Tzipi stood quietly ten feet away wearing Khaki shorts, sandals, and white short- sleeved blouse, and watched as I was loading my jeep with parts to repair at Nirim, the closest kibbutz to us. It had a marvelous metal shop, including welding equipment I could only dream about. I needed their tools and help to fix some of our tractor’s parts; otherwise I would have to drive all the way to Haifa, the only place with spare parts for our tractors. Our three tractors, two red colored International Harvesters, with solid metal treads, and a light green one with 2 large rear rubber wheels, worked very hard in our sandy fields, sometimes during the nights too. And they needed a lot of maintenance and repairs.
After Tzipi watched me patiently for some time, saying nothing, she suddenly came closer and asked me: “Can I come with you?”
Tzipi was something! You did not need more than a glance to see that she was shapely, young and attractive, and listening to her for a minute confirmed that she also was smart and light hearted. Or were all these attributes just in the mind of a young man, eager for romance? I could not tell, and I did not care – I was eager to share my jeep with her on my trip to Nirim, that afternoon in the upper Negev, near Gaza, in the spring of 1949.
I was glad for company, wondering if it would be actually safe to expose another person to possible road mines we faced before, but her warm personality, and mostly her attractive body, won above my concerns. “Ken. Boee”, yes, do come- I said. She jumped onto the passenger seat, her smooth lovely legs preceding her solid upper body, settled comfortably in her seat and said, “Kadima Menashe!” Forward Menashe – my Lechi underground nom-de-guerre. Even in our sun filled sky she did not need any sun protection, she was a Sephardic, (from Arab countries background) with lovely light brown skin. Although I am an Ashkenazi, (from European and Israeli backgrounds), our skin colors looked the same. My light colored skin was so exposed to the sun- I wore only shorts all day, no shirt, no sandals, that my skin darkness matched hers.
We drove towards the entrance, I went down from the jeep and dragged-opened the barbed wire gate, drove some 25 feet past the gate, returned and close the gate. And we started slowly towards the “main road” – the unstable dirt road to Nirim, and I speeded up slightly as the dirt became more stable. Our jeep was green colored, one of the jeeps Lechi commandeered 2 years earlier from several locations, sometimes paying for them, sometimes not. We drove those confiscated jeeps to our base in Schech Munis, an abundant large home-spread of an Arab Sheikh North of Tel Aviv, and painted them light green- our identity mark. Few dared to steal them.
As I was driving with Tzipi, I remembered my first unpleasant encounter with this very same jeep, and I hoped that I would not be now the fumbling driver I was when I met this jeep the first time two years earlier. Then I was forced to drive a car the first time in my life and I drove with little control from one side of the road to another due to very loose steering mechanism. And it was a miracle that I did not kill myself or anyone else. But that is another story.
We returned peacefully to our kibbutz Neve Yair after I noticed how much attention and approval Tzipi showed me when I repaired one part after another at the shop in Nirim. With this good feeling we joked all the way home. But nothing more. I was wondering afterwards, nevertheless, why did she come with me, but I let it drop. Enjoy the experience; don’t ask questions, I said to myself.
A few days pass and I was busy all the time till dinner. Our small dining hall was full immediately after our cook of the day rang the bell. Only one guard was missing from dinner walking inside the perimeter of the kibbutz. After our light, mostly vegetarian dinner, most of us talked about their events of the day. I did not linger. I dropped everything else to take my regular dance lessons. I never danced before, except group dances such as the Horra, and never with a lady face to face. So I took now lessons in both Israeli dancing and the Tango. I tried waltz but I just could not make it. I loved the flowing music, the beautiful movements, but my legs did not listen too well to those marvelous sounds. We danced several nights a week until we dropped, and dragged ourselves to bed. My usual teacher was Miriam, a warm, friendly 18 years old, that her beautiful inner soul was much more noticed than her plain external features. More than once she told me: “after I teach you and you will be a good dancer, you will never dance with me again.” I felt so sad for her and reassured her that I would not do that. And I did not. She was my partner frequently, and with great pleasure on my part. Never the less, if I remember correctly, she was the kibbutz first bride. And her groom was very lucky. She was a marvelous person.
After I mastered the Tango somewhat, I did not start dancing with Tzipi. Although I wanted to. I felt uneasy; everyone knew what everyone else was doing in our small kibbutz. Tzipi had a boyfriend in the city that rarely visited; however, I got the impression that their relationship was solid. But eventually, after I got the Tango style under my belt, I asked her to Tango with me. I should not have done it. It boiled my blood to a too high level when she was so warm and so close to me, boyfriend in the city or not. She was so appealing; it was too much for me. We both sensed that it would be better to cool it. And I also remembered Rina, my own lovely girlfriend in the city, that I rarely seen.
I was eager to be with her alone but I did not go to the city as often as I wanted, I had so much to do and every request I made for a few days off was rejected. Their answer was the same: we simply could not afford to be without my technical capabilities. I was the sole man for almost all technical jobs, from electricity problems, to tractor engine repairs. Rina visited me only twice after she returned to Tel Aviv. We started training for kibbutz life together in the well established kibbutz Afikim, a few miles south of the Kinneret. It was a lovely and exciting period for nearly six months. We worked hard in the summer heat. We shared friendship with our team, and romance afterwards until we fell apart. And Rina was by my side in our own kibbutz for the first two months. It was just marvelous to be with her. But she left. She loved city life more than our primitive life, smelly outhouse included, that we all shared in the kibbutz. It was very hard on me to be without her. I tried.
To my surprise and delight, Tzipi asked me again a short time later, to join me as I was driving to make a small survey of our nearby Wadi. We wanted to know how high a sudden flood may be, and how far it may spread towards our lands. I nodded my head to her in approval and she jumped into the jeep ready to go, a wide smile on her face. I was not so sure what was going on with her. Why is she paying so much attention to me, but I let the doubt drop and we started on our way. All her body language was warm and interest, she smiled and agreed at almost everything I said and I felt warm all over. After a while we stopped talking and just drove to the wadi in harmony, enjoying the wide sandy landscape and the monotonous noise of the Jeep’s engine.
The first thing I wanted to be sure of was that a sudden flood would not drown us. The source of water to this wadi was rains from the mountain of the Jerusalem region, we were told in our training in Afikim to know our neighborhood. And when sudden heavy rains occur in the mountains, two days later the water will reach our region. It will come as a sudden wall of water, so fast and so powerful, that nothing could stand in its way. I respected the power of nature, and I parked the jeep on an elevated land well above the river bed. I then went towards the wadi, cupping my ears, listening carefully to possible rush of water in the distance. It was quiet and I motion to Tzipi to walk with me into the river bed. She was not aware of possible river flooding and looked at me with half a smile as if I was a nut worrying too much about a rare event. I did not feel like explaining to her the full story. I just wanted her company.
We reached the loose sandy bed of the very wide wadi, it was making a left turn right there so the water needed a wider space for the turn, and took it without hesitation. The power of a tall wall of water is unimaginable. We walked around slowly looking all around us trying to see where was the highest water mark could be. It was not easy at all since the total area was just sand, no vegetation to check their deformation by the rushing water. Not only that, it was so hot and dry that no water mark could remained or could be seen. The winds changed the shape of the sandy wadi walls in some arbitrary way, and I could not figure out with any reliability past water levels. After an hour in the hot sun, we gave up and started our way back to the kibbutz.
Tzipi was especially friendly and warm towards me as we started back. Was she flirting with me, or the heat affected her? My caution dropped and I slow down the jeep to have more time with her. She talked frequently, touching my hands to demonstrate a point or two. I did not respond externally, but I wanted to. What do I do here I thought. Respond? Yes, no, yes, no. I touched her hands a few times when I thought it was natural. She smiled in response. I wanted to stop the drive right there and hug and kiss her until our lips would hurt. But I did not.
I drove the jeep back to the kibbutz, nodded my head to her in thanks as she jumped off it, went to my work shed and returned to work. She smiled as in triumph and went in the opposite way to her own room. In our very small kibbutz our living quarters were as far away as possible from our work and storage areas.
It was Friday afternoon, time for our weekly shower, and in a few hours I would have to start my weekly night guard duty. And hated it. All other guys (women did not guard) had easily changeable jobs and had a week of night guard duties instead of their daily work. I had to do both, work and guard. I could not take a week off for guard duties since I had many technical responsibilities, so I worked all week, and guarded every Friday night. And I had to sleep most of Saturday, my only day off. I needed more rest, but I did not get it.
A few days pass by. I was working inside our dark storage building as Tzipi came in, smiling and smelling with lovely perfume, maybe it was her own body fragrant. I was delighted to see her and my Warm feelings were ignited again. No one was nearby.
She came very close to me, her round lovely body touched me, and there was no air between us. I could not breathe. Tzipi was challenging me to do something, and I did. I grabbed her with both my arms and kissed her warmly on her lovely red lips with all my heart. She returned the kiss and then pushed me away with a big smile and said:
“I wondered how long it will take me to take you away from your lover Rina. It was not as hard as others thought. And I enjoyed every minute of it!”
First I was shocked. Then very angry; I could have punched her in her face. It was all a deliberate game for her and I was her willing objective.
“You used me Tzipi! You used me!” I said shaking my head in surprise and frustration.
I pushed her away forcibly, and told her: “lechee le Azazel.” (Go to hell,) and never speak to me again!”
She continued to have a big smile on her face as she turned around, her head up, and left the darkened building.
I stayed there for a time stewing in my own frustration- I felt so humiliated as if she poured several buckets of cold water on my head.
It was very hard for me to accept. I was alone.
I did not have either Tzipi or Rina.