Kitsch died on Shabbat. A week or two ago he told his daughter he wished for silence, and she understood he didn't mean the silence of the small house he had lived in alone since his wife died. One day last week when his neighbor came to visit he suddenly managed to get out of bed and stand, straight, on his own two legs; wordless, offering no explanation. Just standing. Until his dying day he responded to all queries about his condition with a laconic "yehiye beseder". It will be OK.
I only met him once, during the shiva for his wife, which was also the shiva for the mother of a fellow on my staff. He told us interesting stories about the village they had founded back in the 1950s, and how his children had all been raised there but eventually left for the big city. He wasn't bitter, and he was clearly proud of them.
In the most recent war his son told me how much trouble Kitsch was causing, refusing to follow any orders or take any security precautions. "I had to go down there and drag him into the shelter; he had been driving in the fields next to the fence, quite oblivious of the shells flying around. Bring him out of there to us? Never a chance".
The old-time kibutzniks stood in front of the microphone on the edge of the grave, one after another, and told tall tales about Kitsch. How he had loved working with the goats, and how he had fought the decision to shut down that part of the business. He ran the "Economia", a word never used anymore which means, I think, he was in charge of distributing stuff - which would explain how two of the stories turned on the fact he held the keys to the ice cream refrigerator. He had been a doting grandfather, a talented gardener; he had demonstrated the full measure of love during the years he nursed his dying wife. "Saraleh-and-Kitsch", mused one of the old-timers, had been a single, 5-vowel word describing a single, two-soul entity; "and now you're together again".
The kibbutz archivist dug up an old document recording the explanations for the nicknames by which the founders were mostly known; we all perked up, expecting an explanation for the strange moniker: "The origin of the name Kitsch is not known. It must have been tacked onto him during his childhood".
He was born, grew up, founded the kibbutz with his friends, married his girl-friend and fellow founder, raised four children, worked at whatever the kibbutz needed him to work at, was loved and respected by his neighbors, nursed his wife, enjoyed his grandchildren, died, and was buried in the cemetery at the edge of the kibbutz. Banal, heroic, just right.
We walked back on a dirt road between the graveyard and a broad field of golden wheat. At the other end of the field was the fence of Gaza, and beyond it, the towers of Gaza city.