Tevye in Palestine: My Family Thrives

Ali says the situation is growing tenser and that violence could flare again at any moment. The limitations on immigration the British imposed immediately after the riots have gradually been relaxed in the last couple of years and more Jews than ever before are rushing to Palestine. Ali says it is making his people very angry.

I tried to explain that many of the Jews who are coming are trying to escape persecution. Now the problem is not so much in Russia as in Germany. Bernice tells us Jews are being stripped of citizenship and she fears the situation will grow much worse. She said Devorah and the Haganah were beginning to focus more attention on helping German Jews escape to Palestine.

Ali wasn’t interested in the problems of the Jews. All that concerned him was that they were coming to Palestine instead of leaving.

Meanwhile, here, my family goes on living. Motel still works in the clothing shop, but now he is allowed to make something other than peasant clothes. He’s begun to design more attractive clothes, and even use a few bright colors, which the kibbutz now sells.

Tzeitl was slower to adjust, mainly because she had difficulty getting used to being separated from her children. But now that the kids are older, and have their aunts and uncles to be with, she is more comfortable.

The person who has changed the most is Hodel. I told you that she was welcomed as a heroine because of what she had done in Russia. Well, she was immediately put on the Executive Planning Committee and, after several months of silent participation, she threw herself into the business of running the kibbutz. When Hodel realized all we had accomplished, and then became part of the growth of the kibbutz herself, she began to come alive again. She spoke at the group meetings and gave passionate speeches that reminded me of Pertschik. And that’s not just a father’s boast. When I looked around the room at the reaction of the others, I could see the members were moved by her, and believed what she said.

Sometimes Hodel gets into arguments with Eitan and Uzi, but I think it has less to do with differences in opinion than the fact that they see themselves being replaced as the kibbutz ideologues. To her credit, Hodel is very careful to be respectful toward them. She always acknowledges their contributions as founders of the kibbutz, and credits their devotion to socialist ideals with guiding us in the proper direction. Tactfully, she explains her desire is only to reinforce those principles and make sure the kibbutz continues on the path they have set.

My heart fills with pride each time I hear her shout from the lectern, “We must remember what Jonathan fought and died for, to build this land that has been promised to the Jewish people by God Almighty. We will have a state of our own, but we must build it with our own hands and not let anyone, the Arabs, the British, the capitalists or anyone stop us from accomplishing our divine purpose.”

The talk about God’s role drives Eitan and Uzi nuts. They’re still devoted atheists. But, thank God, my Hodel never forgot the lessons I taught her, not even in the Siberian wasteland. She knows there is a God and that His hand guides our work.

As much as she enjoys having the respect of the chaverim, and being a leader of the kibbutz, the smile did not return to her face until she attracted the attention of one particular chaver. Old Simcha himself has fallen for my Hodel. I think he was smitten the day she arrived.

This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s novel, After Anatevka – Tevye Goes to Palestine.

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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