Israel

Israel by Fred Lawrence Feldman

Book: Israel by Fred Lawrence Feldman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Fred Lawrence Feldman
even a Christian peasant from the neighboring village.
    It has to do with leaving home, Haim thought as the coach rattled through the night past lonely Arab villages hunched between the desolate hills. Now that I am among strangers, I feel free to behave like a different person.
    But there was more to the day’s actions than the sense of liberty felt by a stranger in a strange land. I behaved the way I did not because I am far from home, but because I have come home, he realized.
    Haim still could not explain the intensity of the rage he’d felt upon seeing Rosie struck. Anger at injustice he had felt before, but never so deeply that he was compelled to unthinking action.
    Why had he done it, then? The question had great importance to Haim, for he had grown up in docile acceptance of horrific violence. Attacks against his people were a part of life.
    He had never been able to remember the events that led up to his being orphaned. It was as if his life began the day he appeared upon Abe’s doorstep. Everything before that, including memories of his family, seemed a hazy hallucination. Haim was never sure how much of it had actually happened and how much he was making up.
    Late at night during that strange interim between consciousness and sleep Haim saw images of a tall, balding man who wore tools on his belt. There came to him the sharp smell of sawdust and the smooth feel of planed wood. During half-sleep, while his head lolled on thepillow, Haim remembered being small enough to fit into a tin washtub with two other faceless children. A dark-haired woman with a mole on her chin was scrubbing his ears. Soap burned his eyes. The woman held him aloft and the tepid water dripped from his bare toes.
    That was all—no memories at all of what had happened to those nameless people. And how could one try to remember something? His lack of a past had long ago ceased to be anything more than a vague bother to Haim. God had taken away, but God had also given. If Haim had lost his family, he had had Abe.
    Now what concerned Haim far more than his past was the way he was reacting to the present. He had always imagined the day when he would use his physical strength to stand up for his rights. Now, within hours of arriving in Eretz Yisroel, the moment had come.
    But I stood up for another, not myself. I risked my life for Rosie . . . and Rosie belongs to me. How Abe would laugh at me, Haim thought. I am not one day in Palestine and already I have chosen a wife.
    Did she know? Haim decided she must. Such things were not hard to understand for people like himself and Rosie.
    He remembered the way she looked at him, the way she blushed and the words she said. Yes, she had been waiting for him for just as long as he had been on his way to her.
    Still, like anything prized, she would have to be earned. That was all right. Haim was not afraid of a fight. As surely as Palestine would belong to the Jewish people, Rosie Glaser would be his. Now that the decision was made, Haim could relax. His eyelids grew heavy as the movements of the coach lulled him to sleep.

Chapter 6
    Shouts and whipcracks brought him awake a little after sunrise. Haim looked out the window, craning his neck to see where they were headed.
    The sun was just perched above the golden domes and slender spires of the hilltop city of Jerusalem, still quiet at this early hour. The horses’ hooves echoed off the yellowing stone walls as the coach passed through Jaffa Gate. Haim caught a glimpse of a sleepy Turkish sentry waving them through. The soldier could not know him, of course, but Haim found himself instinctively sinking back into the shadowy interior of the coach.
    There was a tall rectangular clock tower, very new and very Turkish with its ring moldings and cupola, perched anachronistically upon the crumbling guardhouse. Haim scowled at it, shaking his head. The clock tower might just as well have been a line of washing hung out to dry, such was its

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