It did not take long for the sheikh’s prediction to come true. The news throughout Palestine has been terrible, like the worst days of the pogroms in Russia.
This time our kibbutz was not spared, though the damage was inflicted indirectly.
When Moshe left to rejoin his Haganah unit, Jonathan left with him. I teased Jonathan about being too old to fight.
“Tevye,” he bellowed, “the defense of liberty knows no age limit.”
Jonathan was very serious. He still worked as hard as anyone on the kibbutz and whenever trouble was reported in the country, he would go to see what he could do to help. Usually, he came back quickly, because he was too well known in Palestine to work with the underground Jewish army, but Devorah told me Jonathan was a great inspiration to the younger men, and had taught the Haganah a great deal about strategy.
I hadn’t given his departure another thought. Then, while I was working in the barn, Shmuel rang the bell frantically. I wasn’t sure what it meant because the sound was far more urgent than the typical alarm he’d drilled us to expect.
Everyone came rushing to the dining room. When we got there, Moshe was on his knees wailing over a blanket covering something on the ground. Simcha, the man who never frowns, was holding Moshe, trying to comfort him. Both of them were sobbing.
Shmuel was still ringing the bell. If it were not for the tears streaming down his cheeks, I would have thought he was in a trance. Oren finally pried the clapper from his hand.
“What’s happened?” I asked.
The chaverim were just standing silently, unsure of what to do.
Finally, Simcha spoke. “Jonathan is dead.”
“What?” I said.
Simcha slowly pulled back the top of the blanket to reveal Jonathan’s blood-streaked face.
One great shriek seemed to emanate from everyone’s throat simultaneously. People fell on the ground, others just collapsed in the arms of those around them.
I looked for Golde. She, Sarah and Devorah were sitting on the ground holding each other, weeping uncontrollably.
My knees suddenly gave out and I found myself beside Moshe and Simcha. They looked at me and then we embraced each other.
Moshe choked back his tears for a moment and muttered, “There was nothing we could do. We got there too late. So many bodies.”
“What happened? Where, Moshe?” I asked.
“It was in Hebron. Friday night a group of Arabs had started throwing rocks at the students going to the yeshiva. On Sabbath morning, a mob of Arabs came and attacked Jews with knives and clubs and axes. They killed Rabbi Slonim.”
“No!” Tevye cried.
“He was not the only one. Dozens were murdered. A few Arabs tried to help Jews, but thousands of Arabs came shouting ‘Kill the Jews.’ Finally, a policeman escorted some of us out of the city. We came here, but most of the Jews who got away were heading for Jerusalem. No Jews are left in Hebron.”
Moshe put his head on Jonathan’s chest.
Simcha and I just looked at each other. Moshe sat up again, and composed himself enough to whisper, “A sniper fired from a roof and hit Jonathan in the back. There was nothing we could do for him. Before Jonathan lost consciousness, he said, ‘Trumpeldor was right. It is good to die for one’s country.’”
Moshe broke down again. The three of us just stayed on the ground, holding each other.
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s novel, After Anatevka – Tevya Goes to Palestine available now in paperback and on Kindle.