It was mid afternoon as I entered my kibbutz; the motor urged me up the hill and I parked the old pick-up truck in front the members dining hall. No one was around; it was rest time for some and others were still at work. Zurichka eyed me from a distance as he advanced in my direction. Stocky, self contained, and dressed in blue overalls, he had a modified swagger that was common among the men here. He had never spoken to me, but he, like everyone else, had taken in and made their preliminary assessment of the new arrival: a freshly divorced woman, an American immigrant from Jerusalem and her two pretty daughters. I also knew how to drive a car—and a stick shift, at that. Only one other woman on the kibbutz could do that.
I could sense Zurichka distilling his thoughts to the essential words only.
“Did you just come from Jerusalem?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Did you come up through the Bekaa? (The border road along the Jordan River.)
“Yes,” I repeated.
He took in the scene and pronounced: “At hevremanit.”
He didn’t wait for a response; there was none to make. I repeated the phrase to myself not sure yet what exactly he had said. I thought, but wasn’t sure, that I had been complimented. I took the phrase to my relatives and they confirmed what I had settled on. A “hervreman” is one of the guys; an okay fellow. “Hevremanit” is the rarely used feminine form.
I had received the ultimate Israeli compliment from a kibbutz old-timer.