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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Nineteen: A Trail of Tomatoes

Cover of Tevye in the Promised Land by Tzvi Fishman.

“Get help,” he gasped.

Unable to hold him, she clumsily eased him down to the ground. Blood covered her hands. Terrified, she ran out of the shed. Her screams brought everyone out of their houses. “Ben Zion has been stabbed! Ben Zion has been stabbed!” she called out again and again.

Without closing the book he was studying, Tevye ran out of the house.

“Where is he?” he yelled.

“In the tool shed.”

Bat Sheva and Hava appeared in their robes.

“How could it be?” Hava asked.

Bat Sheva stared at Sonia and instantly knew. Her heart sank like a stone cast into a bucket of water. Shuddering, she ran after her father toward the tool shed. Tevye was the first one to reach the wounded Ben Zion. He had crawled out from the shed and collapsed, clutching the earth he revered. A knife handle stuck out of his back. Perchik came running and knelt down beside him. With his last waning strength, Ben Zion gazed up at his comrade and rival.

“Some peace agreement,” he said.

Then, invisibly, his soul flew out of his body. The once strong, passion-filled Zionist lay dead. A circle of settlers gathered around them. Bat Sheva pushed through to the front. Seeing the knife in Ben Zion’s back, she gasped out in horror.

“Don’t look,” Tevye said, standing up. Embracing his daughter, he led her away from the crowd.

Perchik yelled to saddle up the horses. Someone shouted for the wagon. Men ran in all directions. The emergency bell clanged. Gently, Tevye handed Bat Sheva over to Hava.

“Take her home,” he said.

“Where are you going,” Hava asked.

“With the others,” Tevye answered.

This time he was ready to fight. So was Perchik. With determination in their eyes, they rode off with all of the armed men they could muster. Carrying torches, they galloped through the darkness like a wave of fire. The rumble of their horses echoed through the hills. Before reaching the Arab village, Perchik raised up his hand, signaling the war party to halt. Half of the group, he commanded, would circle around and attack from the rear. After the lead charge, the others would follow and set fire to the tents with their torches. But when the Jews reached the top of the hill overlooking the valley, there were no tents in sight. The encampment had vanished.

“They’ve gone,” Mendelevitch exclaimed.

Perchik was silent. Torchlight flickered over his grim, clean-shaven jaw.

“Like thieves in the night,” Abramson said. “Ben Zion was right.”

“My God,” Ari said quietly. “Here we are in our own country and still they attack us and kill us.”

Tevye was pensively silent.

The following day, a few hours after Ben Zion was laid to rest in the Shoshana cemetery, Hodel’s baby boy entered into the covenant of Abraham. Perchik wanted to postpone the circumcision, but Tevye told him that unless a baby was ill, the brit had to take place on the eighth day after his birth. The ceremony was solemn, overshadowed by the tragedy of the murder. Draped in a prayer shawl, Tevye, the sandek, held the baby in his lap while the mohel from Tiberias made the cut of circumcision. Perchik recited the words of the blessing, and his son became a link in a four-thousand-year old chain of tradition.

The mohel chanted the traditional verses, “By your blood you shall live. By your blood you shall live.”

By the blood of circumcision, a symbol of the bond between the Jewish people and God, the bond which gave the Jews the strength to persevere over all of their enemies and seemingly unending misfortunes.

The baby was named Ben Zion.

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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