In the two days the USS San Antonio warship docked in Haifa, US troops got a chance to see Israel: They traveled to Jerusalem by bus, and spent evenings in the restaurants, bars and pubs of Haifa, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
"We've been in the ocean for three months straight, and we were waiting to reach shore," one soldier said. "We've come to find Haifa is a completely European city, especially compared to the rest of the Mideast."
- US warship docks in Haifa to refuel
- Russia sends missile cruiser to Mediterranean
- Putin warns West on Syria action
The Egged bus driver who drove the soldiers to the Haifa streets said that the warship was meant to spend seven days in Israel, but its trip was shortened to two days. "I asked them if the stay being shortened had to do with the Syria strike, and they said they don't know, and I should ask Barack Obama that question," he said.
The American marines were extremely friendly and happy to talk about almost anything other than the topic at hand: Syria. The few men who did respond to the question said they are eager to strike in Syria. "Of course we want to strike in Syria and are waiting for the order to do so," they said.
Many sailors arrived at the After Dark pub and restaurant in the Carmel Center. They celebrated their leave with beer, dressed in plain clothes. One man, who introduced himself only as "Dan from Connecticut", said they were headed "to sea" after lifting off from Haifa Port. When we insisted further—whether they are going to Syria—Dan responded with a smile, saying, "I hope so." A friend of his who would not identify himself was interested if the American military would see any signs of the IDF in the case of Syria strike.
"I actually would want to see if I can serve in the IDF," said Dan, 21. "I've heard from friends of mine who have trained with it that it's the best army in the world, the most professional, with the best operations."
The soldiers also spent considerable time corresponding with their relatives and friends in the US using laptops. "They told me they've been deployed for 10 months and that they really miss their families," said the restaurant manager. "We weren't set for how many of them turned up, but we made do. It was a pleasure to have them."
The soldiers were driven back to the warship by 11:00 pm, and on Friday the USS San Antonio undocked and left the Haifa port. The destination: unknown.
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop