Friday, 26 October 2018

Falling over a reminiscence: a whimsical smile

Before I made Aliyah, I had lived a sheltered life; never met many foreigners.

Kibbutz Magen, where I lived for almost six years, was like a Jewish United Nations.
The founders of the kibbutz were young Romanian Holocaust survivors. In the 1950s an Israeli youth group joined the kibbutz and in the early 1960s my group came: young Jews from Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and I.

Then there were the miscellaneous: a group of young people my age from Eastern Europe who were brought up on the kibbutz because their parents, who lived in Israel, were not able to support them, and a small group of young French Jews.

It is a few months before the Six Day War.
I am out of paratrooper training and allowed to go back to my border kibbutz in the Negev more often.
I have my room back which is next to my best friend Tzvi, who originated from Austria. My other good friend is Avraham who came from Poland.

During my roomless period when I was doing paratrooper training, I used to sometimes sleep on a stretcher in Gad’s room.
Gad came originally from Romania and was a bit older than me.

Miriam was from France. We were as different as chalk and cheese. We hardly spoke to each other.
She lived next door to Gad.

On one Friday night I ended up in Miriam’s room. Cannot blame it on alcohol, because there was no booze on the kibbutz.

I had forgotten something.
I had a New Zealand cousin who lived with his wife and two young daughters on nearby kibbutz Nirim. My cousin and his wife liked to pamper me.
He was coming the next day to pick me up on an old Egyptian motorbike with sidecar for a Shabbat lunch with them in Nirim.

My cousin turned up and went to my room. Kibbutz rooms are never locked. He walked in and saw that my bed had not been slept in.
He went next door to ask Tzvi where I was. Tzvi did not know.

Then the two of them went to Avraham’s room to see if he knew where I was. He did not know.
There are now three of them looking for me.
They went round to Gad’s. He did not know where I was either.

The four of them are now standing together trying to figure out where I am. They are standing right outside Miriam’s window.
I got dressed and walked out of Miriam’s room.
The look of surprise on their faces was wonderful.

Avraham died a few years later from a wound he received in the Six Day War. My cousin died of cancer. I do not know if the other people in my story are alive or dead.

When writing about people from my past I see them again; usually as silhouettes. That is a bitter, sweet experience.
I remember them with a whimsical smile, but I am also sad because it is the past.

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