I was washing up before morning prayer when I heard, “Thirza, your kha-ver is here!” I dashed down a sleek set of stairs to find Ethan holding the door open for Tabitha. Imma and Abba were out with our handmaid to help her with the groceries. Our parents told us that when they were kids, it was a child’s job to pick up groceries and they didn’t have a maid to help. Ethan and I were surprised at that remark. Imma and Abba knew that Tabitha was coming so they offered to help Avivah this time. Although I was gracious, I love doing my chores with Avivah, she is so animated, and she always smells like springtime (my favourite time of year). Avivah has lived with us for a couple of years now. After the war, her family couldn’t take care of her anymore. She and I are kindred spirits, just like my best friend; Tabitha.
Tabitha is extremely fast, and she is asking me to train with her today. Tabitha, Ethan and I go after our morning prayers.
My Abba goes on business trips to sell our magnetic grid system to developing countries. I barely see him, but when I walk around our city, it’s like I have little pieces of him still with me. We pass by quaint cafes, the university (where Tabitha’s Imma teaches), and these pale men in green uniforms that I haven’t seen in town before. We smile and wave hello and they respond in a weird accent that isn’t native to here.
We arrive at the gleaming, modern track facility. The scarlet track has a glass dome that glimmers in the sun. I may not be the best at running but I really love this building; my Abba designed it too.
Inside it feels tropical, there’s a fountain to quench peoples thirst, and palm trees on the outer perimeter. Tabitha is the first to run. I chase after her, still in a daze from the memories of my Abba. When we’re on the smooth path, I see Ethan chatting with some of his schoolmates from upper grade. Tabitha and I stop to meet them. We end up all jogging together. At least I’m jogging, Tabitha and Ethan are sprinting ahead. They’re always competing with each other. After a while, we stop to fill our jugs. The fountain has a filtration system that connects to the Hula Valley wetland. This water is quite fresh. My brother is the sprinter in the family. We live by the Sea of Galilee, so swimming is my specialty.
I say, “lehitra’ot” to Tabitha and my brother’s friends, and head back home with Ethan. I am always reluctant to leave Tabitha, but I must finish my errands. I arrive home to find Imma and Abba grinning from ear to ear and their hands behind their backs. There is a little piece of fabric poking out behind Imma’s back, and behind Abba’s is something that looks like a ram’s horn. I’m starting to get suspicious now. “Shana tova!” They shout excitedly. Then they pull gifts from behind their backs. Imma hands me an immaculate headwrap, just like her’s. Ethan is handed a shofar, to blow on New Years.
Today is Shavat. It’s my favourite day because I don’t have to worry about being left in the wake of Ethan and Tabitha’s dust at the track. Today is a time to rest and worship.
I watch as Imma expertly twirls the fabric of her headwrap around her head; without even looking at a mirror! I ask her how she does this so wonderfully and she smiles and says I will be just as good in no time.
“Ow!” I cry.
“Sorry my love, I am almost done,” reassures Imma.
She combs through another section of my thick, kinky locs and hands me a mirror. I love the way she braided my curls around my head, like a crown. I turn around to hug Imma but she stops me, laughing, and says she’s not done yet.
While Imma is putting the finishing touches on my hair, I tell her about the men I saw in the street when I went with Ethan and Tabitha to the track. She warns me to be wary of these people.
Avivah insisted on going grocery shopping with Imma today, so that I could go to the beach with Tabitha.
My Abba is currently on a business trip. Hopefully, he will take an abundance of striking pictures for Ethan and I. While imagining what scenic photographs my Abba will take, I walk with Tabitha to the beach. When we arrive at the ornate shore, I see three humongous seaplanes on the horizon. They are nearing quite quickly now. Tabitha and I exchange worried expressions. One of the amphibious aircrafts is coming alarmingly close to the shore!
Tabitha and I scrabble up the rocky cliffs just in time. The ship creates a massive wave and pushes an abundance of water onto the sand, right where we were standing minutes before. Dozens of the same pale men emerge from the plane. Soon a full fleet wade through the waters and are heading straight for us!
Thank goodness I’ve been training with Tabitha, otherwise, we wouldn’t have made it out in time.
As we abandon the danger zone, Tabitha exclaims, “I saw strange letters written on the pontoons of the seaplanes!”
“What did they say?” I inquire.
“I don’t know! I didn’t take foreign literature studies as an elective.” she says worriedly.
“Try to write the letters,” I suggest.
She starts writing in the sand.
“Ok, but I don’t think I remember all of the letters… B-R- something -T-I-S-H A-M-Y,” she traces shakily.
“Ok, I can work with that,” I say. I have a knack for world languages. I deduce that it’s English and start to try different word combinations and rearrange the letters. Finally I have it!
“It spells British army!” I cry.
Suddenly a shiver goes through me. Why would a British army want to come to our small country?
We nearly arrive at my house and are rounding the corner when Ethan opens the door whispering for us to get in. He fills us in on the situation; the magnetic power grid is down that means no communication or power.
We hear loud popping sounds outside and Imma rushes us downstairs. Imma has an abundance of preserved foods in the cellar; like dried figs, pickled olives, and pomegranate molasses. It should last us 3 or 4 weeks.
It’s now dark and we haven’t heard from Tabitha’s family, Abba or Avivah. Imma puts on her cloak and goes out to find them. We all hug her and Ethan slips a knife into her palm. “I’ll be back ye-lah-deem.”
“Ethan,” she says solemnly, “you’re in charge.” Then she is gone.
I hear Tabitha sobbing in the dark. I see a shadow move closer to her. Ethan touches her hand and she doesn’t move away. Instead she leans into him. He whispers something that makes her giggle, but it comes out as more of choked yelp. That makes them both laugh. He puts his arm around her. They stay like that for a while.
We remain in the cellar, patiently waiting for Imma to return. We pray for our families’ safety and make up games to pass the time.
Suddenly, there is an excruciatingly loud banging sound. Two British soldiers bound from above. They are demolishing the crumbling ceiling above us. “Hand yourselves over peacefully and no one gets hurt,” orders a soldier in awkward Hebrew. In spite of myself, I chuckle. They have already destroyed my home, and it’s impossible for anyone not to get hurt!
“What’s so funny!” one of them yells, hitting the butt of the gun into my side.
I’m frozen with fear. I can see Ethan tense up, but he pretends to cower in fear. Then he kicks their feet from under them and tells us to run.
We all try to scramble up the rubble but the marble that once lined the floors upstairs is too slick to climb up. We’re surrounded and the soldiers put a foreign device to our necks. The cellar comes in and out of focus and then everything is black.
I inhale a briny scent into my lungs. I hold out my hands, constricting my toes into the sand in excitement as Tabitha and Ethan sprint past. They slap my hand at the same time, kiddingly shoving each other. They’re both claiming to have beat the other.
I dip into the cool water. My breath catches at the beauty of the sunset. Our ancestors stared at this same sunset thousands of years ago. Then Jerusalem’s walls were destroyed and our people fled to all corners of our miraculous earth. I firmly bite down on my lip tasting salty copper as I remember that we were trafficked on ships to be subjugated for over 400 years in a foreign place. I breathe in too sharply. I don’t want to feel this pain. Why did they fear skin as dark as a warm moonlit night or as rich as a cardamom infused coffee in all of its beauty? I couldn’t feel loved if I had those judging eyes on me, yet my people miraculously gave love so generously.
I hear sloshing behind me as Tabitha and Ethan trudge towards me and sit. We wiggle our toes and watch as it turns to dusk.
“Why do they hate us so much?” I sigh. Concern creases their faces, “Who hates us?” they ask, confused. I explain my anguish about this morbid history.
Ethan pipes in, “They’re just envious Thirza, don’t get so down.” He sweeps his hand across the landscape. “Look at all we’ve done. Our water filters itself, we cycle power with magnetic fields…”
“and our food is amazing!” adds Tabitha.
I laugh, “I guess I would hate people who had all that too.”
“Well that’s why we share our tech with the rest of the world, but some people want to take our technology for themselves without opening trade to us.”
|Page Number||Hebrew Word||English Word(s)|
|3||Shana Tova||Happy New Year|
|3||Lehitra’ot||See you later|
* Mentioned Several Times