Shoshana and I watched Golde walk out the door. Shoshana had a look of pity on her face, as if she’d just realized her mother was growing old. It’s always a painful moment when children see their parents aging. When we’re young, we don’t think about what our parents will be like when they get older, but, at some point, a child catches a glimpse of their mortality. Then, suddenly, they understand in an emotional, rather than intellectual way, that their parents will die one day.
“Why was Mama so upset, Papa?”
“It’s nothing. You know how she gets sometimes. She misses your sisters.”
“I miss them too.”
“Of course you do. So do I.”
Shoshana came over and hugged me. I looked down and saw the same face looking up at me that I remembered from her childhood. A face full of hope and optimism. I wondered if she and the other young people had any idea about the feelings of the Arabs. They all were devoted to the kibbutz and worked like the Israelites in Egypt to build what they expected to be a new Jewish state. Will they be forced to leave their home as I had, or will they fight to keep what they’ve built? I think I know the answer.
“And what is new with you, Shoshie?”
“You know I hate when you call me that.”
“A father can’t have his own special name for his daughter?
“Of course. But I’m a little old for that one, don’t you think?”
“No, you’ll always be my Shoshie.”
“All right, Papa.”
“So, how was work?”
“Every day is another step toward our new state. Chaim says the British will get tired of dealing with us and the Arabs and just pick up and leave.”
“Perhaps he’s heard this from the Almighty.”
“He’s a dreamer.”
“A dreamer? I don’t recall the planning committee creating a job for dreamers.”
“Oh, stop it, Papa. He works as hard as anyone. He just thinks that by working and becoming one with the land we will rebuild the Jewish spirit and then the state will follow.”
“If he becomes one with the land, I know he’ll get dirty. I don’t know about the rest.”
“Very funny. He’s more interested in reading the works of socialist philosophers than religious scholars, but I think you’d like him anyway.”
I thought about the conversation I overheard in the orchard and the way Chaim looked at my daughter. I don’t think I like him at all, but I suspect that won’t matter in the end.
“Actually, Papa, Chaim reminds me a little of someone you know very well.”
“He doesn’t sound familiar.”
“He reminds me of Pertschik. Remember how he used to prattle on about the workers uniting and taking over the earth. I’d love to see his face when he heard you were on a labor committee.”
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s new novel, After Anatevka – Tevya Goes to Palestine available now in paperback and on Kindle.