He came and went quietly, off to his reserve unit. Nothing fancy, military issue work dungarees, olive drab, and a small knapsack slung over his shoulder. Curly hair. Kind of unkempt.
I really had no idea.
No one really had an “idea”; small community, Kibbutz mentality where everyone knew everyone, but few knew. He was part of an elite, THE elite of the elite units in the IDF.
I had dropped the Mack truck off at a body shop outside of Tel Aviv. I had come back from my own stint of 45 days reserve duty in the south, in the Gaza Strip, and someone who had taken over my civilian duties of driving the rig had smashed one of the front fenders.
“So, you’re from that Kibbutz, are you…?” and “…so you know A. …?” Oh yes, I know him. Quiet sort of a man, comes and goes very quietly. He works in the electronics factory. Computer controlled irrigation systems, I believe…
“…well when you see him, tell him I said hello. Tell him Kushi said hello…”
And, so when I encountered A. on one of the many sidewalks of the Kibbutz, I told him that “….Kushi said to say hello…”
A. asked me where I had seen him, and I told him that he was repairing the fender of the Mack truck at a body shop outside of Tel Aviv.
A. said, “…that Kushi…he can repair ANYTHING! ANYTHING!…we were together at the beginning, in the same unit.” and then he walked away, quietly. Nothing fancy. Nothing pretentious.
When I went back to the body shop to pick up the repaired Mack, Kushi (of course) asked whether I had passed along his greetings to A. I assured him that I had, and then Kushi told me that he and A. had served together in the same unit, the elite unit, the elite of all the elite units.
Some many years later A. was in the Gaza Strip, helping an Israeli farmer in one of the settlements in the Strip. (This was before the 2005 evacuation of all Israelis, all Israeli settlements and all Israeli military personnel from the Gaza Strip.) A. was in one of the greenhouses. Assembling the computerized irrigation and liquid fertilization system. Probably focused. Entirely focused. on his knees, bent over the tubing and the connections and the controls.
He never saw the young fifteen year old Hamas recruit who brought the heavy garden hoe down on his head. Never imagined such a young person could fulfill his recruitment obligation to murder a Jew.
One of the orange and black bracelets on my right wrist. One of many I wear every day, to remind me. To carry with me. To grieve silently.
To live a life worthy of his memory.