Thursday, 10 July 2008
I was excited to be going on a week away from home, I thought that I knew everyone who would be there but when I climbed up the steps onto the bus I had to walk past a guy I had never seen before, he was bigger than me and already had a respectable amount of black stubble on his face, which at age 14 was no mean feat, together with that and his leather jacket he intimidated the hell out of me.
I decided right there to hate the bastard.
He didn't make it easy for me though, for one thing he was always smiling, for another he was always telling me what my strongpoints were and had an amazing ability to ignore my faults.
Naturally by the end of the week we spent together we were best friends. After I returned home I found that I never had to make any social arrangements as I had a new social secretary who would simply ring me up on a friday or saturday and let me know what was happening, my friends became his and his became mine. Already, at age 14 he was organising everything.
We both came up through the youth movement, him in his way me in mine. I was the president of my local chapter and succeeded in killing it, he was the president of his and made it one of the most successful in the country. A year later I was serving on the governing committee of the movement and he was my president.
I did nothing much and he managed to take the membership to new heights. That was when we were seventeen and it was obvious then that he was going places.
We spent our eighteenth year together in Israel where it was clear that he was a leader, the one we looked to whenever anything needed to be done and done properly. It was a great year of doing all the things that teenagers who are tasting freedom for the first time do, we got drunk, went to parties and had fun. At the end of the year he went up to the visiting chair of the Union of Jewish Students and said to him "Hi I'm Alan Senitt and I want your job!"
I went to my university and he went to his, he continued down the path of Jewish leadership and was never anything but humble of the way in which he managed to take the Jewish Society there to new heights. He was friendly with the Sabbatical officers running the university and engaged himself in the student politics of Birmingham fighting the good fight for the Jewish students while simultaneously getting himself a first class degree. Everyone who was anyone knew who Alan Senitt was.
Before he had graduated university he had gotten himself elected Chair of the Union of Jewish Students. By this time he had far surpassed me in terms of success but never forgot his friends and brought us along with him all the way, when, after university I chose to leave the UK and go to Israel to join the IDF he even said that HE was proud of ME!
It still hurts me that I never found the courage to tell him the same.
While I was running around Israel he was the first person in the history of UJS to serve two years as Chairman at a time that saw the Union of Jewish Students go from strength to strength. By this time he was hot property and had the phone numbers of everyone who was anyone in the community and was giving advice on student affairs to the highest levels of government. It seemed that everyone wanted to advise him or be advised by him.
He moved onwards and upwards, shamelessly devoting himself to the community to which he had already given so much. Working for Bicom and the office of Greville Janner he was soaring and I had begun asking him seriously when he was planning on making his move into politics, as opposed to the jokes that I had been making since we first met.
When I returned from Israel and was sunk into my post-military depression he never batted an eyelid and took me everywhere with him, introducing me to the bigshots as his friend Marc who "had been a soldier in Israel don't you know!"
I always laughed at him when he told me that he was involved in running some new project or had taken on another new task outside of his regular job. I always just took it for granted that he could change the world at will and make a success of anything that he did. We joked that 'when' I found a job we would be able to live together and have the best time, I always took it for granted that of course it would happen the moment I was employed. I looked forward to it.
Sometimes he would joke and show me the phone numbers of prime ministers and secretaries of state in his mobile phone, I never thought it was strange that a guy in his mid twenties was able to pick up the phone and call some of the most powerful people in the world. Perhaps a sign of things to come was that he had just as much contact with Palestinians as Israelis and often told me what such people a Mohammed Dahlan were up to and what Abu Alah thought about the peace process.
These were many though by no means all of his achievements, he was a successful, powerful man who was on his way up.
I remember the day he died, I remember being woken up at six with a call to tell me he had been stabbed and in my head dismissing it, just saying to myself "what has he gotten himself into now" I never thought for a second that anything bad could ever happen to him, who would ever want to hurt Alan? It was as if in my mind he had some kind of shield around him, the guy was just too damn likable for anyone to want to hurt.
Two years after his passing and all of his monumental achievements finally hit hit home to me, when I look at all that he created, at the way that people responded to him I am amazed that he saw fit to stay in touch with me and I count myself as a lucky man to have been able to call him friend.
I spoke at his shiva but never have I cried for my friend, my friend who left us so long before his time, my friend who had so much still to achieve and to create, but has left such a legacy as can only be celebrated.
His work in the community and outside of it stands testament as to what an individual with enough charisma and propensity for hard work can achieve.
It still bothers me that I have never been able to shed the tears that others let go of so effortlessly at his funeral, I remember arriving at my friends house and being told the news, I remember sitting down and watching my friends around me in tears whereas I just felt numb, being powerless to help him, unable even to grieve for him properly.
I remember making the calls to others who were just as close to him and letting them know the news. I remember telling Adrian and at the same time feeling that somehow I shouldn't have told him, that I shouldn't have deprived him of another couple of hours of ignorance as to the fate of his friend Alan.
Most of all I remember the sensation of having an entire section of the fabric of my life taken away from me. I remember wondering how life without him would look, how I would manage, I took for granted that we would be friends for ever.
If he were here with me now I would tell him how proud I am of all that he achieved, more than this, I would thank him for the years of friendship that he gave to me, I would let him know that despite the way I sometimes behaved that I appreciated and benefitted from his help and advice in all matters.
I would tell him how much I miss him.
I am well aware of how in adequate any words of mine will be when describing Alan but I hope I was able to convey just a small sense of how much he meant to me and the extent to which he affected the lives of so many others.
And what else is there to say other than those words that have such unforgiving finality as to remind me that I am really never going to see my friend again.
Rest In Peace
Alan Charles Senitt December 1978-July 2006