The doors burst open. The room fell silent and everyone turned around anxiously.
I was waving my finger at Simcha, about to quote from the Bible about injustice when I turned to see the cause of the disturbance.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. The first person I saw was my Devorah in khaki shorts and shirt with a rifle slung over her shoulder. Her hair had grown back and was longer than ever, falling down her back in a ponytail.
Two boys in green uniforms, who looked younger than Devorah, followed her through the door carrying a large crate. They reminded me of the two boys who had come to the kibbutz years earlier with an injured soldier. Yossi and Shimshon were no longer boys. Devorah had told me on her last visit that they were now senior commanders. The young recruits pried open the crate and began passing out rifles.
As Devorah made her way to the front of the room, Golde pushed toward her. I was still staring at the doorway when slowly, reluctantly, a group of children entered. They were followed by a small band of disheveled men and women.
One tall skinny man with a stovepipe hat stood above the rest. A woman was just behind him holding the hands of two little girls, with a small boy clinging to her skirt. It was Motel and Tzeitl. I nearly ran over Chana and Laban to get to them. I didn’t even look at Motel’s face before embracing him.
“Papa,” Tzeitl cried, and hugged me as soon as I released Motel.
I never used to act like an old woman before I came to Palestine, but now I seem to quite often. I couldn’t help myself. Tears flowed like the waters of the Banyias.
“Thank God!” I heard Golde shout behind me as she too raced over to hug her family.
The four of us stood holding each other and the room burst into applause. I saw Devorah out of the corner of my eye. She was wiping away tears. I held out my hand to her and she joined our embrace.
“Mama, Papa,” Tzeitl sniffled. “Would you like to meet your grandchildren?”
“We gave them all Hebrew names because we always knew we would join you in Palestine,” Motel said.
I patted Motel on the back, then bent down to see three of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen in my life.
“Papa, this is my eldest, Rebecca.”
“Shalom Zeyde,” Rebecca said and came over and put her arms around my neck.
“Shalom Rebecca,” I said trying to keep from breaking into tears again at the sight of a freckled face that looked like Tzeitl’s when she was that age.
“And this is Leah.”
“Look at the flower I found outside Zeyde,” she said, handing me one of the newly bloomed roses. I could just imagine the fit Maya and her Flower Committee would throw when they realized one of their plants had been touched.
“Thank you, Leah. It’s beautiful. And so are you. You are the prettiest girl in all of Palestine.” I gave her a hug and kissed her cheek, but she ran behind Tzeitl’s skirt.
“Grr,” the little boy growled, holding his hands up with his fingers bent like claws.
“And this ferocious beast,” Tzeitl said, “is Aryeh.”
“Aryeh, my little lion. You are very scary, and so big,” I said, lifting him up over my head.
“Tevye, what are you doing?” Golde shouted. “He’s a boy, not a sack of flour.”
“You’re wrong, Golde. He’s an angel sent by God. They’re all angels.”
I put Aryeh down and knelt on the floor to hug all three of my grandchildren.
“Do you think I might join you?” a voice cried out from the doorway.
When I looked up, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to rub them to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating.
There stood my Hodel. I couldn’t even speak when I tried to call her name. Golde just put her hand to her mouth.
“Mama! Papa!” she shouted as she ran to us and jumped into my arms.
“Dear Lord, I don’t know if I have enjoyed a more blessed day. Thank you.”
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s novel, After Anatevka – Tevye Goes to Palestine available now in paperback and on Kindle.