This brings me to the subject of some of the characters on our kibbutz. In Anatevka we had our share, Ephraim the matchmaker, Lazer-Wolf the butcher, Menachem-Mendel the entrepreneur, and, of course, our beloved rabbi. Here, we must have the Noah’s Ark of the human race and, if you want to know the truth, there are a few people I wouldn’t have let on the boat.
Take Yitzhak, the chaver from Warsaw. He refuses to wear shoes because he says our feet should get used to the soil of our homeland.
Enoch the Bee Keeper scares everyone to death. He’ll rub his face with wildflower petals and let thousands of bees land on his eyes, nose, and face. He even lets them crawl in his mouth. I shudder just thinking about it.
We’re scared in a different way by Oren the Inventor. He’s always trying to build new contraptions to pick crops faster or dig deeper ditches. The chaverim run when they see him coming because his inventions usually make more work for them. I wasn’t smart enough to bolt when he brought his milking machine to save me from this chore. He said the nozzle attaches to the cow’s teats and sucks the milk out into a pail. All I would have to do, he told me, was collect the milk from the pails. Oren turned it on and held up the nozzle to show me how strong it could pull. The crazy thing began to suck up everything in its path: hay, rope, the fringes of my tzitzit, my hat. When Oren finally tried to attach the machine to the cow, it kicked him in the head and knocked him silly. He’s persistent, so I’m sure he’ll be back to try again. Hopefully, when I’m on kitchen duty.
Then we have Eitan and Uzi, the resident ideologists. They have a quote from Marx for everything. As for the Bible, they don’t know borscht. “Religion is the opium of the people,” they repeat at every opportunity, parroting their hero. To them, socialism is the highest form of human achievement.
Simcha is a pioneer. He volunteers for everything. When we need a road, he joined the construction crew. When we started replacing tents with houses, he became a carpenter. Whatever the kibbutz needs, he wants to help, just like his mentor Jonathan.
Jonathan is revered as a vattik, a founder, but he works as hard as anyone, alternating between the fields and the chicken coops.
My other friend, Moshe, is referred to as “The Militant,” because he is always warning of a coming confrontation with the Arabs. He went off for military training and now is responsible for kibbutz security. He’s organized watchmen and, if Jonathan allowed it, would run the kibbutz like an army unit.
We call Gideon “Mr. Big” because he always wants to do everything in a grand way. The economic committee was discussing the purchase of ten sheep. Gideon jumped up and said, “Let’s buy one hundred, and goats too.”
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s new novel, After Anatevka – Tevya Goes to Palestine available now in paperback and on Kindle.