Living in Palestine, it’s easy to wonder just what it was that God promised to the Jewish people. I told you we decided to keep the cows between the swamps and the rest of us so the mosquitoes would get them first. Well, it worked. The cows caught the plague and the herd was wiped out.
It’s not the end of the world. We’ll just be drinking a lot of goat’s milk for a while.
Simcha volunteered to go to Holland to try to buy some new cows. In the meantime, the work committee has decided Tevye should help pick apples.
On a beautiful day like this, it’s a good job. I get to work in fresh air for a change, and the breeze is strong enough to prevent the sun from baking me. Beautiful yellow butterflies are flitting about and a flock of starlings just flew overhead. The best part, though, is that I get to be with my beautiful daughter, Shoshana, who usually works here in the orchard.
Actually, it’s a little embarrassing. I fumble around in the leaves and strain to pick the fruit while she just hauls the apples down by the handful. If all, no, make that any, of Oren’s inventions worked as well as Shoshana, the kibbutz would be the most productive in Israel.
She takes her work very seriously, so I don’t get to talk to her much. Besides, Shoshana is preoccupied with someone else.
“You know you don’t have to prove anything to anyone,” Chaim said from the base of the ladder as Shoshana gave him a fistful of apples.
“What do you mean?” She didn’t look down as she worked. Grabbing two and three apples between her fingers, Shoshana could strip a tree in minutes.
“You know exactly what I mean,” Chaim said.
I didn’t like the way he was staring at the muscular, slightly scarred leg in front of his face.
“What are you doing up there Tevye, taking a nap?”
Oh, did I forget to mention that I have the privilege of being paired with Timur the Know-it-All?
“Why don’t you come up here and I’ll wait for you to bring the fruit down?” I shouted.
“Tevye, You know I’m afraid of heights.”
“Yea, yea. Afraid of work is more like it,” I mumbled.
“What’s that Tevye?”
“There’s nothing like working in the outdoors, Timur.”
“You’re right, except for the heat and the bugs.”
I let a bunch of apples drop and that sent Timur scurrying and gave me a chance to return my attention to Shoshana’s conversation.
“You don’t think I need to work hard because I’m a woman, right?” Shoshana said before tossing a rotten apple at Chaim’s head.
He ducked just in time.
“No, I don’t think you have to work harder than the men to prove you can do the same job.”
“I’m not —”
“Come on, Shoshana. If someone else is out here at four, you get up at three-thirty. If they come at three-thirty, you’re up at three. When it’s time to quit, you insist on working ten more minutes.”
“I like what I do.”
“That’s great. It really is. But the whole point of the kibbutz is that we share responsibility, and no one — male or female — has more than anyone else.”
“Don’t lecture me on kibbutz philosophy. We both know the difference between rhetoric and reality.”
“All right, all right,” Chaim interrupted. I should know better than to argue with you. Ever since you came from Russia and were put in my class, I’ve had a tough time getting a word in edgewise.”
Shoshana climbed down the ladder a few steps so she was face to face with Chaim. “You manage very nicely, Chaim Danziger. The only way the teachers could get you to shut up was to throw things at you.”
“You’ve changed a lot since our first days in the high school together, Shoshana.”
“When you first arrived in Palestine, your skin was yellow like Jerusalem stone. You were so thin I tried to give you my ration of meat and vegetables because I was afraid you might be blown away by the Galilean winds. The holy land has done wonders for you.”
“Chaim, is this your idea of charming me?”
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s new novel, After Anatevka – Tevya Goes to Palestine available now in paperback and on Kindle.