My first weekend out of the army I had agreed to go to Haim's place for dinner to celebrate Rosh Hashannah. He picked me up from my apartment on Ben Yehuda street in Tel Aviv and we drove to his home in a town called Reut. Haim waved to the guard at the checkpoint on the way into Reut and we cruised into the gated community, he explained to me that Reut was a newly established village built on land that had been reserved largely for military and intelligence officers. We drove past house after house all of which looked different to the one next door until we arrived at his own home.
Haim’s mother welcomed me to her home with a warm hug she had a smile on her face that radiated warmth and she motioned me sit on a deep looking couch in front of a big television. She didn’t speak English at all though it didn’t prevent a litany of sign language that ensured I understood her offers of various drinks and pre meal snacks. Her name was Dahlia. Haim’s dad was a big man who seemed equally happy to see me, his English was even worse than his wife’s and just like his wife he spoke to me animatedly. Dov Goslan had recently retired from the IDF with the rank of lieutenant Colonel.He had arrived in Israel from Morocco on his own at the age of 12. He had gone to boarding school until the age of 18 when he had been conscripted into the tank corps. It seemed to me to have been a very hard life indeed, a life that had included fighting against Egypt during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
He told me his story as we sat outside his house, he and Haim chain smoking Marlboros throughout. It was dark though it was still hot and sticky, sitting there with these people listening to Jackie’s life story England didn’t feel like another country but like a whole other dimension. Dahlia called us in for dinner, the two candles were on the dining table, just like they would be at home in London, she said the prayer for the lighting them and Jackie poured the wine and said the blessing over it. We drank a sip each and passed the glass around the table, perhaps London wasn’t so far away after all.
They kept praising me for coming to Israel to serve in the army, talking about the risks and the bombings going on around us. The second Intifada had been raging for a while now, ironically being in the army had insulated me from the outside world, hearing them talk about the situation reminded me of what I was expected to face when the months of training would finally come to an end. Dahlia had bought a calendar with three years on it that mother's all over Israel were busily crossing days off of until they got to the last day of three years and their sons came back to them. It was sobering to think of Dov having spent his life in the military only to now send his son off to fight battles of his own. After dinner Haim confided to me that Dov had tried to talk him out of serving in a combat unit but that he had refused to listen. Haim hadn’t cared what unit he went to, he was one of the very few who had requested the Orev specifically but only on a whim.
He had done tests for all kinds of units but when it had come to the interview had never gotten any further because he could never tell them why he was interested in their particular unit with any kind of sincerity. We spoke while playing Pro Evolution Soccer on his PlayStation 2, he beat me over and over again, having obviously put in the necessary hours of practise. After several beatings Haim nudged me and told me we were off to a club. On the way out his parents handed me a brand new toaster for my apartment. I wasn’t sure what they were doing with new toasters lying around but the sentiment was touching as was their warmth.