The first few nights were spent in that kibbutz, high in the hills north of Jerusalem. Had it been in modern-day Italy, it would have been described as aagriturismo. Whatever, we woke each morning, strolled down to the communal dining hall and enjoyed a superb breakfast.
Thence to the buses into Jerusalem where the workers had to give themselves up to rehearsals and we could wander off to enjoy ourselves. The buses were sturdily constructed and driven by very focused individuals in their mid-40’s. On enquiry, I discovered that all of them were reservists in the IDF (but then again, who wasn’t?) and that most of them were tank drivers. Open about it and happy to talk about it as well. The slightly chilling bit was that, as we drove to Jerusalem, we went through about seven or eight Arab villages. Some were vibrant and some were heaps of rubble. On enquiry again, one bus driver told me that it all depended on whether they had fought against the Jews in 1947 and that it had all been finally sorted out during the Six Day War in 1967.
Anyhow, back to that kibbutz, where we spent Old Year’s Night 1981 thrice. The New Year came and went in Israeli time so we sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and had a whisky or two, Came and went in Italian time (we were sharing accommodation with a choir from Perugia) so we sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and had a whisky or two. Came and stayed in real Jock time so we did what we do best – sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’, danced an Eightsome Reel or three and got completely blootered and seriously maudlin on whisky. Different world yet again. Mobile phones not around and a queue a mile long as we waited to phone home to wish our families a Good New Year, as you have to.
Jerusalem again and another memory of being caught slightly on the hop. The buses obviously delivered the singers to the rehearsal venue and left us hangers-on to fend for ourselves. And fend we did. Tasked with getting the drink in, so I found a very modern supermarket and loaded my basket. As I came round the top end, heading towards the checkout, I went past a couple of cabinets which were covered by sheets. There was this threshing sort of noise. I lifted one of said sheets. Full of live fish, gasping for breath.as they flailed around in just enough water to keep them alive. As I watched, people arrived with a bucket, decanted a fish or two into it and set off for the checkout. Kind of knocked me sideways. I am, after all, British and don’t take what I personally perceive to be cruelty to animals that well. I appreciate that I should not try to impose my standards on other people but .it was, for me, another example of what I felt about Israel – a mix of a modern, European and totally familiar environment and a completely alien world.
Western Wall Men’s Section 1981
Western Wall Men’s Section 2006