It was many years ago, when Friedman offered me a temporary job onboard a ship at the Port of Haifa. The port administration hired a security company, who needed guards, for long shifts, nights included. Friedman heard that high school kids were good enough for the job, and he knew some people from that security company. All you had to do in that job was to keep standing onboard, near the gangway, and register every person embarking, or disembarking, the ship. As well, you had to remain awake through the whole night, until the end of the following day, and be paid 2 sheqels per hour. Already then, in the early 70’s, it was very little.
I agreed immediately. Friedman tried to make me feel thankful, but since I had well known him, I was sure he was going to enjoy some benefit from it. I didn’t really care, in fact — I liked the guy, even though he was a bit strange and mysterious.
His father was a district judge, and thanks to that Friedman joined the Haifa police night patrols, as a high school student guest, which made him sleepy during most of school hours. He used to ask me for the summaries of our class lessons, and when he proved to his father how serious he was, the judge allowed him to continue that thing with the police during nights.
Every time I gave him my notes he tried to tell me stories about the night before, what happened, whom they arrested, and so on. I would politely listen, though I didn’t care much. I was only sixteen, but already suspected that something was wrong with a young person joining police work, especially at nights.
Even though Friedman was a handsome guy, as well as good in sports, I never saw him with a girl. Today I would approach that fact differently, but in those days it didn’t mean anything. He was not too popular, so no one ever asked why Friedman didn’t go out with girls. He told me: “This security work is a piece of cake. You can visit the kitchenette as many times as you wish, make coffee or sandwich, listen to the news, and get paid”. So I went to work onboard a mooring ship.
Friedman promised to come and visit, during the night patrol with his police friends, but I refused. “It is better that the ship crew doesn’t suspect me of collaborating with the police”, I said, “They might get on my case for that”. Friedman smiled, perhaps surprised to discover that I knew something about police and criminals, and wished me success.
They called her MINERVA, and it was a huge ship. No one was waiting there for me, and I didn’t know what exactly I was supposed to do. I asked one of the sailors, he was just on his way down for a quick shore leave, and he answered impatiently: “Come up onboard. There’s a log and procedure book there. I guess you’ll know it all, after you have read it”. I climbed the gangway, twenty stairs or so, and began examining the spot where I should be standing, for thirty hours in a row.
The first two sailors disembarking the ship didn’t want to give me their names, but rather said: “It’s OK Mr. guard. We go for a drink and come back later. We love Haifa”. They were nice, though smelled of alcohol. I thought they would smell much heavier when they return from bar touring in downtown Haifa. A minute later the ship’s second officer went down, however, this guy was supportive and polite. He told me about the plans for that evening, nothing important, and I felt much more relaxed. I opened my first round of coffee.
One or two hours after midnight all the persons that had left the ship were already back, and I was left alone onboard the ship, watching the stars. I was breathing the sea air, a heavy combination of salt and bad odors, and was praying for the time to move faster. I hoped that someone would pay me a visit, even Friedman would be OK for that, but nothing happened. Small fishing or pilot boats passed slowly near the ship every now and then. That was all, nothing but silence.
Apparently, Friedman knew I was going to get bored. He passed by with his police friends at four o’clock in the morning, and yelled “hi” from down the dock. There were five of them, but I reckoned that the middle one, who was sitting in the back seat of their car, was hand cuffed. I didn’t want to look at them. Friedman called: “Bored, eh? You want hot coffee? We have enough to share”.
“It’s OK”, I replied, “I have some coffee here, in the kitchenette”.
The policemen looked at Friedman, asked him something, and Friedman pointed two fingers V at them, to confirm that we were friends. They looked up, saw me, then waved their hands, and drove away. I watched them driving slowly along the dock, then they parked their white car near the east corner of warehouse nine.
It was a full moon night, which helped me see a little. I could see that Friedman pulled a large paper bag from the trunk, and served coffee to his friends. They drank, then pushed the hand-cuffed person out of the car, and ordered him to sit on the ground. They started to kick him, one after the other. They were making rounds. In each turn one police officer was holding him, to make sure the prisoner remained seated, the other was kicking, and the third police officer was drinking coffee. Friedman turned his back to them, he was not part of the round, and looked for me from the distance. I was almost sure he wasn’t able to see me, since I was standing behind large cargo boxes, and I didn’t make a move. After six or seven rounds of kicking, they released the prisoner’s cuffs, and let the man free.
He coughed heavily. His mouth was full of blood, perhaps some teeth broke, but he didn’t dare spitting. Perhaps he thought that they were joking, and that he wasn’t really allowed to go, so he stayed there, examining the policemen silently. They had to kick him once more, this time more gently, almost friendly, in order to make him believe he was free to go. They entered their car and drove away, leaving the hand-cuffed person, now without cuffs, near the warehouse. They stopped again by MINERVA and opened the window. Friedman shouted: “We are going to get some fresh cakes and munchies. You want?”
I didn’t answer. I was hiding behind the railing, keeping my eyes closed. I wanted to get some sleep, even ten minutes of sleep would be fine, to help being able to continue my shift for another three hours, until daylight. He called me again, and once again, but one of his police officer friends told him to shut the window, because they were terribly hungry.
I kept hiding and sneaking at them. I saw them driving slowly towards gate five, passing by the person they arrested and released. They went on driving, while the man, who was now trying to stand upright, finally spitted a tooth or two, as he now comprehended that for that night it was over. He was not going to get arrested again, and the police officers indeed were heading to the bakery, after having finished their productive night shift. I was dead tired, but felt obliged to feel happy, since everyone else was happy and content: Friedman was happy for completing another night shift; the police officers were happy for their great accomplishment which helped them spend ninety fulfilling minutes of another endless night; and the toothless free prisoner was happy for reasons he would not reveal.