Saturday, 11 November 2017

Chanan

Chanan is podgy.
That is what I thought when I first met him in 1968. He had come for a short visit to the kibbutz during his school holidays. In a few years he was going to "make aliyah" (move to Israel).
He was Dutch, from the next, younger European group of Hashomer Hatzair (Marxist-Zionists). Had a vibrant Italian girlfriend with him. She was always smiling.

Chanan and I hit it off well. We were both very political-theoretical and had long discussions. Neither of us was Marxist.
He was a shy, optimistic young man. I think he looked up to me.
I was an ex-paratrooper who had fought in the war and was now on the board of the kibbutz. He treated me with a lot of respect.

He made aliyah with his girlfriend after I had left the kibbutz, and was eventually drafted into the army. 
The armoured car he was in was blown up by a roadside bomb. 
He lost both his legs.

We were living on the tenth floor of a flat in the Bijlmermeer, a neighbourhood with blocks of flats on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
We were poor and our flat was furnished poor arty-farty. Our couch was the duo front seat of a "deux chevaux" (Citroen 2CV).
I received a call. Chanan was in Amsterdam and would like to come and visit. Fine, I said.

He was in a wheelchair. I sat down on our deux chevaux couch and he was seated opposite. My couch was lower than his wheelchair, so I was looking up to him.
I was looking up at two stumps where his legs should have been.
Every now and then he moved one with his hands. I do not know why.

He was bitter. Kept on making cruel jokes, mainly about himself. The shyness and optimism were gone. He explained that those discussions with me had taken away his last doubts about making aliyah. Was he blaming me? I do not know. 
After a few hours he left. 
I never saw him again.

Many years later I learned that he had picked up the pieces.
He had gone to university and later became a professor. He married his smiling Italian girlfriend. They had no children.

No comments:

Post a Comment