Latest update: May 29th, 2013
Frustrated with problems in relaying information by boat to the British in Egypt, Avshalom Feinberg was captured trying to cross the border to Egypt himself. He was accused of spying, but Aharon Aaronson interceded and succeeded in arranging for his release. Be that as it may, Feinberg was discovered murdered, apparently by Bedouins working for the Turks.
With a groan, Tevye moved his legs to a different position. In the cramped compartment, his back was beginning to ache from the bumps of the journey. Once again, the bald-headed official with the flask offered him a drink.
“Just a sip,” Tevye said. He twisted off the cap and took a long greedy sniff of the brandy. If he couldn’t fill up his belly, at least he could fill up his lungs.
The spy ring, Tevye learned, consisted of no more than eighty men. They used boats to smuggle supplies to the Jewish settlements along the coast, and to transfer information from the port of Gaza to British encampments in the Sinai. Now, with the arrest and murder of Avshalom Feinberg, the JCA officials were worried that the Turks would crackdown on the Jews.
True to their fears, when the carriage arrived in Jaffa, the Jews were in an uproar. Soldiers on horseback stampeded through the Jewish market, hauling down canopies, smashing tables and booths, and upturning merchandise all over the road. A rider clubbed a Jew on the head.
It was a scene Tevye remembered from Russia. An official in the carriage shouted for the driver to flee, but Tevye jumped out to be with his endangered brothers. Finding the bleeding Jew in the road, Tevye dragged him to safety. The man’s eyes were frightened, but thankfully, his arm had deflected the blow to his head. When he grew calmer, Tevye asked what was happening. That morning, he said, Jamal Pasha’s soldiers had rounded up hundreds of Russian Jews. Men and women had been beaten, families had been split up, and sword-wielding soldiers had herded Jews off to the dock. Anyone who didn’t have a valid immigrant permit, and anyone refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to the Turks, was loaded onto a boat and shipped off to Alexandria. The wounded Jew had hid from the soldiers on the roof of a building. His wife, thank God, had signed the paper. But he was still worried. If the British won the war, she could be put into prison for being loyal to the Turks.
Down the road, Turkish soldiers continued to ransack the Jewish market. Produce was scattered all over the street. Booths were destroyed. When there remained nothing left to overturn, the cavalry of hoodlums grouped around their commander. Tevye recognized him at once from the way he sat straight-backed in his saddle. It was Jamal Pasha, the same black-eyed dog who had ordered the destruction of the cottages which Tevye and his friends had built in Morasha.
Tevye spit in the dirt. “Murderer,” he whispered, recalling his oath of revenge.
Pasha shouted out an order to his troops. The horsemen reared their mounts, and the soldiers galloped off down the road. Burning with anger, Tevye ran into the street. He wanted to drag Pasha down from his horse, and give the devil a thrashing, but he was surrounded by a wall of his soldiers. The horses thundered by. Tevye stood in the cloud of their dust, his hands clutching at air. The moment the soldiers could no longer be seen, Jews started appearing from every direction. Merchants ran to their booths to salvage whatever they could. Seeing a small bearded Jew trying to drag a large crate, Tevye hurried over to give him a hand. To Tevye’s amazement, he recognized the man’s face. It was Eliahu, the Jew who had helped them escape from Odessa!
“Eliahu!” he shouted, embracing the startled fellow in a bear hug.
“Mercy,” the small man cried. “I need my arms intact to feed my family.”
“Remember me?” Tevye asked.
“I am sorry to say that I do. It was a black day in Odessa when you left. The same curse that has befallen us today, fell upon us then. Then the butchers were Russian. Today, they are the Turks. The names and countries change, but their hatred remains the same.”
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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