“We’ll break the bosses of Olat HaShachar,” they sang, “And then we will break the bosses of the Baron.”
In defiance, they tied the red flag of the union on the roof of the barracks. When the settlers went off to work in the morning, the workers barricaded themselves in their fort. Battle lines were drawn, and neither side would budge. In response to the strike, the settler’s stopped supplying the workers with food. The winds of war which were spreading all over the world had reached Olat HaShachar too.
All through the week, the workers continued their strike. They emerged from the barracks only to fetch pails of fresh water and to take care of their needs. The evening before the Sabbath, a relief wagon arrived from the union, smuggling in food. Ruppin demanded that the settlers retract their demands, but the settlement committee refused. Another week passed in protest. Elisha and Tevye demanded that the workers be thrown out of the colony, but Shimon refused. They were in the Land of Israel, not Russia. How could Jews in the Jewish homeland throw other Jews out of their homes?
“You call these rebels Jews?!” the usually soft-spoken Sharagi shouted. “They’re heretics, not Jews!”
It was Nachman who quieted his outburst.
“They may not believe everything we do,” he said, “but they are Jews all the same. And it is our duty to love them. Not through condemnation will we win them over to Torah, but by patiently bringing them near.”
As always with the Jews, the settlers of Olat HaShachar woke up too late to the disaster which was brewing in their midst. Even the self-controlled Ariel was drawn into the blaze of fraternal strife. Discovering one of the workers drawing water from the well, he proceeded to give him a thrashing. Perhaps he was venting his father’s frustrations over the fate of Moriah and Yigal. Perhaps when he was hitting the worker, he was really hitting Zeev. Whatever the reason, the senseless hatred between brothers, which had destroyed the foundations of the ancient Jerusalem Temple, was about to bring a curse down on Olat HaShachar too.
Tevye was out in the fields when he saw it. At first, he couldn’t believe his eyes. When he looked up from his harvesting, it seemed like a cloud. A great black cloud spanning the horizon as far as the eye could see. A strange and ominous cloud filled with movement and life. Tevye wiped the sweat from his eyes, and with a shake of his head, he stared once again at the vision.
“No, it can’t be,” he said to himself as the frightening darkness surged forward.
Like a punishment out of Heaven, the cloud spread over the colony, turning daytime to night.
“No, no, it can’t be,” Tevye whispered.
But it was.
Not a cloud. But locusts! Swarms and swarms and swarms of locusts!