As I started to ride out the gate, over the objections of the watchman, it occurred to me that Moshe was probably right about it being dangerous to go out alone at night. As I said, fortunately, up to now our neighbors have remained peaceful, but I have heard of more than one kibbutz that was attacked by its formerly passive friends.
It’s a shame to have to worry about such things. Riding at night is such a heavenly experience, if you’ll excuse the expression. When the sun goes down, we finally have a respite from the oppressive heat, but the breeze is warm enough that I don’t feel chilled. It’s like having someone blow softly on your neck in the way that makes your hair stand up just enough to tickle.
The best part is the silence that is interrupted only by the occasional buzz of a bee or whine of a hyena. I am spared the grating voices of the chaverim and the hocking of my darling Golde.
When I look back at the little oasis that we built here in the wilderness I’m amazed at our accomplishment. We have worked and we have lived, just as Jonathan said. The time has passed so quickly since the days we battled the mosquitoes day and night, and fought the wind to try to keep our tents upright with little more success.
Back then, it was hard to imagine anyone asking to join us, but now we argue all the time about whether we should accept newcomers. More schlimazels coming from Russia and Poland and all over Europe, who have heard of the utopian society we have built. The vattikim, the men who founded our settlement resist change. They want to maintain the ideological purity of the early years and to tightly restrict any expansion. The younger people want more comrades, and they argue the kibbutz cannot survive in such small numbers. We cannot produce enough to stay financially solvent and we do not have enough men to protect the kibbutz from the attacks they believe will eventually come.
I feel strongly both ways. If we let anyone join our little family, we will quickly begin to fight among ourselves, even more than we do now. But if we don’t take in more members, we will eventually die out. Even now, people are starting to leave, to find better lives in Haifa or Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Some are getting tired of a utopia where they can own few things beyond the shirts on their backs, and are given only what a committee decides they need to exist.
As for me, I’m content. What would I do someplace else?
It’s nice to let someone else worry about me for a change, even if it is a committee of schlimazels. Besides, I’m getting too old to change. One change per lifetime is enough, and coming here from Russia filled my quota. Life might not stay peaceful here, but it’s not going to get better somewhere else, so I might as well stay. Soon the family will be together and it will be like starting all over without moving.
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s novel, After Anatevka – Tevya Goes to Palestine available now in paperback and on Kindle.