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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Eighteen: Peace in the Middle East

Cover of Tevye in the Promised Land by Tzvi Fishman.

“Everyone is our enemy,” Moishe said. “Nobody likes the Jews.”

“Sometimes it seems that way,” their grandfather agreed.

“Are the Arabs gentiles?” Hannie asked.

“Yes,” Tevye answered, realizing that the only non-Jews the children had known were the Caucasian, granite-faced Russians.

“Wasn’t Abraham their father too?”

“Yes,” Tevye answered.

The children stared at him, waiting for their grandfather to explain. Tevye remembered that he had a great responsibility which he had been ignoring. Work was not the only task in life. A man had the sacred duty to teach his children the Torah, as it said in the Shema, “You shall teach these words diligently to your children. Now that both Tzeitl and Motel were gone, Tevye had inherited the obligation of passing on the traditions of Sinai to his grandchildren. They gazed up at him with eyes as big as setting suns. Now more than ever, they needed a father. They needed answers to their questions and guidance.

Tevye asked them if they wanted to hear a story. Gladly, the children agreed.

“You know,” their grandfather began, “when Abraham was a boy, even younger than you are, he looked into the sky and saw that the sun ruled in the heavens. So he decided to worship the sun. Then, when nighttime came, he saw the sun go down and the moon come up, and he said, ‘Surely, I was wrong. The moon rules the heavens.’ So he decided to worship the moon. Then, when the moon disappeared in the morning, he realized that even the moon had a master. So he said, ‘I will worship the God who rules over both the sun and the moon.’”

The children stared at Tevye with spellbound looks on their faces. How thrilling it was to be outdoors all alone with their grandfather on the high, windy hill. Being close to him, listening to his deep, familiar voice, watching his eyes glow, snuggling into his powerful arms, and inhaling his warm earthy smell, were incredible pleasures for them.

“Little Abraham started to tell everyone he met about the one and only God who ruled over the world. At that time, people believed there were many gods, each one possessing a different power. In fact, Abraham’s own father, Terach, was a maker of idols. He had a store where he sold all kinds of wood and stone statues. One day, he put little Abraham in charge of the store when he went out on an errand. As soon as his father was gone, Abraham took a hammer and began smashing all of the idols. Before long all of them lay in pieces on the floor, except for the biggest statue which Abraham left standing. The clever boy placed the hammer in its hand. When his father returned, he stared in horror at all of the broken idols.

“What have you done to my idols?” Terach angrily shouted.

“It wasn’t me,” Abraham answered. “The big idol broke them all with his hammer.”

“That idol can’t do anything,” his father yelled back. “It is just a lifeless chunk of stone.”

“Then why do you worship it?” Abraham asked. His father was tongue-tied. He didn’t have an answer.

“There is only one true God,” Abraham said. `These silly stone and wooden statues don’t have any power at all.”

“We know that story,” Hannie said when her grandfather had finished.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Tevye asked.

“We wanted to hear it again.”

Tevye nodded his head and grinned at his two little treasures. Night had descended and stars sparkled all across the celestial vault.

“You still haven’t answered my question,” Moishe said.

“What question was that?” Tevye asked.

“If Abraham was the father of the Arabs, why aren’t they Jews like we are?”

“Well,” Tevye began, “to make a long story short, Abraham was married to Sarah, and they were married for a very long time without having children. So one day, Sarah told him to marry her handmaid, Hagar, who was the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt. They had a child named Ishmael. He grew up to be a wild child, a robber and highwayman. When Abraham was a hundred years old, he finally had a son with Sarah. They named the boy Isaac. The descendants of Ishmael are the Arabs, and the descendants of Isaac are the Jews.”

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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