Remembering my mission, I turned the conversation to sports, and Betty Hellman said she had once won a 100-meter race in France and had received a spanking from her mother for allowing Marshal Petain, the collaborationist, to kiss her on the cheek after her victory. Leon said that the Last Chance was sometimes filled with soccer players, drinking beer after a game, and then he added: "Of course, we have boxing here almost every weekend."
"Boxing?" I repeated incredulously, looking around the cluttered room. "How could you box in here?" "Oh," said Leon, "we usually go outside. You see, it is usually some customer who challenges me to a fight." He shrugged his broad shoulders. "I don't mind," he said. "It keeps me in shape."
The music had changed to a dance melody. A man sitting next to me at the bar leaned over and whispered in my ear, "You see that young woman dancing there?" I nodded. "She was a terrorist in the old days. They say she was a genius at making and throwing bombs."
I thanked him for the information and then signaled Isaac Austrian, pointing to my watch. He got up and buttoned his coat and I said goodby to the Hellmans, and Isaac and I went to the hostel where we were registered and turned in.
In Jerusalem, another day, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion was seated at his desk in his large office as Teddy Kollek, his assistant, ushered us—Colonel Henshel and me—into the room. I had read that Ben-Gurion dislikes shaking hands, but he stood up and shook hands with us. Somebody had told me that he loved Biblical questions. So I began by asking him about the quotation I had copied down at the ruins of the old Roman town of Askelon.
"'Tell it not in Gath,' " said Ben-Gurion, "'Publish it not in the streets of Askelon...lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice.'
"That," he said, "was the lamentation of David when he heard of the death of Saul, the first king of Israel, who died with his son, Jonathan, in the war with the Philistines. David did not want the news to spread because it would give comfort to the enemy."
"From what I have seen of sports in Israel," I said, "there is better news to tell in Gath and Askelon now. Sports seem to be booming. We've been traveling all around, and every playing field and basketball court we saw was crowded. Colonel Henshel feels, and I do, too, that Israel has time to play more and more games and perhaps try out some new ones like baseball or, as I've suggested, the Irish game of hurling. Do you think Israel needs some new sports?"
Ben-Gurion smiled and said, "What Israel needs are better sportsmen."
I thought he referred to good losers or something of that sort. But Colonel Henshel spoke up and said: "Here all athletes are called sportsmen. In our terms, the Prime Minister is saying that Israel needs better players. It's something like President Eisenhower's remark about the Washington baseball club. You remember, he said he believed there was nothing wrong with it that a few good players couldn't cure?" He turned to Ben-Gurion. "Maybe the Prime Minister is thinking about the soccer game with Russia last summer." Ben-Gurion nodded and said he had followed it on the radio. Colonel Henshel turned back to me. " Israel almost beat the Russians even though the star goalie, Chodorov, was out of the lineup for a considerable part of the game. The final score was 3-2."