One day when Elisha had driven the wagon off to Jaffa, Zeev suggested to Yigal that they take Moriah along on a picnic. Yigal wasn’t surprised in the least. He sensed that his friend harbored secret feelings for his sister. Why not, he thought? What harm could come of it? It would be good for his sister to get out of the house.
They walked through the undulating sand dunes toward the beach. As usual, Zeev did most of the talking. He had become Yigal’s tutor, teaching him about literature, world history, and modern political thought. For Yigal, his friendship with Zeev opened exciting new worlds. Growing up in a tiny village in backward Yemen, he had received no formal education at all. He could recite the whole Torah by heart, but he had never learned how to read, and he had absolutely no knowledge about secular subjects. So he was happy that he had found a friend like Zeev who could lead him out of his intellectual darkness. Moriah also found it fascinating to listen to Zeev’s descriptions of novels and plays. When they arrived at the beach, Moriah sat in the shade of a palm tree, her head turned modestly away as the two youths stripped to their undergarments and sprinted into the water. Moriah was startled at her brother’s behavior. Going for a swim was perfectly natural, but undressing in her presence with another man, that was unheard of. She felt like heading home on her own, but she feared that she would get lost, or encounter Bedouins on the way. She didn’t want to spoil their fun. They wrestled in the water, and threw one another under the waves, without ever seeming to tire. When they finished, they raced along the beached, then circled back, and began wrestling again in the sand. Modestly, Moriah kept her gaze focused in another direction, but she had glimpsed enough of Zeev’s arms and legs to be filled with conflicting emotions.
Finally, the friends slipped on their trousers, and they all sat down for a picnic. Though Zeev didn’t speak with her directly, she felt that all of his speeches were meant for her ears. Occasionally, he would throw an endearing smile her way, and a few times he asked her opinion, but she was too tongue-tied to answer and could only say that she didn’t know.
By evening time, when they returned to the colony, Zeev was madly in love. As far as he was concerned, the girl didn’t have to talk. She didn’t have to be intelligent and witty. She was beautiful the way she was. She had an innocence and naturalness he felt he had to possess for his own. There were girls from Russia whom had joined their journey to Palestine, but Moriah outshone them all. She was the dream of Zion itself, magical, golden, and Biblically pure. With the same passion he had to conquer the land, he longed to conquer the girl.
The opportunity presented itself in a roundabout way. Two months after the workers arrived in Olat HaShachar, Dr. Ruppin, the union’s founder, returned to inspect operations. After talking to his workers and hearing their complaints, he took Zeev aside. A new group was heading off to join the work force in Midbara, a non-religious kibbutz on the edge of the Negev, not far from the port city of Gaza. Ruppin wanted Zeev to go along as group leader.
“Leave Olat HaShachar?” he asked.
“That’s right,” Ruppin said.
“But I’m happy here.”
“That’s good. A worker should be happy. But you can just as easily be happy somewhere else.”
“But our work is only just beginning.”
“I’ll appoint someone to replace you. Things seem to be well organized here. Moral is high amongst the workers, and the settlers are satisfied with worker productivity. You’ve done a commendable job. That’s why we need you down south.”
“Can I have an hour to think about it?” Zeev asked.
“I suppose an hour won’t hurt. But, remember, you are a soldier of the union. What matters is the general good. If we want to build a worker state in this country, we have to be willing to make personal sacrifices.”
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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