Reluctantly, Tevye agreed on another one-hundred rubles.
If God were testing the resolve of the Jews, He tested them to the very end of their journey. With one hand clutching the lifeline which stretched to the beach, and their other hand clutching their children close to their breasts, Jews fought their way through the pounding waves to collapse on the cherished shore. Goliath and Hevedke carried Moishe and Hannie to safety, then splashed back into the undertow to help others make the punishing journey from the rowboats to the white, pristine sand. A mother cried out in anguish when a wave swept her child out of her arms. Goliath dove underwater. Waves crashed over his head. Finally, the whale of a man emerged clutching the terrified girl.
Tevye waited with Tzeitl on the deck of the ship until all of the others had disembarked for the shore. When a rowboat filled with suitcases and boxes coasted on a wave to the beach, Tevye handed the captain the rest of the money. Then he and Tzeitl climbed down the ship’s ladder into the tiny rowboat which was to ferry them toward shore. Tevye sat holding his shivering daughter as the crew battled the waves with their oars. Seawater splashed over their heads. The spray of the sea filled their nostrils and eyes. Finally, it was their turn to grab onto the rope which stretched the last thirty meters to shore. Tzeitl set out ahead of her father. Weakened by her sickness, the exertion demanded all of her strength. A wave crashed over their heads, drowning them with water. Tevye latched onto his daughter. But when the next wave hit them, Tevye’s grip slackened. When he emerged and glanced around him, Tzeitl was nowhere to be seen.
“Tzeitl!” he screamed.
A wave swept him up in the air, and he glimpsed what looked like her dress.
“Tzeitl!” he roared, letting go off the rope to dive into the sea. A wave splattered him. His mouth filled with water. Choking, he flailed wildly out with his hands, hoping to rescue his daughter. But another wave swept over him, rolling him head over heels underwater. Everything turned into darkness. Suddenly, a hand grabbed him and raised his head back into the light. It was Hevedke. He dragged Tevye back to the rope and half pushed him, half carried him to shore.
“Tzeitl,” Tevye moaned, collapsing onto the sand.
“She’s all right,” Hevedke answered. “Goliath pulled her out of the water.”
“Thank God,” Tevye said in exhaustion.
The milkman turned his head to the side and pressed his cheek into the warm, soothing sand. His hands clutched at the soil. The realization that he was in the Holy Land swept over him like another huge wave. He rose up on his knees, glanced at the water-soaked Jews on the beach, and let out an exuberant scream. Cheering, he raised his hands up to Heaven. Ruchela rushed into his arms.
“We’re in Israel!” he shouted. “The good Lord has brought us to Israel!”
Nachman shouted the Shehecheyanu blessing out loud for everyone to hear. He and Tevye embraced. Then Tevye hugged all of his daughters. Even the shivering Tzeitl managed a broad, happy smile. All of the Jews on the beach felt the same sense of joy and relief. Everyone hugged one another. Goliath embraced Tevye, lifted him in the air, and spun him around in a circle. When Tevye landed, ready for the next hug, he stood face to face with Hevedke. For a moment, he froze. When he moved away to the right, Hevedke moved with him. When he moved to the left, Hevedke followed. Once again, they moved back and forth like two Russian dancers. Then Tevye held up his arms and snapped his fingers. Hevedke smiled and mimicked the gesture. Then to a silent tune, the two danced a traditional Hasidic dance on the beach. People watched them and clapped. Hava shed tears of joy. Other Jews joined in the dance. It no longer bothered anyone that they were all tired and wet, nor that they didn’t have any food or fresh water. They were in the Promised Land! Their long journey was over. God would take care of the rest.
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." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.
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