Alon Mizrahi did his entire army service working in a Shekem, one in Tel Hashomer and one in Tzrifin.
"As an only child I wanted to be able to be near my parents and go home at night," says the 35-year-old driver. "So I asked to be allowed to work in Shekem. I had to take a two-month course. I was taught things like stock-taking and logistics. Shekem was open for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon.
"What did I do the rest of the time?" He laughs. "Wandered around the base looking for pretty girls."
According to Mizrahi, his Shekem became a focal point for "in" guys who would pop in for a game of backgammon in their spare time.
"All the Shekem workers had a trick we used to play on the unsuspecting soldiers. We used to sell a roll and chocolate drink for NIS 2.70, but we charged everyone a round NIS 3 and kept the difference. Everyone did it.
"At the end of the day we had to clean up and we were inspected to see we'd left it in order."
Amnon Trenchiner describes himself as the most veteran inhabitant of Kiryat Shmona, having arrived from Transylvania in 1950. He's had a mobile Shekem truck for 38 years, and has been in all the wars with it, dishing out his goodies to the soldiers. Today he recognizes the sons of soldiers he served in the War of Attrition.
"Yes, I've seen a few changes," he agrees. "In 1970 we had a few drinks like Tempo and black beer, and wafers were a staple. The soldiers could get their razor blades, soap and toothpaste from us too. Some days I used to drive 32 kilometers a day between positions. Nowadays I have a huge modern truck with refrigeration, so we can sell ice cream to the guys. I'm a collector of old records, among other things, and I have them decorating my truck. I've been in all the wars, met all the top brass and they all know me."
The only thing Avigdor Kahalani, the hero of the battle for the Golan Heights in 1973 who succeeded Rami Dotan as chairman of the the Soldiers Welfare Association, remembers about the Shekem of his early days in the army is "Tempo and chocolate-covered wafers.
"Today Shiran, the successor to Shekem, is a huge economic enterprise," he says. "And I see the future as rich and varied. No, I don't regret the lost innocence of the old Shekem canteens. Today's soldier wants good food, good service and all the small necessities that will make life more comfortable.
"What stands before us, in all our activities, is first and foremost, our vision of the soldier. He is there to defend us and we have to make every effort to ensure that he has everything he needs."
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