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And the Child Cries

מאת:
מעברית: ריבה רובין | הוצאה: | 2012 | 114 עמ'
זמינות:

14.50

רכשו ספר זה:
תגיות: , , .

“WHOSE CHILD ARE YOU?”

SS troops are blocking Shenkin Street, assembling machineguns, wearing shiny helmets.

King George is blocked by gendarmes. Unrolling barbed wire. Aktion. Rounding up Jews.

“Escape”, Father whispers.

I’m listening to another concert in my earpieces. I don’t react. The orchestra marches in procession. The brass instruments dazzle the eyes. The street transmits trepidation.

On the rise of the street I see our neighbor, Zoshke, protectively hugging her baby Leitsche. The baby bursts out crying, Zoshke desperately, unsuccessfully, tries to hush her. Leitsche’s crying becomes a rising and falling shriek. I smile at her, but her eyes are closed and she doesn’t notice me.

“Escape,” Father whispers again.

My feet are heavy, nailed to the spot, refusing to move even one small step. Father slaps my face. “Run towards the sea,” he commands me, too late. The road to the sea is blocked already. Two gendarmes are setting up a Public Works Department barrier with reflectors attached.

I hide in the backyard of one of the houses, stuck among garbage bins, keeping an eye on events in the street from my hiding place.

Traffic has come to a standstill in Allenby. Jews who have not managed to get away are being herded together under heavy guard.

מקט: 978-1-62154-319-0
מסת"ב: 9781621543190

SS troops are blocking Shenkin Street, assembling machineguns, wearing shiny helmets.

King George is blocked by gendarmes. Unrolling barbed wire. Aktion. Rounding up Jews.

“Escape”, Father whispers.


“WHOSE CHILD ARE YOU?”

SS troops are blocking Shenkin Street, assembling machineguns, wearing shiny helmets.

King George is blocked by gendarmes. Unrolling barbed wire. Aktion. Rounding up Jews.

“Escape”, Father whispers.

 I’m listening to another concert in my earpieces. I don’t react. The orchestra marches in procession. The brass instruments dazzle the eyes. The street transmits trepidation.

On the rise of the street I see our neighbor, Zoshke, protectively hugging her baby Leitsche. The baby bursts out crying, Zoshke desperately, unsuccessfully, tries to hush her. Leitsche’s crying becomes a rising and falling shriek. I smile at her, but her eyes are closed and she doesn’t notice me.

“Escape,” Father whispers again.

My feet are heavy, nailed to the spot, refusing to move even one small step.  Father slaps my face. “Run towards the sea,” he commands me, too late. The road to the sea is blocked already. Two gendarmes are setting up a Public Works Department barrier with reflectors attached.

I hide in the backyard of one of the houses, stuck among garbage bins, keeping an eye on events in the street from my hiding place.

Traffic has come to a standstill in Allenby. Jews who have not managed to get away are being herded together under heavy guard.

From where I’m hiding I see everything; police clubbing people on the head, on hands raised to protect themselves, on the soles of their feet. Polish policemen are herding Jews into the Great Synagogue on Allenby Street .

I look at the signs, written in Hebrew. Now I’m really scared; when did the Axis forces land here, where could the paratroopers site be?

Aktion. People are pushing into the synagogue to save themselves from the blows. Two policemen on grey horses break through the crowd, trampling everything in their path, forcing the people to move faster into the synagogue.

A few curious onlookers observe the spectacle with great enjoyment.

I hear the SS men speaking Hebrew. I don’t understand a word, but the intonation sounds familiar. I understand the curses very well – gutter  Polish.

The street is steadily emptying.

Two bodies are lying in the middle of the street. Nobody pays any attention to them, a traffic island.

They caught my father. Together with some fifty others, he was loaded onto the canvas-covered back of an old 1940 Dodge truck. When it was full it took off in the direction of the Yarkon bridge. I can still see his features and hear his plea, which I now understand, for me to escape. I want to shout, but cotton wool plugging my throat makes it impossible for me to utter a word. I try to leave my hiding place and chase after him, but my shoes are stuck, fixed to the road by invisible contact glue.

At nightfall, under cover of darkness I got away, running barefoot leaving my shoes behind.

The following morning. The street, by habit, gathers the morning to itself, subsides into itself, doesn’t remember if something had happened, or if anything ever happened, it is neither witness nor informer.

The shops, early awakeners, open one by one. The garbage trucks hurry on the morning shift. Tel Aviv tries so hard to be a clean city.

I look around, for our neighbor Zoshke and her baby, but they aren’t there.

At the top of the street, old Rosenbaum is hurrying to open the local grocery, to lure the early shoppers. There is a double minyan for morning prayers in the Great Synagogue.

An otherworldly morning serenity hovers over the city, the serenity of a valley hamlet huddling against the river that bisects it like a nourishing artery. Washing hangs heavy on thin lines that sag in the middle under its oppressive weight, smoke lazily rises tall from a few chimneys that look like dwarfs dancing at the feet of the great bear, the smokestack of the Reading power station. Looking out of place, solar boilers stick like leaches to the roofs of squat buildings straining their necks to absorb the first sun.

A photomontage with blurred edges, assumes a different attire, unaware that  its end is near. There was no sign of what occurred here yesterday.

In time, it was learned from an eyewitness that the men were loaded onto trucks for a long journey to the Jerusalem Hills, as they were told. They were issued with hoes to prepare the ground for planting trees. To fill the hills round and round with hollows after hollow. Forestry work, was the explanation they were given, to forest the arid hills, the rocky ground, to carry out the Commandment to forest the land. “Work Liberates From The Diaspora”, they printed in big letters on a white sheet stretched respectfully between the trunks of two newly-felled forest trees.

Father never returned. I’ve been searching for him for years, addicted to watching old newsreels for hours, endlessly gazing at those people, shirtless, brandishing hoes, hacking thorns, rolling rocks, foresting everything; forced laborers, trudging through melting snow, pale, starved, the skin draped on their sharp, articulated bones as if it didn’t belong to them, their stomachs swollen.

I look at the screen, trying unsuccessfully to recognize my father among the figures photographed from a distance. I attempted to ask people who came back from there if they had seen my father, Zaidke. No, they told me, tanned and smiling, we’re all from the Beit Shemesh transfer camp. Zaidke? We had nobody with such a name. And if we did, what would we have done with him?

I made enquiries at the Jewish National Fund, which handled forestation, and they allowed me to go through files that had not interested anybody for years, apart from me. I paged through old work schedules.

The pages were yellowed, stuck together. Names of forests I had never heard of, dates, work groups, circulars from Head Office. Protocols of meetings discussing meters and cubes. Appointing local supervisors and  administrative responsibility, faded telephone numbers and names, many names. An assortment of names from every nation and every place of exile.

I feel that the evidence I have been seeking and not finding for so long, is somewhere here. As if the earth swallowed my father, refusing to relinquish its dark secret. Sometimes I wake up at night and clearly see the picture of  Father projected on the wall in front of me. Half naked, beard well-shaped, frozen, he digs in the snow on all fours with his broken fingernails to deepen the hollow, to make room for himself.

The pictures change swiftly, a black-uniformed SS general raises his hand in salute, With shrill screams,  Stukka fighter planes swoop down on lines of refugees and spray them with machinegun fire. I pull the covers over my head, refusing to see.

It’s cold in the room, the window is open and the moon beams in ripples of the wind teasing the old acacia in the yard. I get up, turn on the light and try to shut the window, the latch refuses to budge.

I exert my full strength and it yields. I go back to bed, my face to the wall, pretend not to see the shadow of the branches scratching the wall with a swaying praying movement.

I can see Father praying with intense focus, wrapped in his talit, the leather straps of his phylacteries strangling his arm. “Escape,” he inserts among the verses of  prayer, “escape, child, you haven’t got a chance here.” I get up again. Put on my slippers, don’t get dressed, don’t wash my face, only put on a coat over my  tight, striped pajama top, silently and slowly I go down to the ground floor, out of the children’s house and onto the lawn. I sense the weight of the mission imposed on me.

The moon escorts me as I leave the kibbutz and sneak towards the wadi that gently guides me to the folds of the Carmel. I know the hiding place well. For the past month I’ve been preparing it for this moment, when I have to make a quick getaway.

A stained, old mattress. Two empty sacks stolen from the grain storeroom, sewn together with twine, to serve me now as a blanket. A small box of rusks, a jam tin to make tea, two candles, matches.

I evade the guards, don’t touch the electrified fence. I exploit the gap made by a flow of water.

My absence won’t be noticed in the children’s house till morning. The carer[1] wouldn’t realize I was gone and, if I was lucky, she might forget I existed. The children would behave as if they had no idea who was being discussed and couldn’t reveal what they didn’t know and, as for the dogs, Blackie couldn’t smell tracks and old Brownie could hardly see through his right eye and was totally blind in the left.

The darkness was frightening, but Father commanded me to leave. I must not have regretful thoughts. I must carry out the extremely painstaking plans I had made months earlier without anybody noticing.

The mattress is wet from the dew, I lie down, cover myself with the sacks, now I must sleep. In the morning, I  will decide what to do next.

During the night a wolf came and licked my face, an old wolf with sweeping white sideburns like those of Austria’s Illustrious Kaiser Wilhelm. Bringing me the leg of a hare, as a peace token.  He lays it at my feet, for luck or appetite. I reach out, both of us press the hare’s foot.. I stroke his soft fur, remembering very well how we were taught that there were no wolves in the area, that they had been annihilated years ago. I examine his teeth., two are missing, the fangs are still sharp, the gums dark and speckled. A strange odor wafts from his mouth, the odor of a sticky rash. I try to ignore it, not to embarrass him, I don’t ask, don’t want to slip into intimacy, try to maintain the shield of distance.

I very much want him to stay and am afraid to let him see this. What he has been told about me and I about him could create unbridgeable  prejudices. I offer him a rusk from the box and he grinds it with his teeth, hollows his paw to gather the crumbs, arranges them to encircle the two of us as if to indicate a certain thing remote from me, we curl under the sack blanket. From here on, each to his own world.

Morning came earlier than I wanted. The sting of an ant pulls me fully awake. The branches of the tree hang over me in an artificial sky composed of branches and wild creepers close the gaps against the direct light.

Blackie lies rubbing her head against me under the sack blanket, I am filled with uneasiness, I must get back before they notice my absence, sneaking off to sleep outdoors again. All I need is to be labeled a sleepwalker.

On the way to the children’s house I meet Dov, from the fodder, “What are you doing out so early?” he asks.

“Morning run,” I answer, trying to evade him. “Morning run in pyjamas?” he wonders out loud and, getting no answer, adds “Whose child are you?”

Nobody’s, I want to answer, not anybody’s, an orphan. But I don’t say any of this, instead, I answer, “From the youth. I’m one of the children from the youth immigration.”

I make it safely to bed. They’re all asleep. Havka hasn’t come yet to wake up the class. Blackie follows me, one of my slippers in her mouth and I didn’t even notice that I was wearing only one slipper. I take it and put it by the bed and dive in for a short, impossible sleep. “No,” I tell myself before falling asleep, and loudly so that I’ll hear, “You  did not get permission to cry.”

XXX

 


[1]Carer: Metapelet [Hebrew]Term used for a person responsible for the care of children in the communal Children’s House on a kibbutz.

  1. :

    מפנה לעמוד באמזון ולא לספר בחינם

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