Monday, 19 February 2018

Hine ma tov, the bitter and the sweet

I was allowed to rest for a couple of days after my travels: London, Paris, Marseille, Haifa, Negev.
Then: why not go and pick oranges until you decide what work you want to do?
So I started picking.

One of the women picking oranges was from the Romanian group who had started the kibbutz. She worked very fast and hard. I kept my distance from her when working, did not want to be shown up by some wisp of a woman who could work much better than me.

Her name was Hagit.
When we took a break she was the last person to stop, and after a break she was the first person to start again.
She was, literally, always smiling and had a very expressive, friendly face. Yet she never spoke or joined in the singing.

I asked someone from my group why Hagit never spoke. The answer was, they experimented on her.
That was enough answer for me. I did not need to know more.

The swarm of young women with whom I picked oranges were a happy, touching lot.
Always giving me a touch, a push, a stroke, a hair tousle, a peck on the cheek, a squeeze or a hug. It was the equivalent of sibling affection. A "hine ma tov" kind of thing.
At the time, very un-British and foreign to me.

They were inclined to sing a lot as well. Hebrew and partisans’ songs.
Do not get me wrong. I have nothing against “Bella Ciao”.
Except, I do not appreciate hearing it at the crack of dawn, when the sun has not started shining yet and it is cold, and I am lamenting the fact that I did not go to bed an hour earlier the night before.

I was relieved when I managed to escape to the sheep.
Much harder physical labour, but a paradise for einzelgängers. Sheep keep their distance and they do not sing.

Nowadays, I smile a sad smile when I think of my happy Jewish sisters picking oranges. With their songs they were celebrating our rebirth: Am Yisrael Chai.
I miss those touches, pushes, strokes, hair tousles, cheek pecks, squeezes, hugs and hine ma tov feeling.

I should have hugged them back more.


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