In general, whenever Mooly, the commander of Gihon, washes his hands, the circular motions whip up colourful bursting soap bubbles, his long, sturdy fingers embrace one another as they rotate and he rinses off the soap with water, lathers up again and rinses, wiping them scrupulously on a dry towel and then once again, towelling between his fingers.
That same thoroughness and attention to cleanliness and perfection are evident in the Gihon commander’s uniform. Even after a day of muddy or dust-filled military activity, in dry, parching heat or suffocating humidity, the stains on his uniform always appear like a crusty peel of colour that can be removed with the flick of a finger. His uniforms always retain the marks of ironing, the pleats, the stiffness of starch and the shiny freshness of new cloth, even if they are not new.
The Gihon commander’s presence of mind, too, suits clean uniforms and dry hands. He has made a name for himself with the rational moderation of his command, his highly responsible nature, and the exemplary order evident in every aspect of his unit’s functioning. His complete devotion to his soldiers and his concern for their every need are, on occasion, overly pedantic, but he is equally insistent about maintaining time schedules and carrying out minor commands as well as major ones, so that the slightest hint of impropriety toward the occupied population by soldiers of the Gihon unit is enough for him to put them on trial and to allow himself a very rare expression of anger.
He once called Gihon a limb of his own body.
Generally speaking, relations with his wife and his two young daughters are good, though in his capacity as officer in a combat unit he does not see them on a daily basis. Every other Friday, when the girls hear his car come to a halt in the parking area of their one-storey house, on the other side of the hedge in their garden, they run out to give him a hug. They take his short-barrelled sub-machine gun from him, brandishing it proudly through the front door of the house, shouting gaily, Father’s home! During the summer months, at the hour Mooly customarily waters his small garden and takes pleasure in the growth of seedlings recently planted, it sometimes happens that the neighbour, a young accountant, extends his hand in greeting over the hedge that separates their grassy yards.
His wife generally greets him as he sets down his suitcase in the foyer, under the hat rack affixed there even though neither of them wears hats. They hug and kiss, his wife says his name two or three times in a pleasant, girlish tone—Mooly, Mooly, Moolili—and he mumbles variations on her name—Naomileh, Nomishin, Nomishini—while the girls cling to the pleats of his trousers. He sits with the girls in the living room and they chat with him and are happy in his presence, undoing his shoelaces and tugging on his boots, together, until they manage to remove them triumphantly and noisily from his large feet. After that they roll his socks off and count his toes, in order—in their words—’to make sure nobody has stolen one’, and then they grab the laces, dragging the boots behind them, each girl with her own, into the garden.