our activity from the early beginning and worked hard together with us to get the goal. Moreover, they lent us a yagi (TNX Ruben 4Z5FI!) to be used in case our equipment had not arrived or might have been destroyed and clearly showed their sense of hospitality and availability to help us in a concrete way. That was why from that moment we considered them fully integrated in our team.
The only disadvantage was the fact they were denied the right to cross the Palestinian boundaries, and therefore could not participate into our on-air activities.
Thanks to the difficulties found with customs, I clearly noticed these radio devotees’ wholehearted friendship and was deeply gratified and pride for this experience.
Then at Tel Aviv airport, we met David, Shoby’s trustworthy friend, waiting for our arrival.
David was a very quick-witted boy who would spend much time with us, would drive us everywhere with his small bus, would give us a hand in the collection of the missing material and would accompany us to our hotel in Bethlehem. Yet, there we would be confronted with another unpleasant surprise!
Our hotel was delightful, polished and comfortable. Nonetheless, it was located on a hill with a 330° slope which disturbed our initial enthusiasm. Even though we had received many photos about the location, neither did this hill seem so close, nor so high, so David decided to give us a hand. David made then two phone calls, Sobhy checked everything again and in 10 minutes we got to another hotel, on the eleventh and highest floor! That was great!
My task to tell E44M story finishes at this precise moment, and another colleague of mine will have to tell the diary of a dxpedition.
My omen is that this experience may concretely help everyone wondering about a future possible project of this nature; in fact, despite the fact that we were not radio professionals, we have reached the goal we wanted to obtain.
It is a commonly widespread opinion that a bee – due to its aerodynamism – is unable to fly…However, nature witnesses that this is far to be true, because she manages to do so thanks to its tenacity!