Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Austerity, vii, the end


           “You’ve disgraced me!”  Arye’s father yelled, holding up the newspaper inches away from his son’s face and shaking it menacingly.  
            “How can I show myself at the office?  A son who buys eggs on the Black Market… from that swine Mizrahi.  It’s attracted attention.  There is a story in every newspaper.  ‘Fourteen year old boy buys eggs on the Black Market!’  They say if a boy like you buys on the Black Market, than the rule of law does not govern the Jewish State.  Ben-Gurion’s had it with the Black Market, and he has seen fit to comment on your arrest, he is quoted, listen: ‘Jews have been thieves for 2,000 years.  But here it will end, with this generation.  Yet nearly three years after the founding of this Jewish commonwealth, Jews are still thieves!  And this, from a boy from a good family, with a father with an important post in the Jerusalem municipality.  This boy will be made an example…’  And there is MORE!”  
            Arye’s father was screaming, shaking the paper in his clenched fists like a flag of dishonor he was forced to unfurl, explaining how Israel was a tiny country, and even the most minor infraction were written in the public record of misdeeds.
            “Yaacov, leave him alone,” Giveret Levin pleaded. “He's suffered enough.. he was only trying to help…”
            “Stay out of this,” Mar Levin continued to yell.  He turned to Arye, his eyes bloodshot and bulging, as if his rage had reached some absolute threshold and become fully internalized.  “Go to your room!”  And for the rest of the night, until he fell asleep fully dressed, Arye listened to the barrage of his parent’s denunciations.

         This was a crisp, early spring Jerusalem day.  On the hillside a crowd of several hundred had gathered.  In front were the entire cabinet, flanked by Ben-Gurion, Mar and Giveret Levin and little Haim.  Reporters surrounded them, and every now and again a flash would explode, despite the blinding sunlight.  Ben-Gurion stepped forward to speak.
            “This nation will be built from many tribes.  It is necessary to melt down the debris of Jewish humanity which is scattered throughout the world and will come to Israel in the melting pot of Independence and national sovereignty.  It is necessary to create a Hebrew character and style which could not have existed in the Diaspora, among a people without a homeland, without independence and national freedom. 
            “And this New Hebrew will not steal from the public trust, but redeem the land and the people.  These go hand in hand.  Redeem the land and you redeem the people.  Redeem the people and the land will be saved.  One follows the other.  Sometimes they are grand acts of heroism on the battlefield, but more often they are simple acts, like obeying the smallest of laws of this state’s democratically elected government, one meant to distribute food and clothes according to need.  And sometimes it is as simple as planting a tree in a wasteland, making a land that is a desert into a forest or garden. And so ladies and gentlemen, with this tree, Arye Levin will redeem himself and his nation.”
            There was a smattering of applause and a shovel was placed into Arye’s hands.  He began to dig in the indicated spot.  Flash bulbs exploded.  But the soil on this hillside west of Jerusalem was rocky, and a general in tan uniform stepped forward to help the boy remove fist sized stones from the spot. 
            When there was something resembling a hole, a workman brought a tree, its roots packed in burlap.  But the hole was not big enough, so the tree was removed and Arye was compelled to dig more.  Tears began to whelm in his eyes, so he dug even more feverishly, pushing up soil and stones, creating hillocks of sand and pebbles.  Ben Gurion took a step forward but the boy bade him back.  The Prime Minister smirked, and after ten minutes of this limbo, this point between redemption and its opposing state, the tree was fitted neatly into the hole and the crowd erupted into great applause.

            Arye back filled the hole with dirt and the tree stood alone, solitary on the uneven, stone-strewn hill.  There was a great clamor as people rushed the boy.  They spoke but he could not hear, as his ears were clogged with the dust of this land.  He tried to scream ‘No! No!’ but his voice was muffled, for a cake of Jerusalem dust had settled in his throat.  The Holy Land wavered before him through the film of his drying tears, an indistinct entity of deformed trees, sharp tall stones, groping hands and loud voices clamoring more more.

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