For the other guys ‘home’ was everything that the word implied but for me it just meant going back to an empty apartment. I didn’t mind and in many ways saw it as an advantage of sorts. While they spent every spare moment talking about what they were going to do when they got home mine never really seemed to be much of a draw. The others were always going on about ema’s cooking and catching up with friends, when I went back to my flat I usually fell asleep straight away only to cart myself off to a bar on Tel Aviv beach where, too shy to actually talk to anyone, I got myself ludicrously drink and passed out on the cool sand. Only to wake up the next day wondering why I had bothered while patting down my pockets to make sure my valuables hadn’t been stolen while I’d been lying there.
That had begun to change with my first weekend out of the army but I still found myself shying away. This weekend Haim had told me that there was already a plan for the weekend and all I had to do was go with the flow. To that end I found myself standing outside my apartment on Ben Yehuda Street right near Tel Aviv beach waiting for him to pick me up on the very day that they let us out. I had passed out on my bed as soon as I made it home though I still felt my limbs aching from the hell of advanced training and didn’t want to be there, but I was the outsider and I needed their friendship a lot more than they needed mine. Someone had told me early on that your tzevet was everything and you had to give them everything. For me that meant when out of the army too. And so I waited outside in the balmy Tel Aviv autumn.
Before long Haim pulled up in his dad’s car and I jumped straight in. We were heading out to Friday night dinner at his aunt and uncle’s house in a Tel Aviv suburb. We entered into the house as the light from the dying sun filtered through the leaves of the trees lining the street. Haim’s parents were sitting in the house talking to their family and two other middle aged couples who I later found out were friends of his aunt and uncle. Everyone seemed to jump up when we walked in, everyone was smiling and warm hugs by way of introduction were plentiful, I was immediately treated like one of the family despite the fact that I had never even met the hosts. The table was already filled with hummus and other delicacies that were once known only in the Middle East. Haim’s aunt ushered me to my seat at the table and his uncle read out the blessings over the wine and the bread before we sat and began to eat.
There was something comforting about hearing those blessings, everywhere around the world families would be standing reciting the same words together. The Hebrew words spoken in Jewish houses the world over every Friday night around sunset are a part of what brought so many of us from the four corners of the world together in Israel. Here in this unfamiliar home amongst strangers I felt a continuity, a kinship with these people who performed the exact same ritual that my own family would be performing that same night all the way over in London. We sat together and broke bread. I was seated opposite one Haim's aunt's friends.
Haim had 2 cousins there, one of whom was a combat medic in the Sayeret he had already gone through his training and was on active duty operations in the West Bank, the other was a non-combat soldier. Despite the fact that the atmosphere was light and jovial talk quickly turned to a recent terrorist attack, being in the army I hadn’t heard anything about it. A terrorist had broken into a kibbutz in the centre of the country and gunned down five people, including a mother and her two sons, one was just five years old and the other only four. The woman sitting across from me looked me straight in the eyes and said to me “I’m utterly Right wing, as far as I’m concerned the only good Arab is a dead Arab.”