“This is Meir,” he answered, steering around a steep Hevron turn.
“I’m sorry, Meir,” said the soldier on the other end of the wire. “But the jackass just ate the last of your roses.”
Meir’s foot hit the brakes. His fist crashed down on the horn. Arab children gathered on the street to see what was causing all of the noise. Meir jerked the vehicle into first. The van lurched forward, scattering the children. A sharp U-turn later, he was racing back down the hill, swerving through traffic, pounding on the horn, while the kerchiefed women in back hung on for their lives.
A soldier stood by Meir’s caravan, holding his M-16 in one hand and a rope tied around the jackass’s neck in the other.
“I made sure he didn’t get away,” he said.
“Top notch security work,” Johnny said, walking over.
Meir was furious. Shaking. Even his wife kept her distance. He stared at the naked branches where once his beautiful roses had bloomed.
“Now will you kill it?” Johnny asked
“They will grow back, Meir,” his wife said, but even so, she wanted to cry, knowing what the garden meant to her husband.
Meir asked Johnny to drive the women up to Kiriat Arba. He took the rope from the soldier and began leading the jackass away.
“Where are you going,” his wife nervously asked.
Meir didn’t answer.
“Sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Johnny asked.
Still Meir kept silent, not giving away his plans.
“At least,” his wife said, “Take a gun.”
Meir kept walking. He wasn’t angry at the jackass. What did a donkey know? And he wasn’t even so angry at the Arab. What for that matter did the Arab know? The lies that Arafat told him? Meir was angry at something else. He was angry at his country. At its weakness. He was angry at himself.
He led the jackass down the incline to the city, past the shops of spices, nuts, and grains; past camels butchered and hanging in windows; past cripples and carts pulled by horses to the Arab blacksmith who worked in a hole in the wall near the Casba.
“How much will you give for the jackass?” Meir asked.
The blacksmith glanced at the young bearded Jew and studied the animal. He offered twenty-five dollars. Meir said one hundred, knowing from experience that anything was worth at least four times a Hevron first offer. Finally the blacksmith agreed to fifty. He paid Meir in cash. In dollars. From a roll in his pocket that must have totaled two thousand.
With the money in hand, Meir returned to the yard of the jackass’s owner and knocked on the door.
“Your jackass ate the last of my rosebushes,” Meir told him. “So I sold it. Here’s your money.”
The Arab didn’t reach out his hand. He looked at the dollars, then spit on the ground. With a look of contempt, he closed the door without saying a word.
Meir dropped the money on the doorstep and walked out of the yard.
Several hours later, two Israeli police appeared at Meir’s caravan door. A group of Arabs, including the municipal administrator, had complained to Israeli police headquarters that Meir had killed the man’s jackass. Meir explained what had happened; how the jackass had eaten his roses; how he had delivered two warnings; how he had sold the animal and given its owner the money. The policemen wrote down the information, ate the piece of chocolate cake which Meir’s wife served, and left in a friendly manner.
The next morning, the policemen came back. The jackass’s owner denied receiving money from Meir. The Arab municipal council was threatening to close all shops and businesses unless Meir was taken into custody. The story had already appeared in all the Arab papers, and the police wanted to avoid any escalation of tension in the town. It was simple, Meir said. He would take them to the blacksmith who had purchased the jackass. Sarah, his wife, followed them out to the police car and watched them drive off. Meir was cheerful. His depressions didn’t last long. Driving with the police, he felt glad that after two thousand years of exile at the mercy of the gentiles, in Israel the policemen were Jewish.
About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." For the past several years, he has written a popular and controversial blog at Arutz 7. A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press
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