My work for the ‘Present’ project was eating a lunch with Frances in her space.

I set up lunch, which was a can of tuna, a can of corn, a can of tinned fruit, salted peanuts, some bread and water. I didn’t supply plates or cutlery, but I told Frances we could use anything that was available in the space. We used two sheets of paper as plates. As we were eating, I told her about my memories and experiences as a solider in the Israeli army.

In 1990, as required by all eighteen year old Jewish Israeli citizens, I was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces.

I volunteered to become an infantry soldier and served for the obligatory three years.

Once I was discharged from compulsory service, I continued to serve in the military reserves.

During my service in the infantry unit, I participated in military action in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The duration of a mission during military action was often undefined.  Therefore to prepare for a mission, the armored personnel carrier (APC) was loaded with all the necessary equipment and military hardware needed as well as enough food and drink to last until the next time supplies were replenished.

We would mobilize as instructed in our APC through various populated areas. We were instructed not lo leave the APC under any circumstances, due to threats of sniper activity and landmines.

However, when night fell or if there was no precise mission to accomplish, we would enter one of the local houses in the area.

If there were people in the house, we would gather them all into one room and one of the soldiers would guard the room.

We split our unit into two groups. One group guarded the surrounding perimeter and the other group was free to eat and rest. Then after a given time the groups would switch.

The combat food rations came in small cardboard boxes. The contents of which were intended to feed four soldiers for up to twenty four hours. Each box contained a can of tinned corn, can of tuna and can of chickpeas, as well as Halva, salted peanuts and chocolate spread. Usually the rations included bread, but if a mission continued we would run out of the bread.

We would sit somewhere in the house in a place that was carefully considered safe and also comfortable to eat in. During the meal we would pass the cans around from person to person.

At the end of the meal, looking around at the arrangement of the empty cans left on the floor, you could imagine where each soldier had sat to eat. You could see where a soldier sat alone, where two soldiers sat together and where three soldiers sat to eat.

We didn’t always have the strength or motivation to clean up the remnants of food and cans after ourselves, sometimes we would simply fall asleep. On occasion we would be ordered to urgently continue of our mission before we managed to tidy up. In both cases all the cans were left in the same place and arrangement in which we, the soldiers had sat to eat in.

When the family came out of the secured room, or when they returned to their home once the mission was completed, they would find the cans and remnants of food as we had left them, as “our presence” in their home.

I suggested to Frances that she could leave the remnants of our meal where they were, as evidence of “our presence” in her space.