After Anatevka – Tevye in Palestine Excerpt 44: Mechanical Beasts

I think some of Golde’s coworkers are getting a little tired of hearing about the miracles our children are performing each day. God, after all, spent less time describing the creation of the world than Golde does talking about Abraham dressing himself or Rachel going to the potty.

The news that Tzeitl, Motel and Hodel were coming to join us made her feel like the Israelites seeing the Promised Land for the first time after wandering forty years in the desert. Now I was afraid the British would leave us, like Moses, standing within view of what we longed for, but not allowed to enjoy it.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled by the thought that the family will be together again, but, given all that has happened, I try not to get too excited for fear of being let down. If it is the Almighty’s will that we are reunited, we will be reunited. If not, well, perhaps in another world. That is my attitude, but I don’t think Golde can take more disappointment.

The crackle of leaves made me jump. I looked from side to side, but couldn’t see anything but trees and rocks and dirt — and a figure dressed in dark clothes with a hat pulled over their face.

I nervously pulled back the hammer on the rifle and stared down the barrel, just as Moshe had taught me.

“Who’s there? What’s the password?”

“New York Yankees,” said a familiar voice.

I rolled over and nearly fainted. Bernice suggested a bunch of American code words before she left, thinking the Arabs could never discover or fake them. I had no idea what Yankees were; all that mattered was that a friend was approaching. The hooded man bent down and pulled off his stocking cap.

“It’s freezing,” Simcha said, his smile frozen as always. “Reminds me of the old days in Russia. Here, I brought you some more coffee.”

My hand was shaking so much, Simcha took my flask and poured for me.

“What’s the matter, old friend? Tough night defending the apples?”

“Simcha, you nearly scared me to death.”

“I’m sorry, if you’d rather I leave.”

Simcha started to get up. I grabbed his arm.

“No. I’m just not cut out for this sort of thing. I don’t have the nerves for it.”

“To tell you the truth Tevye, neither do I.” We both took sips of coffee. “Moshe is the one who seems to enjoy the danger. It excites him in a perverse kind of way.”

“Any more excitement and I think I’ll go to the bathroom in my pants,” I said.

Simcha laughed. Sometimes I wondered if bugs flew into his mouth between the gap in his front teeth.

“So, Tevye, other than ghosts, I take it things have been quiet.”

“Yes. Thank God.”

“Let’s pray that it lasts.”

“I do every day.”

“I’m sure you do, Tevye.”

The coffee tasted awful, but at least it was warm. I wished Simcha had also brought me something to eat. I was beginning to fantasize about chocolate cake and apple pie.

As if reading my mind, Simcha reached inside his jacket and pulled out a bag. “Golde thought you might be hungry.”

He handed over the bag and I stuck my face into the opening.

“Sunflower seeds?”

“She said you need to lose weight.”

It was a good thing I was sitting or my face might have fallen so hard I would’ve hurt my chin. Simcha had an unusually stupid grin on his face. He was biting his lower lip as if he was trying to keep from laughing.


Finally, he burst out laughing. He could have scared hyenas away.

“Golde figured you would have that reaction. She imitated your face exactly.”

“Ha, ha. Very funny.”

“Here, she also sent you this,” Simcha said, pulling another bag from his jacket pocket.

I grabbed it away from him. He was still laughing.

“This is more like it,” I said, and took a bite from the piece of apple strudel. “And you can’t have any,” I mumbled with crumbs falling out of my mouth.


I polished off the desert and licked my fingers. “So, what is new from the exciting world of the committees? Without Faiga here, I’m afraid I’m out of touch.”

Simcha took a handful of sunflower seeds from the other bag and shook them in his palm. “The Economic Committee says we should have a record crop this year. We might even be able to afford a new tractor.”

“The machine that does the work of horses and oxen.”

“Yes, Tevye. You just sit and ride around. You don’t have to feed it or whip it. It won’t get tired or decide to stop working.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that if I were you. Mechanical beasts also have minds of their own.”

“I’ll take my chances,” Simcha said.

“Are you sure that it’s still work? The committee might decide you’re losing touch with the land.”

Simcha chuckled. With him, sometimes it was hard to tell if you were really funny or he just laughed at everything.

“Tevye, you forget. I am the chairman of the committee now. I think the purchase will be approved. Besides, I’m getting too old to bend over all day.”

“Old. You? Please. Raise eight children and then tell me about getting old.”

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.