Latest update: May 29th, 2013
Little by little, the line inched forward, and Tevye finally stood under the red, white, and blue flag which hung over the door of the Consulate. After another few minutes, he was escorted into the lobby by an American soldier who motioned him to wait in the hallway.
“Maybe you know my daughter, Baylke?” Tevye asked. “She lives in New York.”
The blond cadet looked at him blankly.
“You don’t speak Russian, I guess,” Tevye said. “What about Hebrew or Yiddish?”
“English,” the soldier answered.
Tevye shrugged. The only word he knew in English was “dollar.” Suddenly, at the end of the hallway, a group of Jews started screaming. Their hands waved excitedly through the air, as if they were throwing punches. A lean, spectacled gentleman appeared from the office behind them. He wore a three-piece suit, and a watch chain dangled from the pocket of his vest. With a dignified air, he escorted the shouting Jews along the corridor. Naturally, they were arguing about how to divide up the money they just had received. Their shouting continued all the way to the door. The stately Professor Glazebrook accompanied them down the hallway until he stood by Tevye.
“It is easier to raise one million dollars in America,” he said, “than it is to distribute one thousand in Eretz Yisrael.”
Tevye was struck by the American’s use of the original Hebrew name for the Land of Israel. Eretz Yisrael was the name used by Jews to express their great love and longing for their Biblical homeland, whereas the Roman-coined “Palestine” was for foreigners. Obviously, this kindhearted gentile felt deeply attached to the land. Courteously, he invited Tevye into his office. Two American soldiers stood by the door. The large room was filled with books, a presidential-sized desk, stately chairs, an American flag, and photographs framed on the wall. The famous iron safe stood in a corner. “Please have a seat,” the Consul said in Hebrew.
Tevye sat down and glanced at the thick, leather-bound Bible on the Professor’s orderly desk.
“I read a chapter of the Bible every morning,” he said. “It gives me my strength for the day. Today I read the inspiring words of the prophet Ezekiel, guaranteeing that the outcast Jews would one day return to their land. How lucky we are to be living at this time in history when God’s word is unfolding in front of our eyes.”
His speech reminded Tevye of the lessons of Rabbi Kook.
“If your honor doesn’t object to my saying – these days, the lucky person is the person who doesn’t have to wait two hours on line.”
“Yes, I apologize about that, but when has it ever been easy to be a Jew?”
Tevye nodded as if the man across the desk were Jewish himself, the way he sympathized with the children of the Bible.
“I would very much like to chat further with you, but as you mentioned, the line is long, and I really don’t like to keep people waiting. Please tell me, what is your name and where are you from?”
“Tevye from Olat HaShachar.”
“Ah, Tevye,” the Consul said with a smile. “I have been waiting for you.”
He stood up and walked toward the safe.
“I have nothing but respect for you pioneer builders of the land.”
“The land is building us more than we are building it,” Tevye philosophically answered.
“Very well said,” the Professor responded.
He opened the safe, and after a brief search, he pulled out an envelope.
“This is a letter,” he said. “In addition, your name is on my list to receive five-hundred dollars in gold. Is that correct?”
“That’s what my daughter wrote me.”
“You have your papers with you, I presume.”
“Certainly,” Tevye said.
He handed the Consul his immigrant papers and received the letter in return. Inside the envelope was a large newspaper clipping, folded several times over. The first thing which caught Tevye’s eye was a photograph of Padhatzur. Scanning over the Yiddish text quickly, Tevye understood that the article was about his son-in-law’s success in the banking world of New York.
“Good news I trust,” the Consul said, handing back Tevye’s papers.
“Yes. Thank the good Lord.”
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 solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press
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