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“I was very surprised because I forgot completely that all the letters were at my sister’s,” Karin said.
Kaplan and Karin met when they were 21 and 23, respectively, at a tea party for Jewish soldiers hosted by a mutual friend from South Africa. They dated for two years during the British Mandate period and exchanged weekly letters.
“[Kaplan] used to come to Tel Aviv quite often, with or without leave,” Karin said.
Kaplan’s unit was primarily made up of the descendants of Scottish settlers living in Rhodesia, which is now called Zimbabwe. The unit’s military uniform was a Scottish kilt, which Karin makes mention of in the letters. (Halper shared an anecdote that Karin related about the kilt: one time Kaplan descended a ladder in a Tel Aviv bookstore in his Scottish apparel, showing Karin and her mother a bit more than they expected to see.)
Karin and Kaplan exchanged frequent letters, but with unpredictable wartime transportation and military censors, it would often take long periods of time for the letters to arrive.
“We were young,” Karin said. “We wrote about how we missed each other, how the days passed, when leave was expected.”
Kaplan wrote some of his letters in his tent by candlelight and sealed them with wax; he wrote others on scraps of paper, or whatever else he could find to write on.
“You see the schmutz,” Halper said. “There’s something about seeing the texture of the handwriting and being able to touch the paper that makes it special. That stuff just doesn’t exist anymore.”
What struck Halper the most as he was sorting through the letters was the pathos of the story: a young couple during wartime, the slow pace of correspondence, and the missed opportunities for connection.