The year is now 2002 and here I am again living in Netanya. In 1948, after spending one night in a refugee camp in Ra’anana, I came to visit my uncle Hans in this tiny town and stayed for while, living with his family. After working for a few weeks in Tel Aviv I joined the army and was sent to a camp near Netanya. I spent my free time with my uncle’s family, as I had nowhere else to go. This town became my home base.

These days, living in Netanya, which has grown and developed into a beautiful seaside resort, I sometimes remember what this town meant to me when I first arrived. For the last few years I have kept looking for traces of the past and for a person who, for a short time, played an important part in my life. The chances of meeting him in the street were never very realistic, since he was more than twelve years older than me. Now I know he is dead, and by an ironic twist, he found his last resting place in the same cemetery as Charles. I could have found out all this easily enough, but somehow I preferred to keep this episode of my life shrouded in mystery.

A few days ago, while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, I started a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. When she told me that she had been living in Netanya since 1935, I hesitated for a moment and then asked her: “did you by any chance know a man named Alex B?” “Of course,” she replied, “he built our house. He was our contractor.” I was stunned. That was easy! Being curious, she wanted to know why I was so interested in him, so I told her that he was my commanding officer in the army. That, of course, was not true, but she accepted it and proceeded to tell me all about him and his family. Apparently, he died some years ago, having been divorced from his wife for a long time. I was not surprised, his infidelities were the talk of the town. He was a well known man, wealthy and successful, and women adored him. Suddenly, memories of my army days and my involvement with Alex came flooding back to me.

My life in the army was difficult, I was lonely and longing to have friends, but because of my lack of Hebrew, the girls didn’t want to make the effort. Not so the men. The language barrier didn’t seem to bother them too much, which in turn didn’t improve my relationship with the girls.

One day, while working in the clinic, in came this very sexy tall officer, introduced himself (as if I didn’t know who he was), and asked me if I wanted to go with him for a ride in his jeep. At that time I had an affair with Arie, my superior officer at work, who owned a big motorbike on which we raced around the countryside. Well, I thought, a jeep sounded better, Alex was much more intriguing, so I accepted his invitation. I knew that he was married, but I was so attracted to him, I didn’t give it any thought. Of course people talked. Our camp consisted mostly of people who lived in Netanya, which was a small town then and a real gossip mill. My uncle, who was very jealous and upset, mostly because I had refused his advances, warned me about ruining my reputation, but I just laughed in his face. I was free and hungry for life, I didn’t care about what people said. Alex and I never tried to hide. We went everywhere together and had a great time. We traveled when time allowed, went to parties and had fun. It lasted for a few weeks, and then I was called to my commanding officer who told me that I was to be transferred to Tiberias. When I asked why, she only said that somebody had instigated it. It could have been Alex’s wife or even my uncle, but we never bothered to find out. In any case it failed to drive us apart. By that time Alex was really in love with me and came to visit me often. As for me, it was more of a physical attraction than love, but I enjoyed his company very much. A friend of his had a rarely used apartment and we often spent a weekend together there. At night we would go to restaurants and nightclubs on the Carmel and danced till dawn. It was very romantic.

The transfer to Tiberias proved to be wonderful for me. I loved the town. I shared with a few girls an old building overlooking the Sea of Galilee. My work there was much more interesting, I had friends and a busy social life. I began to give some thought to my future. As exciting as Alex was, I knew it couldn’t last. At that time I met Nechemia and gradually loosened my ties with Alex. He was a little sad, but he accepted it with good grace. Our love affair had lasted for over half a year. It was an exhilarating period in my life and I have always remembered it with nostaxlia and no regrets.

Some years later, when I was already married to Charles, we lived in a village near Netanya and did all our errands in the town. We went to the movies and to the dentist and did all our shopping there. Now and then I glimpsed Alex from afar, but never went near him. I did not consciously avoid him, but I cannot explain why I didn’t just go up to him and say hello. My attraction to him never ceased completely, so maybe I was afraid of giving myself away in front of Charles. This is of course pure speculation, but for some reason I never mentioned him to Charles.

Since living here in Netanya I have often thought of Alex and how it would be to meet him now that we are both old. Well now I know he died before I came back to live here and he is buried near Charles. How is that for closure?

Lucy Mandelstam February 2002