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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Nine: Winds of War

The next chapter of the award-winning novel.
Cover of Tevye in the Promised Land by Tzvi Fishman.

“I apologize that I could not meet with you in person,” the letter began, “to ask your daughter’s hand in marriage, but I felt that you would not give us your blessing, and that you would try to interfere, so we decided to be married on our own. We love one another and are doing what will make us the happiest. I respect you, your family, and your daughter with the utmost regard, and I assure you that I shall do everything in my power to be a good husband, to provide for Moriah, and to put her happiness above that of my own. We will be living in a kibbutz called Midbara, five kilometers northeast of Gaza. While the kibbutz is not religious, Moriah is welcome to keep whatever customs she likes. We hope that you will visit us soon. Yigal sends you his greetings and his love, and he asks me to assure you that he is happy with his work, with his new friends on the kibbutz, and with the workers’ union. May our dreams for our own Jewish statehood be quickly realized, and may the winds of war sweeping through Europe bring an end to the rule of the Turks in our land.”

The letter came as a shock to Elisha. He collapsed down in a chair in Tevye’s house. His daughter, Carmel, hurried to warm up some soothing herb tea.

“At least she wasn’t kidnapped,” Tevye said, trying to cheer his friend’s spirits.

“Wasn’t she?” he asked.

“I mean by an Arab or Turk, God forbid.”

“Yes,” Elisha answered softly. “I suppose there is some consolation in that.”

“Gaza is not so far away. The journey, I think, can be made in two days.”

“Have you been there?” Elisha asked.

“No. But I’ve heard the workers talk about it.”

“What’s down there?”

“Desert. Date trees. A few Bedouin tribes. A small city of Turkish soldiers, Arabs, and Jews, and a port that doesn’t seem to be used. There’s an old synagogue there, some say from the time that King David conquered the region. I think the railroad which goes from Jaffa to Cairo stops there.”

“Why didn’t she tell me?” Elisha asked with a mixture of wonder and hurt.

No one could offer an answer. Instead, Carmel set a cup of hot nanna mint tea before him.

“I am beginning to be sorry that I ever stepped foot in this land,” the Yemenite said.

“Oh, Abba, don’t say that,” Carmel protested.

“Everyone has his tests,” Tevye added. “You once said so yourself.”

Elisha looked up at his friend. He remembered the death of Tevye’s daughter, Bat Sheva. He remembered walking with Tevye to the synagogue and telling him that he had to be strong. He remembered repeating the very same words to eldest son, Ariel, who had married Bat Sheva just a short time before. Yes, he decided. He too had to be strong. He still had eight children at home to look after, thank God. And, in the merit of their forefathers, Yigal and Moriah might still find their way back to the fold.

“What did he write about war?” Elisha asked to take his mind off the subject.

“He said there were winds of war sweeping Europe.”

“What does that mean?” the Yemenite asked.

Tevye gazed back down at the letter. “I’m not really sure. Maybe the conflict is spreading. Let’s hope that the Germans attack Russia and wipe out the Czar and his soldiers, may they be cursed to a thousand lifetimes in hell.”

“What did he say about Palestine?”

“He seems to think that Turkish rule over Palestine may be overthrown too.”

“By who?”

“I don’t know. He doesn’t say.”

Elisha said he would try to find out on his next trip to Jaffa. Once again, Tevye had comforted him in his gloom. But Elisha’s personal hardship was only a warning that was destined to spread. The very next Sabbath, the peaceful Friday night meal of the settlers was interrupted by loud raucous music. Everyone rushed out of their houses. Music on Shabbos? It was absolutely forbidden. Nonetheless, the merry strains of an accordion and fiddle shattered the serenity of the sacred Sabbath night.

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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