MARCH 21, 1955
TEL AVIV, Israel—On Friday, our last day in Rome, I did a little shopping early but spent most of the morning sightseeing. We were fortunate to have Countess Lea Belli as our guide, for a visit to the Sistine Chapel with her is an experience in itself. She loves Michelangelo and gives one the sense of how he must have felt during his work on these great undertakings which gave full play to his talent as an architect, sculptor and painter.
Michelangelo brought other painters to decorate the sides of the chapel, yet his work dominates them all and makes them seem almost insignificant. The Sistine Chapel shows his work as a young man, when he was full of hope and vigor. His concept, as well as the execution of the fresco of the ceiling, is of course remarkable. There is no medium more difficult to work in, and the necessity to lie on his back on the scaffolding while doing the painting must have been the most terrific physical strain. The Last Judgment was done when he was old and embittered, and you can feel the contrast in the two periods of painting.
We went to Saint Peter's afterward and looked at Michelangelo's "Pieta," which is one of the loveliest things I know. The Pope came to an open window and greeted the people in the square below at about 12:30, and it was impressive to watch the people there chanting a call for him to come and greet them.
We packed in the afternoon and had a last goodbye dinner with some friends of Mrs. Lash in a small Italian restaurant where they gave us excellent food. Then we were accompanied to the plane by William Boswell of our embassy.
After a smooth flight we came in to Lydda Airport at exactly 5:30 a.m. The day is one of rain squalls and wind, our first really bad weather since we left home, though we had it cold and somewhat grey in England. I was a little overwhelmed to be met by a representative of our embassy, a representative of the Israel Government and of the Jewish agencies.
After a brief press interview they took us to the hotel, the same one we stayed in when we visited Tel Aviv before. This will be our headquarters while we are here, though we will spend one night at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and another as guests of Mr. Baratz of Degania.
I have looked over my schedule and I think they have provided me with about one hour of free time every day. Otherwise we seem to be starting our days at about 7:30 every morning and ending about 10:30 or 11 every night, so I anticipate a busy time. That is what I came for, however, and I hope that I will get all the information which I am looking for.
This particular hotel is a little outside Tel Aviv. It is called Ramat Aviv and is more like a glorified motel. You have your own little cabin, with a bedroom and bath and curtains which can be drawn to give you a little sitting room in the front. You look out on the garden with a swimming pool which, I must say, does not look very inviting in this weather. One has privacy and quiet here, which is a precious thing if one is trying to do a great deal.
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