Everyone spoke out at once with suggestions of what should be done to insure the success of the visit, and of course, quite a few of the settlers took the opportunity to yell out complaints.
“Why are building materials only coming now to put on a show for the Baron, when we have been living like animals for months?!” Shilo, the carpenter, shouted.
“He’s right,” Munsho, the blacksmith, called out. “And while you are handing out presents, you can add a new anvil to the list!”
Shmuelik raised his hand politely. He had requested books for the synagogue’s library, but his letters had never been answered.
“How are we going to cook all of the food?” the storekeeper’s wife wanted to know. “We hardly have any pots?”
“If pots and pans didn’t arrive today, they will be arriving tomorrow, along with silverware, glasses, plates, tablecloths, and cloth napkins,” LeClerc responded.
“What is a tablecloth?” Hillel cynically asked.
The settlers laughed.
“What is a table?” the tailor, Lazer, added.
The laughter increased. Lazer wasn’t exaggerating. Their spartan lifestyle was so impoverished that many of life’s necessities were missing.
“You know what a table is,” Reb Sharagi joked. “A plank with four legs.”
“Like my cows,” Tevye said.
Everyone enjoyed the good humor. Except the tight-lipped, straight-faced Company manager. The gentile LeClerc shouted for order. Time was being wasted. They could joke after preparations had been completed. He was in charge of the visit, and if it were to be a success, people would have to listen to his orders and set to work on their tasks.
“Your futures are at stake,” he reminded them in a rebuking tone, as if he were scolding children.
“He means his future,” Hillel whispered to his neighbors.
“And it is my job and responsibiity to see that the honorabIe Baron de Rothschild is welcomed in the fashion which he deserves.”
Tevye stood up. “He’s right. This is a serious matter, and we don’t have much time. I volunteer to welcome our guests on behalf of the colony and to deliver a welcoming speech.”
“There won’t be time for speeches,” LeClerc answered. “In addition to Dr. Weizmann, the Baron will be traveling with a team of land surveyors, investors, and agronomists. He is coming here on a work mission, not a political campaign.”
“Surely at lunch, there will be time for some welcoming words,” Tevye said.
“The Baron and his entourage will eat in a special tent which will be arriving tomorrow. You will all be expected to continue on with your tasks after their initial tour of the colony. We want to show them that the pioneers of Morasha have come here to develop the land, not to picnic and drink wine in the middle of the day.”
Once again, a commotion broke out. Tevye helped LeClerc quiet the crowd. He was sure that he would find an opportunity to exchange a few words with the Benefactor and the Zionist leader. Now, the important thing was to get ready for the imminent visit.
“Our prayers have been answered,” Tevye told his wife later that evening. “Our salvation is on the way.”
Everyone shared his excitement. Everyone felt that the Redemption was near. Tevye, like many of the settlers, was so filled with joy, he was unable to sleep. Joining a few of the fellows in the barn, there was drinking and dancing late into the night. In the morning, LeClerc did not have to command the Morasha settlers to work. With a burst of great industry, everyone set to the task of making their small village spotless. The barns were all cleaned. The horses were bathed and brushed till they shone. Stacks of hay were neatly piled. Logs were arranged in precise columns. Yards were tidied and houses were scrubbed. When the supply wagon arrived from Zichron Yaacov, Goliath and Shilo unloaded the lumber and set to work making a distinguished-looking gateway at the entrance to the yishuv. Others set to work painting fences, while others erected the sprawling tent where the great banquet would be held. Four dozen new rose bushes were planted in the Morasha gardens. In preparation for the visit, women washed their Sabbath dresses and hung them in the sun to dry. In the evening, the men tried on the new white shirts and khaki slacks which had arrived with the supply wagon. In the evening, Tevye started to compose a welcoming speech. No one had appointed him to make an address, but he reasoned that it would make a greater historic impression if a Jewish representative of the settlement welcolmed the guests, and not the gentile manager.
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. 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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