Tree at Park Ariel Sharon.
(photo credit: NATHAN WISE)
As far as I know, there’s no such thing as a moshav without tension among the members. From a very young age I heard the stories about Kfar Malal, the moshav where my father was born, about how my grandparents were “tried” for daring to defy the moshav council’s decision and committing the “sin” of planting tangerines and mangos and not just oranges and lemons.
The terms of my grandfather’s will specifying that after his death his body was to be brought to the cemetery in the family truck and not in a communal vehicle, and that none of the members were to deliver a eulogy, left no doubt as to the complexity of relations on the moshav.
Nor would I describe my father’s childhood in the idyllic terms used to depict growing up in rural Israel, although it’s likely the experience looks better from a distance than it did in real time. The request that prime minister Sharon send a congratulatory message in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Aharonovitz School for the Children of the Workers in the Sharon region sat on his desk for a very long time.
“Maybe you could write something nice,” his devoted secretary, Marit Danon, urged.
“There was nothing nice about the place,” he stated firmly. No anniversary greetings were ever sent.
Still, there were a few good things he remembered from his time there: His classmate Ofra, Yaron London’s pretty sister, who came from the city and whose light hair was a color never before seen on the moshav; the teacher Natan Shapira; and of course, the immortal song: “The science teacher and Miss Rivka/ Flew a plane for hours, side by side/ When they grew tired, didn’t want any more/ He gave her a different kind of ride.”
The messages my father’s classmates wrote in his small memory book from eighth grade sound like they came straight out of the ideology department of the workers’ party. In a nutshell, they praised Socialist Zionism and the brotherhood of the working class: the road is long, life is hard, you are meant to suffer in silence. Looking back, it’s quite sad considering that the authors were 13-year-old kids, but it was very good for building a country.
Because of the moshav baggage I carry, I wasn’t surprised by the painful stories from the past that I heard for the first time in D.’s eulogy for his father. Although D. has been a close friend for years, he never told me these stories. I first heard them recently at their moshav’s small cemetery with its shade trees and intimate proximity to the dairy barn.
The only surprise was the deep emotion in his words, which rang in my ears like poignant poetry.
Who knew that D., who served for years in a place where people are known only by their first initial, had been carrying this baggage, hidden under his tough, hardened exterior, all this time? Like me, my friends lose their parents and care for those who remain. The two-pronged responsibility of concern for your parents and for your children at the same time eventually becomes channeled in a single direction.
The burden of pain shouldered for so many years, baggage that seemed long ago to have been left at the side of the road to gather dust until it vanished forever, made one last appearance before going the way of those who carried it.
Translated from the Hebrew by Sara Kitai, firstname.lastname@example.org.