After Anatevka — Tevye in Palestine: The Tractor

Can you hear me over the racket this tractor is making? No? I didn’t think so. I don’t even think God can hear when this confounded machine is on. Let me give the engine and my ears a rest.

My good friend Simcha thought he was doing me a favor by letting me ride this four-wheeled grogger around the fields instead of having to whip my obstinate horse to pull my wagon.

“You can just sit and relax and let the tractor do all the work for you,” he said. “You’ll look like a chauffeur.”

Well, it certainly saves a lot of time working in the field, but this noise is enough to drive me insane. I enjoyed the slow, quiet life with my horse and wagon. I could think. I could sing. I could talk to the Almighty. But now?

I complained to Simcha and he said he would take it up with the Assignment Committee. I hate to tell you how long ago that was. I think they call their decision process “due deliberation.” God created the entire world in less time than it takes them to determine who should do the laundry.

At least it’s been quiet outside the kibbutz. You remember the Royal Commission the British convened after the riots? The one that recommended Jewish immigration be curtailed? Well, the High Commissioner took the advice and imposed a quota over the objections of Bernice and the other Agency politicians. During these long years the Committee has been considering my request for a new job, the Arabs have acted as though they were satisfied with the British actions.

My friend Sheikh Jabber and his son Ali warned me not to be misled, that the Arabs were still seething. The Arabs, they said, will not be content with preventing more Jews from coming to Palestine; they want to expel those who are already here.

The kibbutz is taking new precautions to fortify our defense. If you look toward the gate, you’ll see Moshe’s latest brainchild. He calls it the stockade and tower. You see that line of women stretching back to the center of the kibbutz? They’re passing baskets and pails of stone and gravel to the builders. Our carpenters have been working night and day to finish it before the rainy season. When they’re finished, it will be thirty feet tall. It’s going to have a searchlight to help us see beyond the perimeter and allow us to send signals to other kibbutzim.

You can’t see it from here, but beyond the fence, we’ve also added rows of barbed wire, so a visitor would be excused if they thought they were entering a military encampment instead of a farm. I think Moshe spent too much time visiting ancient fortresses in Palestine and decided to turn our kibbutz into one.

The fear of violence has grown to the point that the chaverim spend very little time outside the kibbutz. Moshe and other Haganah officers come here periodically to give us additional training. They also send some of their troops here to practice beyond the eyes and ears of English spies.

Workers in the fields now usually carry weapons. Even I take a rifle with me, though I can’t imagine how I’d shoot it while riding this tractor. I’d probably end up falling off the tractor and being run over before any Arab could reach me.

Carrying a rifle hasn’t made me any more comfortable with guns. I still feel allergic toward them. And the idea of killing a human being, even in self-defense, is something I find too horrible to contemplate. I know that it’s permitted, and the Jewish people have fought many wars through the years, but I have always wanted to fight my battles with my mind and the words of the sages. From talking to the Sheikh, I know that my way will not suffice. So, I take my turn as a watchman and pray that no one approaches. So far, thankfully, those prayers have been answered.

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.
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