Moishe and Hannie glared at him, hurt and betrayed.
“What about Goliath?” the little girl asked.
The big lumberjack stood by the door with tears in his eyes.
“Maybe I can stay on for a while,” he said. “Until the children are used to the change.”
“Maybe we can find you a place here in Rishon,” Nachman added. He turned to the children. “Would that make you happy?”
“No,” Moishe said. Sobbing, he stared at his grandfather. “You just want to be rid of us,” he accused. “Nobody wants us. Just like Abba and Ema left us, you are leaving us too. I wish I were dead like they are.”
Crying, he ran for the door but Goliath caught him by the shirt.
“Let me go,” Moishe screamed, taking a bite out of the giant’s big paw.
Goliath let go with a whelp and let the boy free. Hannie ran out of the house after her brother. Together, they took off toward the fields.
“Let them go,” Nachman said. “They’ll come back when they get tired.”
“They are little children. They could get lost,” Ruchel protested.
“They won’t go far,” Nachman assured.
“How do you know? Since when are you an expert on children? God forbid they wander into the swamps.”
“She’s right,” Tevye said.
“Maybe you should go back to Zichron Yaacov now,” Nachman suggested. “We’ll find them and bring them back to the house. If you have already left, it might be easier for the children to realize they don’t have a choice.”
“I can’t leave until I know that they are safe,” Tevye answered.
Outside the house, the adults split up in different directions. Shouting out the names of the children, Nachman hurried toward the swamps, a short distance from the settlement. The settlers had long ago drained the malaria-infested waters which had surrounded the colony, but there were still patches of swampland close by. Goliath ran toward the fields to search for them. Ruchel headed for the orchards, and Tevye was to look along the main road leading to Jaffa. Passing the barn and inhaling the aroma of horses and cows, he stopped and decided to take a quick look inside. If he were a runaway child, the first place he would hide was the barn. Sure enough, almost as soon as he entered, Hannie jumped up from behind a hay stack and started to flee. Tevye darted after her, but the sheep pen was dirty with sheep dung and Tevye slipped in the muck. Luckily, he landed just clear of the droppings, but by the time he sat up, the girl had already scampered out the barn door. Moishe tried to jump over his grandfather, but Tevye grabbed onto a leg. The boy hollered and scrambled away. Quickly, he climbed up a ladder to the hay loft. Tevye raced up the ladder after him, but the fiesty little vance squirmed away. Bravely, he leapt down onto the haystack below. Holding his pounding heart, Tevye climbed back down the ladder.
Outside the barn, he could see the children running toward the gate of the colony. Hurrying back to Ruchel’s house, he climbed into his wagon and urged his horse to take up the chase. The wagon clamored through the yishuv, drawing curious glances. Outside the gate, he caught up with the fleeing children.
“Wooo!” he called, halting his horse.
He jumped down from the wagon, and with a great sustained effort, he ran after Moishe and scooped him up under his right arm, then ran after Hannie and lifted her off of her feet with his left. With his heart beating like galloping horses, and his lungs screaming for breath, he hoisted them up into the wagon. Pinning them down under his legs, he turned his horse around and headed back toward the colony.
“You don’t love us,” Moishe accused.
“Of course I do,” he told them. “Even more than I love my wagon and horse.”
“You just say that, but you don’t mean it. Otherwise you wouldn’t give us away.”
“I’m doing what your mother wanted, may she rest in heavenly peace. You may not like it now, but one day you both will be glad that you grew up with Ruchel and Nachman.”
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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