Hellanback successfully evaded the Egyptian military and
re-entered "restricted military areas."
Forty hours into the desert Hellanback was lost. The stars
were tucked behind heavy clouds. As he moved about on a trackless
plain, visions of his skeleton bleaching under a burning sun rattled
He fell to his knees, head on the ground. "Dear God,
if it be Thy Will, show me a sign." Such a coward, he thought.
"PHUUUUOOOOOOSH," came a whisper from the sky.
A bluish dot of light, about an eighth of the moon's diameter,
appeared to Hellanback's upraised eyes. Slowly the dot began to
elongate itself until it was a capsule about the length of the
"Oh, thank You, thank You, thank You," Hellanback
thought. Scrambling to his feet he set out in the direction towards
which the dot had elongated itself.
"A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after
a sign," Hellanback thought, and stopped dead in his tracks.
I am a sinner. I am wicked and adulterous. Was I afraid to die?
God help me.
He turned around and began walking in the opposite direction.
A couple of hours later the sun's rays began to infiltrate
the darkness. Hellanback came suddenly upon a Bedouin encampment
just as it was meeting the day. The desert dwellers saw him before
he saw them, and invited him to break fast.
Over tea, goat's cheese and bread, the nomads asked the
usual questions. "Emshee ay?"
"El Kuds," the pilgrim said he was going to Jerusalem.
"Where are you from?" the hosts inquired.
"America," he gave his standard answer.
The shepherds told the pilgrim the story of another American
who had also made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem last fall. They said
he had been stopped by the government near Romani. Hellanback
asked what had happened to that earlier wanderer. He was told
that, after the authorities had satisfied themselves he was harmless,
he had been allowed to continue on his way. Hellanback thought
that unless he had become a minor propaganda star of the desert,
pilgrimages might be becoming an American fad.
Before leaving Hellanback asked the Bedouin the direction
of el Arish. They indicated the direction from which he'd come.
If he'd followed the elongated dot he'd have made been heading
in the right direction, but then he'd have never heard the story
about the American pilgrim at Romani.
He stayed in the sand, away from the coast road, a couple
of times detouring widely around lights. It took a total of five
days to walk across the Sinai.
Once again, around El-Arish, he picked his way through
barbed wire and tank traps, and began moving through orchards
and olive groves. A couple of miles past el-Arish Hellanback was
greeted by several jeeps mounting manned fifty-caliber machine
"EGYPT AND ISRAEL
OPEN TO TRAVELERS"
May 28, 1979
Hellanback didn't know it, but the first provisions of
the Camp David accord had just been implemented. To his surprise
he discovered that as he crossed it, the Sinai had changed hands.
The coast, under Israeli control when he started, had been returned
to Egyptian control up to the town of El-Arish.
"How did you get here?" the Isreali soldier asked.
"Impossible," said the driver.
"Did you do it for sport?" asked the less skeptical
Israeli military forces arrested him for entering the country
illegally. Hellanback was astonished. He was expecting the 51st
U.S. state. Israel was supposed to love Americans.