Categorized | Adventures in SD History

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History ~ September 11, 1958, Part 4

The Son: A Story of Tragedy-and Life-In Israel by Robert Kirsch
Southwest Jewish Press, September 11, 1958, Page 12 and Page 18

*About the Story and Author “The Son,” especially written for HERITAGE by Robert Kirsch, is a moving story of a man who finds himself and tragedy in a homeland he had never known. The author is book editor of the Los Angeles Times, a teacher of short story writing and journalism at UCLA, and a contributor to many national publications• Ed. Note.

The bullet spacked quietly in buttery-yellow sunlight and, for long* moments afterward, there was not a single sound but the mighty, metallic cough of the tractor against the postcard sky.

The shot, fired from a new gun issued that week in a whitewashed coffee house in Tiberias, barely whispered, was barely heard in the pulse of the machine, never echoed across the narrow fields, mere paths of fields sliced thin by history, by long dead armies, by silver in the lean years. The snap of the bullet said, “Death—there is no appeal.”

From the stack of the tractor now stopped, the merest bit of heat played in cellophane slivers, distorting the horizon, while the driver lay in the warm dust, waiting also over the slight rise of the earth, lay the assassins, motionless, their eyes tight caverned against the sun, looking for the slightest hint of movement; waiting, their fingers trigger-molded, their cheeks caressing the smooth hardness of the gun barrels.

The driver, the huge Jew, lay in a wrinkle of earth, a long canal of soil, a furrow, and the tiniest of valleys . . . his hands cramped fingers creeping toward his grenade.

His pistol lay where be had eaten the bread and cheese of his lunch, nowhere, a whole world away. A tiny orphan wind, homeless in an ocean of air, twisted a few strands of his hair, ‘the way a mother might, and the second shot rang out, louder it seemed than the first. An impatient punctuation.

With speed, with a single motion, the young Jew arose, wheeled to throw the grenade; the graceful arc of movement was crushed by the firm geometry of a ball thrown by a child, fell and bounced and was gone in a small puff of white smoke soon dissipated. And buried in his body were the fragments of the bitter fear of death. The shorter Arab fired again from his knees. The other asked in the words of poets and warriors:”Lieth the dog dead? Have we tasted blood?”

They could not wait; away they ran through the fields, an air-path of dust patches behind them, the rocks of the old, starved, beaten fields biting at their sandals. They ran to Tiberias, the guns now theirs with a seal of blood. They had killed.

All the world was now encased in the pulse of the tractor; the pulse of the man flung great rivers of life into the powdery soil. The young Jew lay on the earth clutching it like a mother, weeping into it. All that he was that moment in the sun was a child’s painting, a water color, red and yellow and gold, bleeding, together at the edges, all gold as Batya’s hair.

The sun had always seemed imprisoned in the great shadows of the KI and he had often wondered in his childhood whether the street ever would be a country path again. Then he grew used to the roar until it became as much a part of his life as his ears, invisible, useful.

He never tired of watching little bars of sunlight play like golden squirrels, running up the clothes of walking people and jumping without hesitation to the darkness which followed everyone. There he ate the golden orange candy for his golden penny while the yellow light of the pinball machine chattered on and off. And he loved the red- haired daughter of the candy store man.

And on Purim he marched with the rest, bewigged and asked (what is the mask of the face to the soul’s mask?)

Down the street he tramped, he ran with the train like music, like roaring water, of pain, of dirty brick, of faded red crepe in the store window.

Oh, he had eaten too much candy that his stomach should hurt so badly.

Now he felt the terrible coldness; the tractor’s roar never stopped. And then far off in the world, the pitiful cry of his friend sounded dimly.

“What has happened? What’s happened? What’s the matter? Dov. Chaver, chaver.” But the comrade, the wounded one could not move. His lips lay glued against a warm, round stone, dry and hot as a feverish infant’s brow.

The guard covered Dov with a jacket and put his broad straw hat on the wounded man’s head against the sun. Then he ran with crazed steps toward the colony as the man lay dying. Suddenly, the straw hat turned the golden saucer, the fiery bowl of the world’s sky, into kind, cool darkness with tiny specks of light, motes of light, coins of light in the darkness, stars.

Many nights he had laid solemnly awake, watching the stars, frightened by death. Many nights he had seen his mother die, his father die; many nights he had faced the darkness, alone. Many nights when the blankets had never given him warmth; when lying there, his mind beclouded at the undiscovered frightening edge of his world, he had lain alone, dismal, solitary, the child within.

Then, when all the dreams that could never become real and they carried her off on a summer’s night, a night when you could never see the darkness of her hair, never see the cotton threads of white in her young hair, he touched her leg as she passed, the last talisman of his mother, he knew then.

When he awoke in a strange cot, a strange aunt told him in a hoarse voice, she was dead. But in the night, away from the pity of the elderly. In the last refuge of darkness, she did not die for a long time.

The tractor pulse fluttered, stopped suddenly and Michael lifted him. Dov could see his pink, handsome face and all was hands lifting delicately. Below, as he was borne away, the earth where he had lain was become wondrous fecund, fragrant.

The smell of the young girl’s hair when he had first known her was a haunting thing as only the smell of hair could be while they lay next to each other and never spoke, never had to speak. He loved her. The infinite difference of her eluded him; so unlike the girls of the school yard, of the beach, the clever one, the dancers in the cellar clubs, the much-used ones, sad and cynical, the servant girls.

He followed her to a world and fell in love with the world. This was the world of the young. This was rebellion, surging and discussions, the searches for words, the shreds of music, the shoulder-straightening of ideas, the green hope of battle in the old-new land, the sadness-hope of youth, the chain of dancers around the campfire, the songs of the Earth, of striving, the love of bearded prophets: of Aleph Daled Gordon, the priest of labor and self-redemption; of Herzal, the deliverer reborn. The dream of worth, of faith, of returning of to Eretz, to the land was now.

At the beginning, the vastness of it had frightened him. Then he had loved it. In his innermost being, a seed of doubt grew. Was this to fall? Another children’s crusade.

The he lost her to another, but it did not matter. For he had gained a world.

The wagon shook on the rut-tiled roads, his comrades more pained than he. Blood on the truck. Yitz cried. Dov wanted to tell him not to cry. But it was all too confusing. He did not know where he was. Only creaking and sobs.

The Earth had sobbed where he, the soldier had come to the camp. The women sobbed there, the men smiled little bitter smiles, the children cried for candy.

In Buchenwald, he, the victor, the emancipator, had become a servant of his people. Long after the ovens were cold molded in memories, too profound for pain, after the dead when death and tragedy had fertilized the fortress Europe and the pile of gold teeth had ceased to grow. Long after the fires of Majdanek were banked he knew the flames had somehow branded him.

The land he had never seem now became the magnetic pole of his life. Gone were the chocolate bar love affairs, the movies the service clubs. For as long as he was in Europe, he was a thief, a stealer of food, of clothes, a smuggler, a smuggler of his people across the nations across history, to the land, the land of the dream the grey land.

From the distance as-he stood on the foremost point of the bow, the land looked like a pencil stroke against the horizon. As they approached Haifa, the land was grey, but his heart danced little wild dances, and the Norwegian tanker would leave for Athens without the cabin boy.

How the truck jounced as they left Haifa, past Mt. Carmel, looking back; at the Mediterranean, ancient sea.

Someone asked him if he wanted water. Yes, he did and when the canteen was placed to the numbness of his lips, he could not drink. It was as if, as if his whole being ended at his throat. Someone held his hand.

He held Batya’s hand for a very long time. She was young and her, eyes were bitter. Too bitter for the really young. He held her hand for a long time. He studied the wrinkles like long parched furrows on her hand. He tried never to look at the numbers, which were blue, very blue, like little tumors across her forewarn.

No language bound them, but walking in the fields and the sapling groves of GARIN HA’EMEK where their collective was training, a silent, soft thing grew between them. And they told the group of their marriage four days before he left with the vanguard of settlers for the North, for AIN CHAIM.

Through the barbed wire, rolled like the springs of a boy’s toy, they came finally, in the delicate light of twilight, in the smell of new wood and of ancient dung, to the cold camp, the tower.

Then the pain grew like fire in his belly and there was no rest, not a single instant of escape, only pain, vast, towering, crumbling, raw, gutting, and he began to cry out. Long shreds of shrieking tore the quiet evening air, the dear air of night’s beginning.

In the hospital of GARIN HA’EMEK, mouthing the cries of birth, the scream high to the god of the womb and the mystery of birth, Impaled on the primitive rhythm of birth, lay Batya.

“Mother, Mother” the hero sobbed like a little boy, ’’Mother, Mother. Help me,” His comrades watched.

And the last echoes flickered in the room, softly, the candles seen crazily through tear windowed eyes, the great shadows in the corner, looming dark and dense.

Thera was the moment of death and the moment of birth, the child was a boy and his name was to be Dov and he was to be a plowman In the fields of AIN CHAIM.


Prayers Soar Beyond Darts in Space
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 11, 1958, Page 13

These are the Days of Awe . . . Above the earth, men thrust darts into emptiness as though they might create creation.

They hurl pinwheels of steel about the earth like clowns on a high-wire. And they have a history of animal hate and murder.

As tricks of invention—such as the very marshaling of atom—these are impressive.

They do not recreate the source.Not a drop of water do they create out of nothingness. Only the forms change: the rest is eternity,

And so an ancient people arrives at the Days of Awe made holy across millennia.
Wisdom attaches to this kind of history: and small in number, insignificant in voice, Jewish people proclaim the universality of human brotherhood while men and women stand humbly and alone—alone before God.

The prayers will rise to the Heavens from the wastes of the Dead Sea, from the mellahs of degradation of North Africa, from hovels of fear in lands ruled by the iron fist of brutal, dialectics.

They will rise from the basements of Spain, stained by a history of torture and Inquisition.

They will be voiced in nobility above the ashes of Buchenwald and Belsen and Treblinka—for we do not forget our martyrs of Germanic bloodlust.

They will rise upon the seas and across the skies and in the deserts and in the forests and in the hills and in the plains.

They will rise higher than the darts that hurls like pinwheels pathetically through emptiness.

They will rise, in our Days of Awe —to a God of Splendor.

The voices of humanity in survival …

A Jubilee!
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 11, 1958, Page 13

“And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and there shall be unto thee the days of seven sabbaths of years, even forty and nine years. Then shalt thou make proclamation, with the blast of the horn on the tenth day of the seventh month; in the Day of Atonement shall ye make proclamation with the horn throughout your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you; ye shall not sow, neither reap that which growth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy unto you; ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field. In this year of jubilee ye shall return every man unto his possession. And if thou sell aught unto thy neighbor, or buy of thy neighbor’s hand, ye shall not wrong one another . . . but thou shalt fear thy God; for .1 am the Lord your God. Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep Mine ordinances and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.”(Lev. 21:88-18)

Southwestern Jewish Press, September 11, 1958, Page 13

For more than a decade the Jewish community of Los Angeles has wrestled with the problem of unification of Welfare Fund and Federation. A solution appears imminent as agreement in principle has been worked through.

In San Diego, this week, merger of both branches of Jewish communal effort became an accomplished fact.

It reflects culmination of a year of intensive effort by a merger committee headed by Eli Levenson. Dr. Walter Ornstein, president of the United Jewish Fund, will serve as interim president of the new United Jewish Federation.

Streamlining of effort through elimination of duplication in staff and operation methods will prove most significant in years to come.

For the proper operation of Jewish organizational life on a community level is an important factor in Jewish survival. Jewish community service is a great public trust—for human lives are in the balance.

We congratulate the new United Jewish Federation in San Diego—and pledge to serve with it to the utmost of devotion in our people’s cause.

And we are constrained to urge upon the Jewish community of Los Angeles to put into total practice at the earliest possible moment the principles of unification under which it will indeed be a community of unity in action.

Write! Or You’re Wrong!
HERITAGE Southwestern Jewish Press, September 11, 1958, Page 13

The very unusual quality of correspondence to HERITAGE has prompted us to offer an annual award to the writer of a letter which in the opinion of this newspaper is most stirring of thought. The award will he made each Rosh Hashanah. So everybody — write! Or you’re wrong!

EMPIRE? Dear Herb: I haven’t had a chance to wish you well in your wonderful growth and expansion of your newspaper empire.I hope this is the first of your acquirements. Good luck!

Mrs. Leo Hirsh. • Thanks—to a first lady of our people in the West. Mrs. Hirsh is new chairman of the Greater Los Angeles Council of Hadassah.

JEWISH MISSION  Editor: Some time ago there was a provocative article in HERITAGE which brought up the desirability of a missionary service within the Jewish ministry.

I have looked for comment from readers who might have been titillated with the idea, readers from the clergy, sociological, educational and other allied fields.

Why the lack of interest?

It is a challenging idea, proven successful by others for over 3000 years.

Are our complexes working overtime or are we guilty of the “elite” theory?

And I hope that response, if any, will not bring up the money obstacle. Let us hear more on this.

Annette Hartmann • What do YOU think?

RABBI MAGGAL Editor: Upon returning from the General Council meeting of Congregational Christian Churches in Boston, I picked up a copy of HERITAGE and was pleasantly surprised to find that Rabbi Moshe Maggal has joined your staff as editorial associate.

I have known Rabbi Maggal for almost six years, and know that his background and experience will be a great asset to your newspaper.

We count Rabbi Maggal and his lovely wife, Rachael, as friends indeed, and feel assured that with his willing spirit and congenial personality he will command the respect of the many readers of your journal. Alfred R. Slighter Minister First Congregational Church—Burbank

GRATITUDE  Dear Herb: Thank you for the good wishes for my husband’s health. May the new year bring us all good health and happiness. —And to Lee, words cannot express my husband’s emotions when your beautiful flowers and good wishes were brought into his room. Thank you so much for everything. We are very grateful to God for every little favor.

Nathan would like to have you express our thanks through your paper to all our friends for their kind thought and prayers.

Regina Fischler. •  Nathan Fischler will shortly be back at his California Stationers. Wonderful people.

RED BEETS Dear Herb: Hello again.

So after talking with this guy who went to Tuley High School in Chicago I tell him about an unmentionable editor, the most recently arrived newspaper tycoonik.

“No kidding,” the man exclaimed, “then the graduation yearbook was right in electing this unmentionable one the ’Most Likely to Vox a Bum.’ ”

Say it isn’t so, Zaydie.

Sid Bitner.P.S. Sour Grapes Dept.: Regarding your annual prize for the best letter to the editor of which you’re about to award— Red beets, if you know what I mean.

You mean ‘boorekes* by some chance? P.S. to you—an unmentionable editor went to Crane Tech—when they didn’t have girls there. Now they got girls.

FROM AZA Editor: The San Diego AZA wishes to offer its hearty congratulations to the Southwestern Jewish Press upon its merger with Heritage.

It is our hope that these two fine newspapers, which, have strived to inform the Jewish community of current happenings and developments in the past will continue to do so in the excellent manner for which they are known.

We of San Diego AZA 122, realize the fine job these newspapers are doing and offer them our full-hearted support. Sid Winickl Alepli Gadol• The sentiment goes double to AZA from us!

FINE PAPER Editor: Thank you for your fine paper!

Mr. and Mrs. J. Bellen.

Transcribed in 2017 by Sam Chessler and Nick Laqua.

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