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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Seventeen: The Milkman’s Daughter

Cover of Tevye in the Promised Land by Tzvi Fishman.

Bat Sheva could not tell from the Arab’s dark expression whether Ben Zion’s threat had made an impression.

“Take their horse!” the leader commanded.

One of the Arabs grabbed the reins of Ben Zion’s horse.

“That’s robbery!” he said.

“You steal from us, we steal from you.”

With a bow, the Arab started to walk backward. When they were a safe distance away, they turned and ran back to their horses. Bat Sheva breathed in relief. The Arabs galloped away up the hillside, pulling Ben Zion’s stallion in tow.

“Now what do we do?” Bat Sheva asked.

Ben Zion pondered in silence. “First, we had better drink a lot of water, and then we will start walking back to the kibbutz.”

“On foot?” the girl asked.

“If you walked from Anatevka to Palestine, you surely can walk from here to the village.”

“I rode most of the way in our wagon,” she said.

“If I could summon a carriage for my princess I would. Since that is not possible, I suggest that we walk, unless you prefer to wait here alone while I go and fetch you a wagon.”

“No, no,” Bat Sheva said with a nervous glance at the desolate landscape. “Of course I’ll come with you.”

When they had finished drinking, Ben Zion started off across the valley and up the rocky hillside. Suddenly, his passion for Bat Sheva had vanished, and he seemed to forget the ardor which he had displayed a short time before. He strode along, plunged in his own contemplations, as if she weren’t even there. Vowing to set off in revenge, he ranted on about the need to form an army and expel the Arabs from the region. Not only had the scoundrels stolen their horse and their rifles, they had nearly killed Peter. If the kibbutz didn’t retaliate promptly, the Arabs would believe that the Jews were afraid to strike back.

Bat Sheva listened in silence. Venting his anger, Ben Zion spoke on and on about bringing hundreds of thousands of Jews to Palestine from Diasporas all over the world. He spoke about war and conquering the Turks.

“By blood and fire, the land of Judea fell, and by blood and fire, the land of Judea will rise,” he claimed, quoting the fighting creed of the Hebrew shomrim.

As he led the way back to Shoshana, he described the day when Jewish labor would transform the deserted wasteland into blossoming gardens and fields. The land of Zion would be not only a physical refuge for all of the Jews, but a cultural refuge as well. A new spiritual renaissance was beginning, proclaiming the rebirth of the Jews, who, instead of being the downtrodden Jews of the ghetto, would be proud and upright Israelis. Hard work and sacrifice were in order, and the willingness to fight for the new Jewish State.

Bat Sheva grew tired of listening. Never once did he speak about her. Never once did he mention the word marriage. Never once did he mention the day when they would build their own family. She realized that their future together, if it existed at all in his dreams, was only a detail in Ben Zion’s magnanimous plans for the Jews. He continued on with his lecture, as if forgetting that she were still at his side. When she stopped to rest, he kept right on walking and talking. Finally, he seemed to recall. He stopped and looked around for the girl.

“Bat Sheva,” he called. “Bat Sheva?”

She was hiding behind a large boulder. When his calls became urgent, she stood up and stepped into view.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I wanted to see if you remembered that I was still with you.”

Ben Zion blushed. “Sometimes I get carried away,” he admitted. “Though my dreams may sound like wishful thinking, I can envision the future before my eyes as if it were already happening. If only Jews the world over would wake up and rally behind the Zionist banner.”

“You don’t have to apologize,” she said. “I know it means a lot to you.”

“To all of us,” he said, holding out his hand.

“We had better not,” she said. “We are close to the kibbutz, and I wouldn’t want Sonia to see.”

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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