Surprised to find me back in a barn?
It’s as Marx decreed, “From each according to his ability,” so where else would Tevye the dairyman be?
Even without the socialist idol, how long do you think I could stand to be away from a cow’s teats, enjoying the sound of fresh milk squirting into a bucket? But this is not any cow in any barn; it’s nothing like the one I had in Russia. This is a Palestinian cow in a barn built by Jews on a kibbutz in the Promised Land.
I shouldn’t tell you, but the cows actually came from the Arabs. At first no one could figure out the secret to milking them. They would lie down or kick over the pail. Finally, we learned to milk them at night.
All right, so it isn’t a Jewish cow. Soon, we will have those also.
Arab cows are not the only difference between Palestine and Russia. Everything is distinctive here. The sky is bluer. The sun shines brighter during the day. At night, the stars twinkle over head like a sea of Sabbath candles. The air smells sweeter. Even the dung is fragrant.
My mother told me different is not necessarily better. She was right.
The Lord said we would inherit a land of milk and honey; what He forgot to mention were the bee stings that would come with it. Speaking of stings, the swamps here have mosquitos the size of dogs — and they carry malaria. So far, thank God, I have not caught the illness. Others have not been so lucky, so, unfortunately, one of the first things built here was a cemetery.
Is it any wonder that so few people have come here, despite the lure of living in the Holy Land? Most of the country does not look special, unless you’re impressed by desolate, sandy deserts, and craggy, rock-strewn hills. It is even difficult to find water. We dug a well, but it’s infested with frogs. Sound nice?
I can see why this land was promised to the Jewish people — no one else would want it.
But do you think I’m complaining? Not Tevye. How can I be unhappy in the land of my forefathers, of Jewish kings, prophets and sages?
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s new novel, After Anatevka – Tevya in Palestine, available now in paperback and on Kindle.