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Tedy Knitel [Theodore] June 27th, 1949 – September 11th, 2001

Tedy Knitel in Tel Aviv 1979

Tedy Knitel, Tel Aviv, Israel, January 1979, Photo: Nini

Tedy Knitel was born in Bucharest, Romania on June 27th, 1949. He immigrated to Israel with his parents and his younger brother Alex (I’ve only met his brother once – I think his brother is dark), when he was about 11 or 12 years old.

Tedy was of middle height, darkblond with blue eyes. He had a deep, sexy voice, talked without a stop, used to tell funny stories – with much gesticulation – all the time, had a temper and was a very passionate person (in any respect you can think of).

I can wake up in the middle of the night and think of Tedy. I can suddenly be reminded of him just anywhere I am. Not daily, not weekly, not even monthly. Often enough though. What I remember is his eyes, his voice, his smile, and that look in his eyes that he has on the picture to the left.

Tedy and I met late in 1971 via a common friend, Leon (who I knew from my time in the kibbutz-ulpan at kibbutz Hagoshrim where we learned Hebrew). Leon and Tedy lived in the same neighborhood, in a suburb just outside Tel Aviv called Neve Shareth.

We met in the flat I rented at the time, a whole group of people, to go to the movies. Our eyes met several times during that evening. Neither of us could stop thinking about the other one after that. This was some time in the winter of 1971-72. So we met again. To start with with Leon and other friends. Quite soon by ourselves.

Tedy at the time was studying in Haifa to become an architect.

That meant he was only in Tel Aviv for the weekends when he went home to his family, his friends and me. In the weeks he studied and I worked (at a travel agency). For him it was a constant coming and going. At the time there were no cellphones, and hardly any phones. I could be reached in the office, he had a shared phone in the flat in Haifa which he shared with some others during the week, but that was about all. We did not have cars either. Tedy used to hitchhike from Haifa to Tel Aviv – and back again – to save money. Sometimes he took the bus.

Nini and Tedy 1972

Nini and Tedy, Tel Aviv, Israel, Winter 1972 (note that long hair I had….).

 

That meant he was only in Tel Aviv for the weekends when he went home to his family, his friends and me. In the weeks he studied and I worked (at a travel agency). For him it was a constant coming and going. At the time there were no cellphones, and hardly any phones. I could be reached in the office, he had a shared phone in the flat in Haifa which he shared with some others during the week, but that was about all. We did not have cars either. Tedy used to hitchhike from Haifa to Tel Aviv – and back again – to save money. Sometimes he took the bus.

As neither of us had any money, we did simple things, like going to the movies (which was fairly cheap), meet with friends in the flat that Leon and I later shared (for economic reasons only – flat-sharing was very common in Tel Aviv at the time), went for walks along the river Yarkon on the shabbat, things like that. Tedy usually stayed over at my place.

There are moments I remember, like the night when the Israeli Olympic team were hijacked by terrorists in Munich and later slaughtered. Tedy was at my place that night and we were listening to the radio the whole night to the reports of what happened. One in the Olympic team was the husband of one of the girls in my office.

Tedy and I were together from 1971 to 1974, but kept in touch and met every time I was in Israel until 1993.

During the autumn of 1973, when the October war/the Yom Kippur War/ occurred we had some slack in our relations – I think we were simply tired of the situation and not seeing any chance for improvements in the near future. He was embarrassed for not being drafted when everyone else was, and felt out of place out on the streets when all other guys in his age were drafted. He wasn’t drafted until the Israelis were firmly based on the other side of the channel of Suez. He then sat in a bunker in the Egyptian desert for a couple of weeks and drew maps.

Tedy and Nini byt eh Yarkon River in Tel Aviv, 1972

Tedy and Nini, Tel Aviv. Israel, autumn, 1972. A then typical Tedy-pose when telling stories.

When he was home on leave we went to the movies, in the blackout (which was quite an experience in itself), and tried to live as much as possible as usual. Both before he was drafted and after.

I haven’t got many letters from him – three he sent when he was in that bunker in the Sinai…, one from Haifa about two weeks before I left Israel. Later five letters during 1974-75. Then nothing. He is not a person that writes letters if he can avoid it. He was very verbal, but he just didn’t write, less than most guys actually. Those letters he did write though (I still have them), I treasure, because they have so much feelings in them. And they are long – takes me forever to read because I do not read hebrew that fast.

The whole situation was very tiresome. Neither of us had any money – my salary was very low and he was still a student with still a couple of years of studies left.

I also think the war changed us all. Living that period in the blackout, in the beginning with the frequent air-raid warnings and running down from the top-floor where I lived to the basement in the middle of the night, working all the time daytime, hearing the huge US planes bring in materials during the night (I lived just under the in-flight route), was stressful, but an experience that is good to have had.

We all react differently to warlike situations. Some become apathetic and cannot do a thing because they worry so. Others, like me became highly effective, almost restless and worked hard during that period. (We had to evacuate all our tourists – I worked in a travel agency after all – so there were lots to do).

Tedy and Nini in Jerusalem, July 1974

Tedy and Nini in Jerusalem, Israel, July 1974

Some time during 1974 I decided I wanted to move back to Sweden. I inquired with the firm in Stockholm that sent us Swedish tourists if they had any job-opening for me. Then waited until they had.

Nini and Tedy at the Tel Aviv beach in September 1973

Nini and Tedy, Tel Aviv beach, Israel, September 1973. A few weeks before the October war 1973. I think this was about the only time I managed to get Tedy to go to the beach…

At that time I felt that I had had enough of Israel, the security situation, the lack of money, the bad salary and never having any money for anything. In the perspective that Tedy still had about 2 years left to study, the situation felt hopeless. I don’t remember how I explained my decision to him. I know he was not happy about it, but understood it.

So we called it a break. We were both fed up with the situation and saw no future in it. Could it have been a future in it? Maybe, but neither of us had the patience to go on like that for still another couple of years.

So I left Israel by the end of July, 1974 and went back to Sweden to stay.

I returned to Israel in August 1975 for a three week vacation – I worked at the time in a travel agency called Israel Tours, in Stockholm, so could get the trip and the hotel for a reasonable price – and met all my friends there, including Tedy. There are no photos from then because, as it turned out in the security check at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv on my departure, my camera did not function. 

 

Tedy Knitel

Tedy Knitel in Stockholm in 1976

In 1976 Tedy finally graduated as an architect. In September 1976 he came to Stockholm (above Tedy in Stockholm) to visit for a couple of weeks (on his way to visit other places in Europe, Stockholm wasthe first place he visited). He stayed at my place and we visited all the usual places you visit when in Stockholm. He once went into town by himself, but had difficulties with it because nobody wanted to believe that he didn’t understand a word of Swedish.

We had great difficulties to communicate during his stay here. I have no idea whose fault it was, if anyones, but we simply couldn’t talk to each other. After two weeks when he went on to other places, and I saw him off at the Central Railway Station in Stockholm, it was almost a relief that he left so I could go on with my usual life and work.

As he didn’t write letters – ever – it was not that easy to keep in touch from then on. At the time – and during 8 years approximately – I worked in a travel agency called Israel Tours as booking manager and we sold trips to Israel for groups and individuals. Which meant I could go to Israel about once a year to visit, to see my friends or just for the work (then very short stays – the shortest with my boss was 3 days). We tried to meet every time I was there and sometimes we managed to. Short meetings usually as he was quite busy and had started working as an architect.

Tedy in Stockholm in 1976

Tedy Knitel in Stockholm, Sweden, September 1976

He told me once that after the years we spent together he got great difficulties to be with Israeli women. I spoiled him with an equal relationship without demands, he said. He felt he couldn’t find that with the Israeli women who usually after a short period already wanted marriage and kids and never wanted to pay their own bills. That was not what he wanted.

During the war in Kuwait in the winter of 1991, and the scud bombardments of Tel Aviv, the person I worried most for was Tedy. (Of course I also thought about my other friends in Israel during that period, but really not as much as I worried about Tedy). I called him a couple of times then just to hear his voice and to make sure he was OK. (My other friends called me instead to report they were OK).

About that same time Janne and I broke up and I decided I would spend my summer vacation in Israel and visit old friends I hadn’t seen in about 10 years, provided the war in Kuwait would end, including the scud bombings of Tel Aviv. And it did end. So I went to Tel Aviv in the summer of 1991 and stayed for five (5) weeks.

I met Tedy a couple of times during that period. Meetings that were very difficult. He really broke my heart because he was so troubled and difficult to deal with and so bitter about life that hadn’t turned out the way he once wanted. It was hard to see him that way. There was no way to reach him during that particular period. You can almost see how troubled he was on those two pictures from 1991.

 

Tedy in Tel Aviv summer 1991

Tedy Knitel, Tel Aviv, Israel, summer 1991

I was back in Tel Aviv also in 1992 and 1993. I don’t remember seeing him in 1992. I think I was too busy going places with Armand then and I was only there for two weeks.

Tedy in Tel Aviv summer 1991

Tedy Knitel, Tel Aviv, Israel, summer 1991

The last time I saw him was in his office (which he shared with another guy) in Tel Aviv 1993. He seemed more at ease with himself and life then and we actually could talk in a normal way. I haven’t been to Tel Aviv (or Israel) since then. The situation in Israel has gotten far too unsettled to go there for vacations (and Israel is also far too expensive) even though my friend Malca in Tel Aviv keeps nagging me that I should come.

Malca has spoken with Tedy – and checked his phone number and address for me – a couple of years ago, so I knew he was still there and he sent me his greetings via Malca (she phones me now and then). He worked as an architect. As far as I knew he remained a bachelor and never got married or had children.

I don’t really believe in new beginnings with old Xs, but I often think of Tedy, and sure would have wanted to see him again. There were still so much there that wasn’t finished. I would really have liked to see how his life turned out.

On June 30th, 2005, I got an email from Tedy’s younger brother Alex, telling me that Tedy died alone, at home, unexpectedly and sudden, of a heart attack on September 11th, 2001. See here. Tedy – I miss you so, I always loved you and cared for you and I weep for you.

 

September 11th 2001 has got a new meaning, in addition to being the day when the twin towers of WTC in NY, USA fell and the date when the counter of my homepage for this site started ticking. Getting to know about it almost four years after his death, does not hurt less than if it had been yesterday.

When I visited Israel in September 2006, I visited Tedy’s grave and left two small stones on it. Prior to my visit I investigated where he was buried so I could go there for a visit. That was 5 years after he died. I still miss him, no matter how much time will pass.

Below images of Tedy Knitels grave in Tel Aviv.

 
 
 

 

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