Some fighter he was. Within seconds of having yelled out in complaint, his spine already felt broken and he hardly could walk.
Goliath was too heavy to be carried out to the cemetery, so his body was wheeled out in a cart. The work of preparing the double-sized grave took more than an hour. The diggers were exhausted by the time the funeral procession arrived. Once again, the somber, all too familiar El Maleh Rachamim prayer, echoed over the hills. Since the deceased had no relatives in Israel, Nachman recited the mourner’s Kaddish. When the ceremony was over, Nachman lingered at the grave. Tevye walked back to the colony, leaning on a cane to east the pain in his lower back. Yankele, the butcher, approached him with a stern look on his face.
“Do you still think we can hold down the fort?” he asked the bent-over milkman.
“Am I a prophet that you ask me such questions?” Tevye responded.
“With your cane, you do look a little like Moses.”
“I feel more like Methusalah,” Tevye said.
“Goliath did the work of five men together. How can we manage without him?”
Tevye didn’t know. Either his once indefatigable faith was running low, or he was simply exhausted. He spent the rest of the day on his back like a dead man. By late afternoon, thanks to God’s never-ending kindness, his vertebra had moved back into place, and he could stand up on his own without the help of his cane. A contingent of soldiers arrived from the Central Turkish Military Authority in Caesaria. They carried a letter signed by Jamal Pasha saying that all Morasha building permits were all in order, and that the settlers were allowed to construct permanent roofs. After reading the letter, Tevye threw it on the ground.
“If I ever see that devil Pasha again, as the Almighty is my witness, I will I kill him with these very hands,” he vowed.
“Abba,” Hava said, “Didn’t you teach us that it is forbidden to make a vow in God’s Name.”
“He caused the deaths of Goliath and Shmuelik, not to mention the others. Jamal Pasha is the murderer, not the plague.”
“The Pashas of the world have bossed us around long enough. This is our land, and I’m not taking anymore of their orders.”
Tevye stalked off to his house, but like a soldier in battle, he wasn’t given a long time to rest. In the middle of the night, Nachman came with the news that Moishe, Tzeitl’s little Moishe, had fallen ill. The boy had woken up, screaming from a nightmare. Tevye rushed to the house and felt the boy’s burning forehead. When the energetic tot said he felt too weak to stand, Tevye decided not to wait for sunrise to set off for Zichron Yaacov. He hitched up a wagon and lifted the sweating and listless child inside. Hava and Bat Sheva went with him. They sat in the back of the wagon, holding the boy in their laps.
When they reached the stream rushing down from the mountains, they had to make a detour. In the breaking dawn light, Tevye could make out a group of wagon tracks heading north along the path of the stream. Understanding that they were the tracks left in the mud by the wagons which had left the Morasha, Tevye decided to follow them. Sure enough, after a half-hour’s ride, they came to a natural crossing where the raging stream ran underground. Two hours later, they reached Zichron Yaacov. When they finally arrived at the infirmary, the boy’s body was still burning with fever. Tevye carried him inside in his arms. Hava rushed forward and spoke with a nurse.
“Where should I put him?” Tevye asked.
Quickly, Hava led him down the corridor and out a back door. In the field behind the hospital, a good distance away, a large tent had been erected. All of the sick Morasha settlers were quarantined inside. Guttmacher’s daughter had died, along with another one of Chaim Lev’s children.
Tevye carried Moishe into the tent and set him down on an empty cot. The sick people in the other beds all appeared gaunt, as if they were wasting away. Chaim Lev was curled into a ball, grasping his stomach.