“Tata,” Tzeitl said. “You asked for a sign from the Almighty. Isn’t Hodel’s letter enough, or do you want a burning bush too?”
The girl had a point. Tevye took another drink and wiped his mouth with his hand. If Golda were present, she would have pointed toward Zion. To see her Hodel again, she would have given the world. But had Tevye forgotten? Golda was with them, in the coffin in the back of the wagon. Could he give his wife a more precious gift than to bury her in the Holy Land? And if it demanded strenuous labor to rebuild their ancient land, when was Tevye ever afraid of hard work? With the help of God, he had some productive years left, and when his time came to retire, he would sit in the shade of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and spend his days learning the holy books. Hodel had written that there were religious Jews in the land. The Rabbi, may he live a long, healthy life, must have had the wrong information. And if the Baron Rothschild were financing the Zionist endeavor, no doubt Tevye could move his family into one of the villas that the billionaire surely had built for the new pioneers.
Tevye held up the bottle. “To the Land of Israel!” he proclaimed. His daughters and grandchildren cheered. The mailman, Borsky, smiled. Even Tevye’s horse felt the excitement when it heard about their new destination. It didn’t have to wait for Tevye’s command. With an enthusiasm it hadn’t shown for years, the beast swung the wagon around in a half circle and galloped off after the parade of pioneers.
“My Nachson!” Tevye called to the steed as the wagon thundered toward Zion. “As the Lord led the Jews through the wilderness, may He lead Tevye and his children to Israel!”
Up ahead, the poet Hevedke Galagan stood in the path of the gallopping horse and wagon. He stared at Tevye, and Tevye stared back at him. Fired by the vodka and joy of his decision, the thought flashed across Tevye’s mind, “What a good chance to teach him a lesson!” What a fitting last memory of Russia on their way to the Holy Land – to trample the devil himself under the wheels of the wagon!
“Yaahaaa!” Tevye shouted, whipping the reins of the horse. Hava cried out. The blond-headed Hevedke stood frozen, as if his long legs were stuck in his boots. “Yaahaaa!” Tevye yelled.
“Father!” Hava screamed.
Tevye’s eyes were aflame with revenge. At the very last minute, the youth showed enough sense to leap out of the way of destruction. The wagon sped by. Tzeitl clutched onto her children. Golda’s coffin bounced in the air as if it were bursting with life.
“Am Yisrael Chai!” Tevye shouted at the sight of Hevedke sprawled in the dust. “The nation of Israel lives on!”