Latest update: May 29th, 2013
Returning the permit to Tevye, the soldier let it purposely drop to the ground. He laughed as Tevye bent down to pick it up. Containing his anger, Tevye walked away and approached the sacred Wall. His fingers gripped its great boulders. His cheek pressed against the cool stones. This place was the ladder to Heaven. The gateway of prayer. God’s Presence hovered over the Wall for all people and nations to bask in its light. Even though only a small part of the Wall could be seen, its size told of the grandeur of the Temple which the Romans had long ago razed. Turks and Arabs had defiantly built houses against its holy stones, hiding its full length from view. Civilization after civilization had fallen at its feet, burying its deep foundations. Yet even along its narrow, uncovered span, the light which shone off its boulders was blinding. Behind it was Mount Moriah, the site of the ancient Temple, where Abraham had had been tested with the sacrifice of Isaac. Hundreds of thousands of Jews had given their lives defending the Temple against Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman conquest. Jewish women had hurled themselves from its ramparts, rather than be captured by the enemy. For these reasons, Jews cried when their hands touched the Wall.
Tevye’s head became dizzy. Words of prayer spilled out from his heart.
“My God and God of my fathers. Who am I to be standing before You in this sacred place? Who is Tevye, the son of Reb Schneur Zalman, that You have brought him here to Your holy dwelling? You know my sins and my temptations, my complainings and kvetchings. My life is an open book before You. Only through Your mercy and kindness can I open my mouth to speak, for what great difference is there between Tevye and his horse? King of the Universe, please bless all of my family. Bless my Golda in Heaven, and don’t let her be angry at me for having remarried, as You Yourself have commanded a man to do. Bless all of the Jews of Anatevka, wherever they may be. May the Czar, and all of the Czars after him, meet the punishment they deserve. Look upon the disgrace of Your people and have mercy upon us. Drive out the wicked Turks from Your holy habitation, and bring all of Your children safely home to Your Land. Please don’t forget us forever. Renew our days as of old.”
When Tevye reached the American Consulate, a long line was waiting to enter the building. Jews pushed and shoved, trying to inch forward toward the door. Widows with children, kibbutznikim, rabbis, workers, Hasidim, Ashkenazim, Sephardim, new immigrants, and Jerusalemites whose families had lived in the city for ten generations, all crowded together. A Hasid came out of the building with a smile as if the Mashiach had arrived. To Tevye’s surprise, the man took off his shtreimel hat and overcoat and handed them to a simply dressed worker. Instead of the round, furry head covering, he placed a ragged blue cap on his head. Quickly, the worker put on the other man’s outfit.
“What are they doing?” Tevye asked the man next to him in line.
“Sometimes more money is handed out to the ultra-religious. They have all kinds of charity organizations in America for schnorring. Some people lie and say they belong to one of their groups.”
Tevye learned that Glazebrook, the American Consul, had been keeping the Jews in the city alive. The elderly, gentile professor was a personal friend of President Wilson. He had asked for an appointment in Jerusalem because he loved the Land of Israel, and he wanted to help the Jews, whom he called the “Children of the Bible.” After paper currency became valueless with the outbreak of the war, he would travel to Jaffa himself to receive the gold coins which arrived on boats from America. The coins were kept in a big safe in his office, and he distributed them to the needy.
“Why do the Turks allow him to continue to help the Jews?” Tevye asked his new acquaintance in line.
“That’s a good question. I will tell you the answer. The rabbis of Jerusalem agreed to distribute a sizable portion of the charitable funds to the poor among the Turkish residents of the city. Since it comes to a lot of money, the Turks allow American ships carrying gold to enter the port in Jaffa. In other words, the Turks let him continue, but it’s not out of their love for 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." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Jewish Press
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