In his clandestine work Ori Zohar had only been in peril once.
This was in Paris, one year ago. He had made contact with a young Jordanian student who had dealings with a group the Agency was eager to penetrate. Zohar, in his limited capacity, was to be the first point of contact.
Zohar had been meeting the young man at various cafes in different parts of the city, in alcoves away from windows. The encounters seemed to be leading nowhere; the man did not appear to know anyone of consequence. But Zohar sensed a growing hesitation in the man, which grew more desperate with each encounter. The man began to pepper his French with Arabic words and phrases. Much of what he said made little sense.
One day, Zohar was delayed in meeting the Arab. When he arrived at the café a policeman stopped Zohar from entering.
“What happened?” Zohar asked.
“A murder,” the policemen answered. And then, since Zohar’s French was fluent and he took him for a native. “Some sort of thing among the Arabs.”
Zohar managed to look around the bulk of the policeman. His contact was dead on the café floor, a knife between the blades of his shoulder.
He returned to Jerusalem and briefed Omri. The words came out flat enough, a factual autopsy of a failed attempt to establish human contact, to build trust and merit through reciprocation and incentives.
Omri listened with gravity, like a patient who had just been told by a doctor that he was gravely ill, but it was not terminal. Only later in his flat did Ori Zohar begin to shake. If the trolley had not been late, he would not be here, in his flat, trembling like a leaf, alive, his eyes as dry from dread as if he was dead already. For Zohar, this was a fraught moment. Conjuring up the sensation of death was as easy as drawing the next breathe.
Now, in Buenos Aires, he felt a sensation akin to that, a gradation of death. As he grew closer to Alter Shapira and his daughter, he felt the gradual demise of Ori Zohar. Although bewitched by the growing stature of Levy Levinsky in his soul, Ori Zohar was cogent enough to realize the perplexity of his situation. Here he was not the French businessman, the Belgian importer, the Dutch agronomist, all essentially foreign guises.
Levy Levinsky was a completely credulous character, in many ways less psychologically dubious than Ori Zohar. Levy Levinsky was grounded in a living time, place and a community. For the Ganaver Chasidim had a great weapon: they were certain of their certitude. Zohar knew Ben-Gurion’s concern was not misspent. Zohar realized the Chasidim could destroy Israel. The kidnapping of Yossi Kushner was simply an opening salvo in a long, undeclared war to transform the Jewish state into a theocracy. A shard of this scenario appealed to Zohar: to believe and be certain of your belief.
Zohar found himself in an expected position: that of the double agent. But even double agents had greater allegiance to one side. Where did Zohar’s lay?
Then he thought he was in love with Bluma Shapira and his flickering soul fell over the divide.