Zeev nodded at Ruppin’s speech, believing every word. In different circumstances, he would have said the same thing himself. As a rule, personal matters shouldn’t interfere with the needs of the collective. But how could he leave Moriah?
Quickly, he rushed to meet Yigal, who was working on the construction of a silo. Pulling him aside, he told him that the union had appointed him to be the leader of a new group setting off for a kibbutz in the south. He wanted Yigal to join him. He said that they shared the same goals, and that they were brothers at heart. More than that, Zeev confessed that he was in love with Moriah, and that he wanted to make her his wife as soon as he could. He knew that their father wouldn’t let her marry an unreligious man like himself, so he had kept his love secret. Now, before he left for the Negev, Zeev wanted Yigal to tell his sister how much he loved her. If she had the courage to follow him to Midbara, they would be married there. But he warned him – if their father learned of their plans, he would surely interfere. So if Moriah wanted Zeev for a husband, she would have to sneak away on her own.
Dutiful friend that he was, Yigal told his sister everything Zeev had said. Blushing, the innocent girl was too stunned to react. Mingled with the excitement she felt was a fear of her father. A fear of what he would say. A fear of what he would do. A fear of hurting her parents. A fear of the passions swirling within her. And a fear to strike out on her own.
Yigal told her that he was going to Midbara with Zeev. He would be there if she came. She wouldn’t be alone without family, he assured her.
“You don’t have to decide right away.”
“Why?” she asked. “Why are you going?”
Yigal reflected before he answered the question.
“I want to be on my own,” he responded. “I want to be free. I want to decide for myself how I want to live my life, without having the past decide for me.”
His words struck a chord in her heart.
“In Yemen, all of the Jews were religious,” he said. “I never knew there was any other way to be. But here, in Eretz Yisrael, there are Jews who don’t follow the Torah. Zeev says that there are millions of them all over the world. Maybe their way is right. Look at our family. We never even learned how to read a book or write. Just because father says that Joshua blew a shofar and the walls of Jericho fell down, that doesn’t mean that it’s true. I have to find out for myself.”
If Moriah had been uncertain, her brother’s eloquence cast out the doubt from her heart. Her eyes were shining.
“Tell him I’ll join him,” she said.
“I’ll come back for you in thirty days. We’ll meet at dawn at the southern entrance to the colony. If I am not there, I will come the same time the next day. Take along whatever you need, but don’t tell anyone. We’ll send word to father after you’ve left.”
Yigal said good-bye to his sister and hurried off to look for his father. He found him outside the packing house, lifting sacks of produce into his wagon. Yigal helped throw a few heavy sacks of potatoes onto the load, then turned to break the news to his father.
“I have something to tell you, Abba.”
Elisha looked at him with a kind, loving smile.
I have decided to leave the yishuv.”
His father’s expression didn’t change. He stared at his son with a smile, absorbing the words.
“A new group of workers is going off to join a kibbutz in the south, and I want to go with them. I want some time to be on my own.”
His father nodded. “Are you going alone?”
“No. I’ll be going with Zeev.”
“With Zeev,” his father repeated. His wise eyes narrowed in understanding. “What kind of kibbutz is it?”
“A worker’s kibbutz.”
“What kind of workers?”