BOOK 1 Chapter 1
“Good night, Dave, and good luck in court tomorrow."
words hung in the
air like a dark cloud. Slowly Dave looked up from the
casebook on his lap at his boss who stood in the office doorway. The two stared at each other but neither
spoke, and in the tense silence Dave couldn’t help but wonder whether Ron's words were sincere, or whether he'd return
from court only to find himself unemployed, his belongings packed in a cardboard box at the
"Thanks, Ron," he replied,
the false smile frozen on his face. Ordinarily,
he might have added that luck was merely a function of preparation - and God knew he was prepared - but this was no ordinary
situation. "I need luck," Dave murmured.
Dave looked down at his Armani shoes and the two were silent again.
Do I deserve
to be fired? Dave wondered. True, he'd broken a promise by allowing his billable
hours to drop from the very first day he’d volunteered for the case, and continue to plummet the more obsessed
he’d become with it, but never had he imagined that the client would so dominate
his thoughts and test his every belief. Law-firm economics aside, it seemed unfair
that his years of work could be jeopardized because he’d followed his conscience.
Had he made a mistake? No! No! No!, he repeated to
himself. To quell the turmoil raging
in his mind, he drew on the only image that for months had quelled his troubling
thoughts: Ragiv sitting on the mat
in the mud hut in India
fighting for Untouchables. Ragiv would have been proud of him. Momentarily optimistic, Dave envisioned himself victorious, receiving a handsome award in attorney's fees
from the judge, and returning to the
firm a hero, having won against all odds. Moreover, by enforcing his client's
social contract, he'd extinguish his own lingering doubts forever. Forever!
"It's late and I'm leaving," Ron said. "Go home. I am sure you'll do fine." Dave nodded
solemnly, muttered goodbye, and when alone began cursing himself for not having thanked Ron for his support in case he lost.
The mere possibility of losing, as improbable as
it was, made Dave shudder. He considered the
severe implications of defeat not only for his client and for concepts which he believed much greater than she, but for himself
as well. A decision would be inevitable.
Although valiantly acknowledging only one alternative - to persevere and fight on - deep down, Dave knew that his mind
would devise ways to rationalize the choice he now refused to consider. Repulsed by the mere thought of such inner weakness, he reached
for the secret evidence he'd uncovered and vowed that Mr. Lancaster would fry.
document provided only seconds’ worth of reassurance as the objective black
and white facts on the paper paled in comparison to the
gray subjective reality which lay ahead. Having suffered through many soul-wrenching
transformations, Dave feared that a loss tomorrow might trigger the most devastating
one yet, proving to him the falsity of the
most fundamental axiom in which he had always believed - and had to believe - that an individual could make a difference,
and thus that his life had meaning.
The fact that his client was a woman only added to
Dave worked on until late that night - reading and
rereading his questions, and trying to predict Mr. Lancaster's possible responses. At
length, feeling exhausted but confident, he packed his file and locked the office. He collapsed onto the leather seat of his Saab convertible which parked at the
far end of the secured parking lot. To
drown out his thoughts, he turned the compact disc player up, and drove home, through
west Los Angeles toward the
Once inside his condo, he activated his answering
machine and walked over to the fridge.
"Dave, this is Jerry.
I’m crossing my fingers for you. I need the
money too. Just kidding. Let me
know how it goes, bye."
remains of yesterday's take-out Caesar salad, he spotted a sole crouton inside and signed nostalgically. Although these days he ordered the
low-fat version as part of a losing battle against weight, he remembered the first
time he’d tried the salad. In
so many ways, his life had begun that evening in Jerusalem,
and ever since seemed to be a fulfillment of Doctor Rosenberg's prophetic words: “a
search for personal meaning”. Yet, what meaning had he discovered? Would
any meaning remain after tomorrow?
He turned on
the hot water tap in the bathroom and
let it run. After hanging up his suit, he took a long shower, climbed into bed,
set the digital alarm clock to the classical
music station, and at once fell asleep.
David silenced the
deafening alarm and sat up in the dark, excited and alert. Tuesday, how he waited for Tuesday, the one weekday when the grade-eleven students got to remain on the kibbutz
to work, rather than attend the regional
high school and waste countless hours supposedly learning. Inhaling robustly,
David distinguished the scents of cow-dung, chicken-manure and dew, aromas he believed
superior to those stupid perfumes which his mother and sister saw advertised in
the newspapers, but which neither he
nor them had ever actually smelled.
David switched on the
lamp and gazed at the photograph of himself standing on the
rugged terrain among the avocado saplings which hung beside the
dusty study desk. What a glorious summer vacation it has been, waking up long
before the other crew members to work
a few hours in the darkness before the
sun converted the valley into an inferno almost too hot for even him to bear. Crawling on hands and knees over stones and thorns, he spend days struggling to yank
rocks from the virgin soil to prepare the
land. Fingers cut, Blood dripping from his hands, David refused to wear gloves,
and despite the scorching sun, he won’t stop – except perhaps to reach
for the cooler and sip lukewarm water.
Then, trailing behind the
tractor and wagon, he’d load the rocks he’d gathered. One by one. Ton by ton. He’d begin the day dashing from pile to pile, and end
it stumbling about like a cripple, collapsing into bed in his filthy clothes, only
to wake up the following morning and start again.
Content. Hoe in hand, David would then
attack the earth like the paratrooper
he dreamed he’d be, wincing as his blistered hands tightened just as the
blade struck the ground. After burying
the irrigation pipes and digging hundreds of holes, one for each tree, he pounded
the support stakes into the ground;
but often, he’d hit the stakes on the
edge and the sledge hammer would come
down and catch him on the ankle.
But he never stopped, for when he opened the pipelines and watched the water drip, drip, drip
into the earth and breathe life into
the young saplings, words could express the
feeling of godliness which possessed him knowing he’d created life, life which would outlast him, maybe even last forever. David loved the land and tedious Zionism
lessons only kept him from it. He was a part of the
land, and the land was a part of him. He
could never live without it, and swore he never would.
"Tick-tock, tick- tock, tick-tock." The wind-up clock on the stool was considered inferior to the digital clocks which were becoming more numerous among the
students despite David's campaign to ban the damn things. People didn’t understand that the old clunkers were not
merely timekeepers, but a covenant to live according to the two values that he
deemed absolute: equality and self-sacrifice. True, some considered the matter trivial, others thought it juvenile. Not David, who cherished arguing his values with the
young and old alike, passionate arguments which often ended in harsh accusations and made him several enemies.
For David, there
was right and there was wrong. Standard
items like his clock, provided free by the kibbutz, were the
only legitimate property, while luxury items served an admission of access to forbidden private funds. It was a case of black and white. No compromise. Today the wealthier members would allow themselves
digital clocks, tomorrow they’d get video recorders. Where would it end? Private automobiles?
Of course, the
new clocks were quieter. Some nights David
lay awake unable to fall asleep, the ticking pounding inside his skull like
Chinese torture, but he had no choice. Living in a small community where privacy
did not exist, gossip was the currency which everyone held in abundance. The most minute deviation would spell instant ruin to David’s hard-earned reputation, and as high
school assembly chairman and leader of the ideology squad, he could demand from
others only that which he demanded from himself.
across the room at Michael who lay fast asleep on the
army-green mattress. A glow from the standard heater reflected off his roommate’s
sheets. David's eye twitched, as what
he saw outraged, but didn’t surprise him. Two coils were working.
"Wake up!" David barked.
Michael didn’t budge.
"Get up you lazy bum."
"What time is it?"
"Five after five, and I’m not leaving until
you're out of bed."
A hand with
a rainbow colored bracelet around the wrist emerged from under the covers and reached for the digital clock. "Are you crazy? I start milking at six. Let me sleep."
“I know when the
morning milking begins,” snapped David, “but that’s not the point. You're always late. Go to bed earlier."
Michael propped himself up on an elbow, his ponytail
dangled down on a shoulder. "D...d ...drop dead, " he said shivering. "No one cares if I begin a few minutes late."
"Where were you last night?" David asked, then quickly added: "At the
Volunteers – youth people from around the world – visited kibbutz to experience its unique lifestyle. In exchange for work they received free room and board, plus
all the condoms and beer they required. Although in David’s mind they did
not contribute according to their ability, their
needs were remarkable. Their club was a decrepit shack, and Kibbutz men, regardless
of marital status, buzzed around it like bees to honey, especially when a fresh shipment of Swedes arrived. If relatively few divorcees took their first steps on the dance floor, it wasn’t for lack of cause, but for lack of better alternative.
Of course, David had never set foot inside it and
vowed he never would, so fierce was his hatred of the volunteers. However, a week after the great scandal, he and his best friend
Ben had come close. Persuading Ben to take revenge, the
two of them hid in the bushes meters
from the shack; they were armed with
matches and gasoline.
"Burn it," David had urged, "the
prostitute deserves it. "
An English volunteer had infected Ben’s father and several other men with a disease causing them to walk about months scratching their crotch. Although usually obedient, Ben chickened out, but David, refusing to accept defeat,
passed a resolution banning students from entering the club until age 18. Action had to be taken. The volunteers
were affecting him as well: often, when he lay in bed, fantasies of pretty blondes filled his mind. It had to be stopped.
"Where were you?"
smiled. "You would like to know,
David shuddered, fearing that his worst nightmare
had come true. He turned toward Michael, placing his feet on the floor, next to, but not on to the straw mat – a matter of principle. His legs
trembled from the cold. “Why
did you leave both coils on?"
"Because it's cold. Besides, this isn’t the army and you’re not my commanding officer, so why must I account to you?”
"The high school assembly passed my one coil proposal,
“Who cares about your dumb resolutions?” Michael replied. “The only reason
you were elected chairman is because everyone else considered the position a headache.”
“I was elected me because of my ideals; the fact is I’ve convened twice as many meetings as ever before and attendance has never
“That’s because everyone’s afraid
you’re going to ban breathing.”
“But why did you leave two coils on? The frost has damaged the avocado crop and everybody’s tightening their belts and sacrificing for
the common good. But you don't care,
do you? You don't give a damn about anyone but yourself."
"I do care,” Michael said, his golden earring
shining, “only not for the meaningless resolutions you pass. Vote on records for the disco like they
used to, and I might even come to one. One coil policy , ha! What a joke; even the members wouldn’t propose such a
the point. The adults are weak and
contaminated by comfort. It's the
students who must lead the revolution." Though
lecturing to a blanket, he carried on, reminding Michael of last year’s harvest when David’s idol, Sasha, had
posted a plea on the bulletin-board begging members to sacrifice their one day weekend to help salvage the avocado crop
before it turned black on the branches, rotted, and fell to the
ground to be devoured by rodents. Beside David and his comrades, only two people
Michael rolled over. "Not everybody goes
to bed at 10:00 p.m. on Friday nights, “ he murmured. “Now shut up
and let me sleep."
David replied that except for the
sing-a-longs which he, his parents, and his friends attended religiously, he saw no point in staying up late on weekends.
Michael's self destruction had begun in grade 9 with the
girlish hair band, but when he shaved off his hair leaving only a braid, and started buying cigarettes in the grocery, David took action and got permission from Joel, the
high school coordinator, to room with Michael. A year later, however, Michael
seemed like a lost soul, a fact which occasionally saddened David, as the two,
along with the other ten in their grade, had been like siblings since being separated from their
parents and transferred to the communal quarters at birth.
Rising from his bed, David
tiptoed to the door and unplugged the
The hallway was freezing. Scampering past Ben and Gabi's room into the
common bathroom, his windpipes contracted and he could barely breath. The bathroom
was no bigger than a broom closet and had mildew on the walls and cobwebs in the window. He cautiously opened the
cold-water knob and jumped under the modest drizzle. "Aaaahhhh!".
Without checking the I.D. labels, he dried
himself using the nearest of the four
towels on the rack, then peered into
the blemished mirror. His soldier-short
hair required no attention, nor could it receive any as he didn't own a comb. His
upper torso was firm, not muscular, but his thighs were like steel, on account of the
rigorous pre-army training he and Ben had commenced two years ago. His hands
were no longer rough and blistered like they had been last summer, but pale and
soft like an urbanite’s. "I hate school!" he hissed.
On the floor outside his room, David noticed a cotton-seed which hadn’t been there last night and knew it meant only one thing: Michael had been smooching with someone in the cotton-seed pile. With who? His eye twitched as he envisioned Michael and Tammy desecrating the
place he himself dreamed of taking her, even though he lacked the courage to sit
beside her at the Thursday night movies.
David stormed into the room and unplugged the
heater again. "Goddamnit, get up!"
Michael sat up abruptly. "Plug it back
"Don’t tempt me or I swear I'll dump a bucket of manure in your bed again," said
Michael, a threat he’d carried out last year after David hid and refused to return his records. "Freeze your balls off preparing for the army," Michael added. "Just leave me alone."
David opened the left door of the dresser and shuffled through his wardrobe: work underwear, short work pants, short sleeved
work shirts, and gray wool socks. A pair of jeans and a set of long work clothes hung on a hanger, but were seldom worn. "What’s wrong with getting ready for the military? Are you too scared to enlist in a combat
"Spare me your machoism,
okay? I'll be a fighter and even pop an Arab if I have to, but I want to enjoy life while I can. You can hide behind your stupid values all you want; we both know you need them
to conceal your insecurities."
David. "What are you talking about? Everyone knows that my values are important
and hold this place together."
"Yeah, right,” Michael snickered. “Run yourself
into the ground for all I care,” he smirked: “I get my exercise in
David's eye twitched, and he quickly he stepped outside into the
The chirp of crickets pulsated through the
air, hyenas howled in the foothills, and chickens and cows were heard in the distance. There was a shriek of squabbling cats
and a garbage can crashed to the ground.
The magical sounds and smells of nature enveloped him and within moments he was calm.
The boots he put on were coated with mud. Besides
them, he owned a pair of runners and sandals, but usually walked about barefoot;
the skin on the soles of his feet was
so thick he could extinguish cigarettes on his heel.
Headlights pierce the darkness. The night watchman was making his final rounds and David sprinted up the hill, past the club house, and stopped next to the passenger window. Avi, the
gardener, sat inside smoking a cigarette. Over the
years, Avi had transformed the kibbutz from a barren hillside to a Garden of Eden. From almond trees along the main road,
to the 'Fruits of the Bible' garden
adjacent to the swimming pool, there
wasn't a corner he hadn't touched.
"Why are you up so early?” Avi asked. “Don't you start work at six?"
reached for the Uzi submachine gun inside and instinctively began dismantling it. “The wagon is always a mess and unless I arrange it, no one will.”
"Who’s Michael seeing these
"I spotted him near the
cotton pile a few hours ago, but before I could see whom he was with, the two of
them jumped into the bushes."
David dropped the
gun barrel. "Was she a volunteer?"
"I don't think so.
She wore work clothes."
Under his breath,
David cursed Michael. Surely fate wouldn't be so cruel to make the one girl he secretly adored fall for a hypocrite who lured his victims by quoting lines from
"The Little Prince,” a stupid children’s story. David tightened his
grip on the Uzi as the image of Tammy
in a bikini sprawling on the grass by the
pool returned to haunt him as is had all last summer. As he pounded stakes into
the ground, lewd thoughts had possessed his mind, and he’d been unable to
stop desiring her for a single instant. Afraid Avi was able to read his thoughts,
he quickly assembled the gun and dashed toward the
Across from the
elementary school quarters lay a deflated basketball. Now, he could pick
it up and dunk it in the miniature basket by merely extending an arm, but for years,
pretending to be like those Negro giants he'd seen on T.V., he’d charge the
rim, failing time and again. Today, however, David didn’t feel like dunking
it, but rather kicked the ball into
He reached the
parking lot and went over to the avocado crew's tractor and wagon. The first rays
of morning light pierced the clouds over the
plateau to the east, beyond which Jerusalem
lay. The valley at the base of the kibbutz was dark, but the foothills were distinguishable
as the sky was a shade lighter. David
took in the peace and quiet, wondering why people so irritated him while nature
gave him such happiness. If this is what awaited him in life, he thought, why
not grab a sleeping bag and some vegetable seeds, move to the hills and become
a hermit? Who needed idiots like Michael?
a flashlight from the tool-box, then
checked the tractor for liquids, a daily inspection most kibbutz members didn’t
perform, despite that last year alone, a tractor and new car had been destroyed after being driven without oil. David’s hopes that the members had learned a lesson were
dashed by the cotton-picking machine scandal.
A neighboring kibbutz had contracted to rent the
machine to harvest its cotton. Ben’s mother's
first husband who was picked to deliver the vehicle drove through the parking lot past the cheering crowd. Minutes later, a deafening sound echoed from below. People
ran down the hill and in the riverbed
below saw the black wheels of the big
red machine spinning in the air. The
driver who was found lying in the bushes just meters before the
cliff was at first thought dead - a fate he might have preferred once the mechanics determined the cause of the accident. Not only was the
radiator dry, but he'd drove up from the garage through the
parking lot and down the hill without bothering
to look at the gauges. The monetary
settlement had cost the kibbutz a fortune, and the
identity of the person who chopped down the
driver’s apple tree remained a mystery to this day.
The incident had persuaded David’s father Yehezkel, who everyone called Izzy, that the reformers
were right, that a drastic change was necessary, and that unless incentives and bonuses were introduced, the
kibbutz would collapse. The term “incentive” confused David, but
Izzy explained that it simply meant that ideals alone were insufficient to encourage people to work hard, a concept David
refused to accept. If he could come to work an hour early, everyone could.
onto the wagon and stacked the harvesting
buckets, sorted out the sprinklers and put the
coffee gear in the corner. Looking
into the cardboard box, he counted eight red clippers. "Where are the others?" he hissed.
at his watch and turned on the radio. "Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!. "Good morning, this is the Voice of Israel. The time is six a.m., March third, nineteen eighty one, and here is the news read by Dan Caspi. In an ambush along the Lebanese border, Israeli forces eliminated two terrorists attempting to infiltrate. Our soldiers suffered no casualties."
David heard boots dragging, but continued to work,
pretending he hadn’t heard a thing.
"Good morning," Naomi grunted.
David glanced up and nodded. Naomi’s tangled hair had streaks of gray, and the skin
on her face and neck was wrinkled and rough. She looked about seventy, thirty years older than she actually was, and her stained
jacket and creased clothes did little to add to her appeal. Naomi, was once married to Joel, the high school coordinator,
until she discovered that he was the father
of her best friend's child - whom he subsequently married, and divorced.
At 6:07 a.m.,
David spotted three volunteers appear, two of whom he recognized, though not by name: one was a Jewish guy from a place called
Boston who kept talking about Harvard, some university he’d graduated from; and the
other was a Frenchman who David had already reprimanded twice after catching him
taking cigarette breaks. An attractive girl wearing an yellow jacket walked between
David pointed to his watch. "You’re eight minutes late," he said in English.
"Shit, I forget it's Tuesday," said the Frenchmen, giving David the finger. "I hate Tuesdays!"
David smiled, pleased that he’d upset the volunteer, then seated himself on one of the two plastic chairs welded to the front of the wagon.
"He's like little boy, spying on us like our teacher,"
said the Frenchman.
"I spoke to him once; he's okay,” said the American. “In fact, he was born in the U.S. while
his father was there as the factory Marketing Director. Have you ever been
to America, Jacqueline?"
"No," said the
"You should go."
"Too expensive for me."
"You wouldn't need any money - you could stay with
me. We’d drive from coast to coast; I have college friends all over. America’s
"Beautiful, hah!," laughed the
Frenchmen: "There's nothing to see there but McDonald restaurants and Disneyland. Come to Paris:
now that’s romantic."
"Thank you," the
girl said sweetly, "but right now I'm happy here - especially since I’m through working in the
"What's it like working there?"
asked the American.
"It's horrible," she said: "They made me collect
eggs all alone surrounded by thousands of chickens. From the moment I went in, the
males…what are they called?
roosters charged at me and rammed into my legs. I was too scared to work because
each time it happened, I thought I was being attacked by a lion of something. Finally,
I adjusted, but yesterday, as I was bending to tie my shoe lace, I noticed something move in the
sawdust on the floor. I stepped
back and suddenly a snake slithered out.
I froze. The moment it disappeared, I dropped my tray of eggs and ran
out screaming. I told the volunteer
coordinator that he could kick me off the kibbutz if he wanted to, but I wouldn’t
go back there."
The Frenchman sighed empathetically
and hugged her. "Don't worry; I'll protect you."
frowned. "It’s unfair that volunteers, even the
veterans, get nothing but the shitty jobs and are treated like menial laborers."
David chuckled silently. To him, volunteers were inferior and received the treatment
"Why do you think it’s unfair?" Jacqueline
Marx preached equality, so you'd expect the kibbutz either
not to employ us or to treat us better," replied the American, snuggling closer
"That makes no sense," said the
Frenchman: "Why give us the good jobs?"
"Sense or not, that's their
ideology. I guess theories are one
thing, reality another, and that people pick their
theories based on needs, then they rationalize.”
"Shhh," Jacqueline muttered, leaning toward the Frenchman, "it's too cold for this kind of talk."
"Yes, yes, you’re right" the
I agree, David thought. Although he hadn’t understood what the American had said,
he hated people who talked about things of which they knew nothing.
"What are we waiting for?" asked Jacqueline.
head of the avocado crew, arrived at 6:15.
He looked rugged, as David pictured he himself would be in thirty years: leather-like
sun-burnt skin, muscular thighs, and fingers that could bend nails. He walked
like a farmer: knees bent slightly forward and body close to the ground. "Sorry
"Officers are delayed, never late," David replied,
repeating the army slogan, certain that Sasha had been attending to urgent avocado
business. David wiped the dew
off the second chair and gestured for Sasha to sit beside him.
Sasha was the
leader of the hard-line faction and favored transferring non-standard private property
to the kibbutz. He considered the economic crisis nonsense and called the reformers
“traitors”, “snakes-in-the-grass whose heads should be chopped
off”, a solution he’d advocated during particularly hostile general assemblies.
Sasha had a ferocious temper and it was best to keep away when he got angry.
Some years ago, just prior to the harvest season, he’d punched the dairy storage tank and broken his wrist after observing a child pour a glass of milk down the drain.
Naomi climbed into the
"Don't worry about checking the
oil because I already have," David said, glancing at Sasha. Naomi backed the tractor into the lot and drove down the hill, past the bomb shelter, laundromat and garage, into the misty valley.
"Michael told me he doesn't want to enlist in a combat
unit," David said.
Sasha said nothing.
our meeting tonight, we’ll discuss a resolution banning stereos and tape-recorders: what do you think we should decide?” But Sasha blew into his hands and sat on them. Dejected, David slumped into the seat;
he also blew into his hands and sat on them.
They drove along the
dirt road through the orchard, the fog
tingling in David’s throat.
"Who are they?"
David turned around and saw she was pointing to three
scrawny Arabs squatting in the weeds by the
path dressed in white robes and baggy pants. "They look like big mushrooms," she said.
"They’re Arabs,” said the Frenchman. “The kibbutz hires them for the harvest.”
"Arabs working for Israelis? Aren’t they enemies?"
"They are," commented the
American, "but one side needs work and the other
needs cheap labor. It’s all economics.
Need supersedes everything, even politics."
problem with you Americans,” sneered the Frenchman, pulling Jacqueline closer,
“everything’s money, money, money.”
“Enough you two,” snapped Jacqueline. “I’ve never seen the
Arabs on the kibbutz before. Where
do they stay?”
"In an unheated shack somewhere down here,”
the American said. “I don’t
think they’re allowed up there."
"Poor devils, they
must freeze," she said.
Sasha turned to David “Is she stupid?”
he said in Hebrew, sneering. “Everyone knows that Arabs have it great here.”
“But why hire them
at all?” asked David. “My grandpa says that they
never used Arabs or volunteers in the days of the
Sasha sighed nostalgically. “Back then, people had ideology and a sense of mission, but those days are gone. I have no choice
because I can’t depend on the members to do the
the tractor onto a path between two sections of trees and parked. Sasha handed the volunteers and Arabs buckets and clippers,
then led them to several rows on the right; the kibbutzniks entered the
rows on the left. Between the trees it was cold and dark, and as David walked, drops of dew fell from the
leafs above, trickling down his neck. The dry leafs underfoot crunched as he stepped on them,
and every few paces, he felt a hard elliptical object beneath his boot and cursed: a year's work had been for naught. Sasha stopped at a tree, David at the next one. David circled around it to find a spot
to slip inside without getting drenched, found an opening, and glided in with skillful movements of hand and torso. The branches embraced and caressed him from all sides. Despite
the cold, David felt warm, like a baby in a womb.
Too dark to see the
fruit, David ran his hand up and down the branches, stopping when something hard
clunked against his arm. Gingerly holding the fruit in his fingertips, he clipped
it and placed it in his bucket gently. When the
bucket was full, he proceeded to the crate near the
tractor and unloaded the avocados.
The sun rose over the
foothills and warmed the valley. David could wait no longer and stopped opposite
the tree on which Naomi’s jacket hung. "Where are the
four clippers we’re missing?"
Naomi didn’t answer so he asked again.
"I don’t know; why ask me?"
David walked over to Sasha’s tree and informed
him of the grave situation.
“I’m more concerned about that damn Yehuda
than I am about a few clippers,” he replied.
“What did he do?” David feigned eagerness,
having already analyzed the issue with Ben, as word of the
stormy meeting had traveled like the wind.
But David never tired of hearing Sasha talk.
allowing members to use private money and circumvent the waiting list for university. The nerve of him, of all people, to even suggest the
idea.” For years, Yehuda had been Sasha’s friend and staunch supporter
- until Yehuda’s Canadian uncle died leaving him a fortune: nearly twenty thousand dollars. “‘Who cares
if members pay for their own education?’ Yehuda told the
assembly,” said Sasha. “‘The kibbutz has everything to gain and nothing to lose; more degrees means a better, more productive work force.’ More scholars, ha! Just what we need.”
David shamefully bowed his head as only two older
members had attended university: his father had a B.A. in literature and managed
the factory; Chaim had a degree in Archeology and ran the
thought about it,” Naomi said, moving to the next tree, “and I agree
with Yehuda. If the kibbutz can only
afford to send one or two members to university each year and Yehuda’s been on the
waiting list for a decade, why prevent him from studying at his own expense?”
“Why?!” shouted Sasha. “Because
private funds are forbidden, that’s why. If we grant rich members special
privileges, where will it end? What kind of society will we become? Listening to Yehuda made me so mad I wanted to, wanted to -”.
David heard a thud, followed by a sharp shout; Sasha
had apparently kicked the tree trunk and moments later came out hobbling.
“Stop behaving like a child,” Naomi shouted. “or you’ll injure yourself
and leave us short-staffed again.”
Sasha limped over to Naomi’s tree, David close
behind. “I swear that greed lurks behind the
calls for reform, and if we don’t stop people like Yehuda now, the kibbutz
Naomi stepped into the
path. “Rumors are the crisis is getting worse, and given the political situation, I’m not sure we have much choice.”
David knew Naomi was referring to the 1977 national elections, in which the pro-kibbutz
labor party had been defeated for the first time since independence. Supported by the previous government, the
kibbutz movement had always been considered successful, but the moment power changed
hands and the funding stopped, the kibbutzim
were discovered to be on the brink of financial ruin. Seeking repayment of the debt, the
government demanded immediate reform and greater efficiency, the meaning of which
David couldn’t grasp. Some of the
younger generation proposed radical changes, such as bonus allowances at the grocery
store for people occupying managerial positions.
his head. “Those who lack ideals and require bonuses shouldn’t live here.
We need people willing to sacrifice without thinking about themselves.”
“Right,” added David.
Naomi moved ahead to the
next tree. “Society’s changing and by burying our heads in the sand
we’re hurting ourselves. My nephew lived on a kibbutz near Tel Aviv. Before the army, cotton fields and tractors
were his life, but after his service he talked about self fulfillment and refused to wait ten years before being sent to university. Within six months he left. Our children
face a different world than you did, Sasha, and unless we give them challenges,
David hated such garbage. Defeatists, that’s what they were.
to the tractor and returned with the
radio. “Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! "Good morning. This
is the Voice of Israel, the time is
seven a.m., March third, nineteen eighty one, and here is the news read by Dan
Caspi. In an ambush along the Lebanese
border, Israeli forces eliminated two terrorists attempting to infiltrate. Our
soldiers suffered no casualties."
“Those damn Arabs are nothing but trouble,”
said Sasha. “They won’t be satisfied until they
toss us into the sea.”
“Not all of them,”
said Naomi. “Some want to live in peace like we do.”
“You’re as naive as your father; the problem is that they’re
not like us - they’re Arabs. Didn’t
you watch the T.V. show about the Palestinian
Liberation Organization initiation ceremony and how they rip live chickens apart
and bite into the flesh? They’re
animals, not humans.”
on to the next tree. “That’s just propaganda; besides, our command
unit does stuff like that with cats.” Rumors were that to join the squad, one had to rip live kittens apart limb from limb.
How dare she, David thought. The mere comparison caused him to cringe.
break!” shouted. At 7:15, the
crew gathered around the tractor. Sasha carried over the portable burner
from the wagon, David filled the kettle,
and Naomi brought the biscuits, coffee and sugar.
The nine workers sat in three separate clusters.
Naomi dipped a biscuit into her tea, swallowed it, then turned to Sasha. “Are you going
to watched Dallas tomorrow?”
David cringed, angered that his idol watched such
“Well what?” said Sasha.
“Who shot J.R.?”
a stupid question! Sue Ellen, of course! It’s obvious.”
Abruptly, David stood up and paced back and forth.
“I’ve a feeling that Pamela did it,”
“Pamela?” sneered Sasha. “Never;
why would she?.”
“J.R. destroyed her marriage to Billy. Isn’t that reason enough?”
The American turned around and in a mixture of English
and broken Hebrew said that Cliff Barnes, J.R.’s number one enemy, did it. “It’s
all about money. J.R. was plotting to destroy his oil company, which left him
Naomi and Sasha disagreed and a lively argument ensued,
during which the Arabs took their carpets,
spread them out, got down on their knees
thirty,” said David. “Time to get back to work.”
ignored him and continued to argue. Disgusted, David entered the grove alone.
David sneaked over to spy on the volunteers and the
Arabs, catching Jacqueline and the Frenchman smoking and the
Arabs and American working like snails.
They work damn slow, he thought. Can’t they
be like me and take pride in their work?
Sasha hollered at the first Beep! of eight.
All but the Arabs climbed on the
wagon and drove up to the kibbutz.