Thursday, March 27, 2014

Strong as Death VI

             Back at home, David picked up the piece of paper which read Dear Father and finished the letter.  Like his life here in Palestine, it was a concoction of lies. 

          He had met a young woman from an old Sephardic family in Jerusalem: Ruth Barukh.  They were to be married the week after Yom Kippur, and as a present, her wealthy father was sending them abroad for an extended honeymoon. 

          The letter was a beautiful falsification, and it brought tears to Semesh’s face.  He crafted it much as he did his early reports to the SHA’I, when he was engaged in night patrols in the citrus groves.  He sketched the large, prosperous family in bold strokes, capped by the warm, loving father, the very antithesis of his own.  He wrote of the great babble of the gregarious Barukh clan: of nights sitting on their sprawling lawn beneath the pregnant oriental moon: of music and laughter and the drinking of cooled red wine. 

           They allowed him to take Ruth on a trip to Ein Gedi with a chaperon, but the woman let them wander off, almost out of view.  David read to Ruth from the Song of Songs beside a verdant waterfall: love is strong as death… Many waters cannot quench love… Shemesh smiled though his tears. 

           This was the kind of “incidental” series of details which brought him the scorn of that SHA’I agent.  But David could not help himself.  He had come to Palestine to find such details and incorporate them into his very essence.  Like many Jews who came to the Mandate, he wished to form a new, vibrant identity away from the lands of exile. 

           Instead, he had become more completely a stranger to himself.  He was now a man who forged a new identity nearly every month.  And soon, he was about to fashion yet another self, and this one, more long lasting and even less authentic. 

           In some Arab capital he would need to dream the dreams of a different man in order to stay alive.  He would have to leave Palestine, where at least there was the hope of finding a Ruth Barukh and the warm pocket of her terrestrial existence; where in the very least, David Shemesh could pick oranges and at the end of the day, view the results of his labor, piled high and fragrant in a pine wood crate. 

          Shemesh cried because he did not know why he was leaving, just as much as he did not know fully why had come to the land of Israel.  Such motivations were hidden, dark, cloaked behind the veil of his lost past and now, with his bag packed, he would never have a chance to plumb them.


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