The Writers Voice
"Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the
day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous
men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible."
T. E. Lawrence
(Lawrence of Arabia)
"Just a week 'till the memorial meeting for Yoni," he said to himself, manoeuvring a pen thoughtfully between his lips. Yoni’s tragic death the year before was the awkward circumstance of his first meeting with Jeanine since their college days. She was well into her forties, now, and still without a partner in life. Her passions were private; long liaisons not her style. She had even kept the identity of Yoni’s father under wraps. Reuven wondered if her continued celibacy was a matter of choice or whether it was her arrogance that kept suitors at bay. Yoni was killed in a mortar attack near the Lebanese border alongside two other young soldiers. The funeral was a military affair with all the formality such ceremonies entail. Reuven recalled Jeanine's figure at the graveside, her mane of ginger hair swept high above the sombre shades of her mourning clothes. His inclination to reach out to her was stalled by the appearance of an unknown figure at her side. The stranger inclined his head, and from where he stood close by, Reuven observed the intimate moment when she pressed a comforting hand into his palm. There was a disturbing beauty in her composure in the face of tragedy. He smoothed the pages of his diary and wrote:
"A year ago, Yoni's soul was reborn into the universal spiral of life. This
should be a reason for celebration not for tears."
He put the pen down again, realizing that his was not a commonly shared
view. To most people, the uncertain hope of progression of the soul beyond
death was scant consolation for the loss of a loved one. They needed the
ritual of grief. He would be expected to attend the meeting. It was a matter
"Back from the training course, are you?"
"Shahar. Thank God you’re back safe and sound, dear," she said with relief. The tension in her smile did not escape her daughter.
"Why, you weren't worried were you, Ima?"
"I can’t help it. You know that road from the kibbutz isn’t safe. It’s always deserted, and people have been attacked around there..."
"Oh, Ima, you fuss so much!" said Shahar, dismissing Tamar’s smothering with a carefree wave of her hand.
“Anyway, Muki was with me.”
“Fine, and some magic charm was protecting you, I suppose!”
"Exactly," laughed Reuven, truly convinced Shahar had the untouchable auraof an angel.
“Well, go and clean up, now. I want a word with Abba," said Tamar. Shahar disappeared into her bedroom at the back of the house leaving Tamar and Reuven alone on the terrace.
"Reuven..." she began.
"Yes, my love," he said.
"You’re definitely going to that memorial meeting, next week?"
"Yes," he answered warily.
"Where will you stay? Do I have to come, too?" she asked, wrinkling her nose in distaste at the idea. He looked at her diminished figure, casually clothed with a modest disregard for fashion. Her fair hair, teased into manufactured curls, framed a once pretty face.
"You don’t need to drag yourself there. I'm only going for Jeanine's sake. Doubt there'll be anyone else we know there.” She seemed to content to accept this answer and was soon absorbed again in her household chores. He sat a while in his tiny study area off the terrace and watched her as she went about her work. Why, after all, should she give the matter another thought? She had known Jeanine only vaguely and a long time ago. It was different for him: The prospect of seeing Jeanine again had revived poignant memories. She was unique among his friends in her understanding of his life’s mission. She recognized the singular burden it placed on him leading, eventually, to his collapse. That was when he first met Tamar. She came to his rescue like an angel of mercy, and so the story of their love began. They set up home together. Then, in the years that followed, the miracle of Shahar’s birth sealed their joy. All that was twenty years ago. As time passed, however, Tamar's love mellowed into servile devotion and her ambitions were crushed by mundane reality. He continued to watch her, industrious as a nesting bird. The precious bloom within her still locked within its bud. She was entirely unaware of the throne to which destiny had appointed her. In recent months, Reuven felt renewed urgency in his purpose. His inner voice told him that a revelation of his mission was imminent: According to his word, a small group of followers would begin construction of a magnificent project for future generations. A second entry in his diary read as follows:
"I carry a lonely burden not of my own choosing. The present-day custodians
of the Holy Grail* have open wounds in their hearts; they have no knowledge
of their allotted roles in the scheme of things."
The inability of most men to suspend reason and grasp enlightenment is the
disillusionment of a visionary in his day. Reuven’s starry night awaited the
white blossom that would succeed the thorns.
"Nice of you to come all this way, Reuven," she said, pressing his hand softly between both of hers.
"Yoni was your blessing in the years that were given to you together, Jeanine," he answered with the formality that was typical of him in such circumstances. She lowered her eyes and breathed deeply for a moment without relaxing her hold on his hand. As she lifted her face towards him, her expression was intense.
"I thank God for that, Reuven,” she answered. “I believe Yoni's passing was written in the Master Plan. Remember how we used to talk about the Master Plan, long ago?" So, he thought, she had not lost her rare belief in the cosmic order.
"Of course I remember, Jeanine, " he answered softly.
Then, he gently kissed her hand, wished her well and moved along. As he
suspected, there would be little time for more intimate conversation on this
occasion. He followed the stream of guests to the memorial wall and thought
he noticed a familiar face on the far side. But what on earth could have
brought Ora Porath to this event?
"Pardon, please." He returned a puzzled look towards a comely olive-skinned woman, whose large grey-green eyes sought his. She wore a soft black wrap edged with traditional Moroccan embroidery that afforded her an allure of gently shrouded femininity.
"I saw you speaking with Jeanine, just now," she hastened to explain. “She
told me you know 'er, hmm, many years."
Her speech had a lightly accented quality - the occasional dropped "h" and
" Then clutching her hands melodramatically to her heart, she added, "It's a terrible, terrible tragedy, isn't it?"
"Yes,” Reuven answered distractedly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name…”
"Oh yes, of course. I'm Shira Argov." Reuven shook her hand.
"Reuven, Reuven Sofer. Glad to meet you, Shira," he said, courteously hiding his irritation at having lost track of Ora in the crowd. Suddenly, he spotted her again gesticulating at him and, hastily excusing himself, made off in her direction.
"Hey, surprised to see you here!" he exclaimed breathlessly as he caught up with her.
"Yup. Sad business, isn't it? Brings home what a fragile existence we lead." She was of average height but Reuven dwarfed her. There was a classic correctness about her well-fitting trousers and coordinated cotton top. She was flushed as she spoke to him. He heard she had married...
"Did you come with your family?" he asked discreetly.
"Nope. Left Gadi at home with the kids. It’s my side of the family and distant, at that."
“So, you’re here because of Yoni?”
"Yoni? Oh, no. One of the other soldiers - son of an English couple. It's a remote connection on my father's side. You know, they haven’t got much family in Israel and I thought I ought to come." Reuven smiled to himself as she spoke. This was the Ora he remembered, imbued with an estimable social conscience.
"And you? Yoni? Was he family?" she asked.
"No. His mother’s an old friend of mine."
"Have you spoken to her?"
"Only very briefly.”
“How’s she holding up?”
“It’s hard to know how she's really feeling. She's putting on such a strong public front."
"There's something terribly impersonal about this meeting, don't you think?"
"Yes, well I really came out of a sense of duty," said Reuven not choosing to comment further on the complexity of his decision to attend. They browsed the exhibit for ten minutes or so. Three bright faces; three lives cut short in their prime: Yoni, just nineteen, handsome and ambitious; his two friends, equally passionate, talented and young. It was a sentimental display that wooed the pain of the bereaved. Little recognition of the ongoing spirit of the fallen, thought Reuven and, turning away from the grim wall of death, he said to Ora:
"I need some air. How would you like to ride out to the coast with me for
She seemed relieved to be able to escape from the oppressive atmosphere of
the meeting. So, they slipped away from the kibbutz in the direction of
She exuded a charming radiance and there was a coy femininity about her. Her
chestnut hair fell in loose waves just short of her shoulders and her cheeks
were flattered into a warm glow by the afternoon breeze. He slid a glance at her
pleasantly proportioned physique, taking in its understated sensuality
accentuated by the gentle curve of her stomach, her girlish breasts and
teasingly prominent nipples. The variegated tones of her hazel eyes
reflected her essential ambiguity - none of it escaped him.
“So, tell me more about Jeanine.”
“Oh, we were college buddies, you know. I felt pretty close to her at one time, but our lives have rolled along different tracks since then. Actually, she foresaw quite accurately the way things are turning out for each of us right now...” Ora laughed. “Is she some kind of a seer, then?”
“Maybe so. She has insight.” Ora felt the blood rise to her cheeks, embarrassed by her glib dismissal of something he obviously treated seriously.
“What kind of thing did she predict, then?”
“She told me of the turmoil ahead, of the obstacles in my way and of the roles those close to me would eventually assume.”
"What kind of roles do you mean? Professional, personal?" she asked, a little intimidated by his bombastic manner.
"Both. She sensed they would evolve to some preordained stature." Dissatisfied with this enigmatic answer, she questioned him some more:
“How did she claim to come by such knowledge?”
“She drew my astrological chart. It was the one and only time I ever indulged in astrology."
“And you’re really into all that?” She was beginning to feel ill at ease.
“Astrology’s a fascinating subject,” he replied. “Especially its assumptions about the way universal patterns and forces affect our lives,” he said, hastening to add that he did not necessarily accept all the conclusions of the astrologists. She shifted her weight nervously from foot to foot:
“Oh? You don’t?”
"How can I trust theories rooted in the wrong calendar?” The way in which he laid his ideas on her seemed somehow calculated to test her. This time, he volunteered an explanation:
“I live by the Jewish calendar; it’s lunar-based and I think it’s much closer to the real truth."
"Maybe so,” she pressed stubbornly, “but you still let Jeanine prepare a chart for you, and how do you explain the impact her conclusions had on you?" He was smiling now, delighting in her animated persistence.
"Ora, there are those who find truths in coffee grains or read them in the palm of your hand. The medium’s not important; it's the message itself. Jeanine showed me who I am to become and what's required of me. No one before or since has clarified my path as she did. That's why I hold her in such high esteem." Again, Ora wondered at his obtuse references to messages and paths. Now his gaze was fixed on the water, his wide brow tensed, his height moderated by the subtle curve of his shoulders. He crouched down and picked up a sharp-edged piece of flint from among the strewn debris along the tide line. With it he began to draw shapes in the sand– a triangle with concentric circles around it, framed first with a square, then with a pentagon. There was nothing casual about the precision with which he worked. He offered no explanation, however, for the strangeness of his act and left Ora to look on perplexed. Here and there, he scratched a name inside one of the circles – Shahar, Tamar, Michaela... Nathan, Rikki... He stopped. Looked up at her.
"Does this have something to do with the roles you talked about before, Reuven?" she ventured. He smiled without answering, then stood up and walked a little way back from his sand drawing as if to admire it from a distance. There was an undeniable mystique about the man. Turning, he beckoned and curiosity carried her captive in his wake. They walked some way along the beach line that extended northward beyond Rosh Hanikra all the way into Lebanon. She followed in his determined stride over rock pools and scrub. In a courtyard to their right, in the shade of a low, stone wall, a boy was kicking a ball. Reuven called to him,
"Shu ismek?" - "What's your name?" Straight away, the answer came back:
The boy's ageless Arab guardian offered them a pitcher of water and gestured
towards a shaded bench onto which Reuven slung his blue canvas shoulder bag.
They sat down and drank together as Ahmed danced circles around Reuven. Ora
was fascinated by the ease of his connection with the boy. It was as though
all his worldly cares were eradicated by the young lad's lively and
unconditional laughter. He picked up the ball and tossed it light-heartedly
back to Ahmed. She felt glad she had agreed to accompany him.
Ten minutes or so later, they returned the pitcher to its owner and began to
walk back along the beach. From the bar terrace above them wafted the sounds
of the Army Radio playing the popular song, "Ah, God is Good". Reuven
eagerly scaled the stone steps winding up to the terrace where he began to
dance in private communion with the music. Ora hesitated briefly before
"Hmm. This all looks delicious," delighted Ora, “I love the smell of the fresh pita! Now tell me more about Jeanine's insights. Who are the people close to you and what roles are they destined to play? What did she really mean about your path and its obstacles?" As if by way of reply, he reached into his bag and took out a folded chart. Ora wrinkled her nose at its mustiness as he spread it out over the table. It was a family tree. Fascinated, she watched him earnestly tracing and retracing in it the landmarks of his lineage. He pointed to three names in the centre of the family tree, and said:
“Three women are intimately connected with me by birth and by marriage:
– Shahar, my daughter and dawning light of my soul.
– Michaela, my sister, protector of my spirit and giver of God's strength.
– Tamar, my wife: Born of the house of Ruth, our revered matriarch by
whose leap of faith the Earth's Redeemer is to descend.”
"My mother and father were separated from their parents as young children and despatched from Austria to England by Kindertransport to escape the Nazis at the onset of World War II. We can only presume all those unnamed siblings and cousins, uncles and aunts subsequently fell as victims of the Holocaust. They were, at any rate, never heard of again.” His pompous oratory manner did not fool Ora - She recognised it as his emotional shield. He described the damaging effect his mother’s early life trauma had upon her relationship with him. As she listened to the acrimony with which he spoke of this alienation from his mother, she realised how totally different her own childhood had been from his. A welling sadness filled the pit of her stomach.
"I'm sure, deep down your mother cared for you," she insisted.
"I felt her only as an obsessive domination of my life and denial of the essence of my being."
"And your father?" she asked.
"Oh, we used to be quite close, but he's old and frail now, and there's no real dialogue between us any more." As he spoke, his face contracted against the pain of these admissions. Ora scanned the chart again for clues to the underlying links between the tragic story of Reuven's family and his declared mission. Wounded child of a wounded mother, identification with this family tree was nevertheless, it would seem, a major driving force in his life. Sensing her perplexity, he exclaimed:
"My soul cries out to them in their blindness! Look at the direct line of their descent from the House of David and the stock of Moses!" His eyes acquired a half-crazed look as he stabbed frenetically with his index finger at the charted ancestral line. In the explanation that followed, he elaborated on the significance of names and goaded her curiosity all the more:
"You asked about the roles to be played by those close to me, Ora. You’ll find all your answers in names. Look at our own, for example: By mine I'm connected in spirit with the eldest son of Jacob, patriarch of Israel. Ora, you're a woman of light in Hebrew and in Latin you're the seashore. In this place of our meeting, our names unite us with our history and our land."
"And what about the future, Reuven? Are names the key to that, too?" He looked up at her, and focused searchingly into her gaze.
"Ora," he almost whispered. "You'll understand in time, but first I must
tell you about my dream."
"You can tell me, Reuven, I'm listening. Go on," she urged, trembling as his intensity drove into her consciousness.
"I want to bring planetary awareness into the lives of people all over the world,” he declared. “My vision involves the building of a huge project. It will be a live information network aligned with universal patterns. It will give people a total “hands-on” experience of the Planet as never before."
"Sounds like the challenge of a lifetime," Ora gently replied, and he answered it would be exactly that. In the same instant, liquid sunlight illuminated the half-buried edifices and signs of former travellers in the Galilee sands. Flattered by the faith Reuven had shown in her by his unexpected disclosure, Ora felt she ought to respond supportively. Instead, however, she found herself struggling to make sense of a tantalizing puzzle.
"How did you conceive of the idea?"
"I guess it grew out of my professional connection with the land."
"But this sense of personal mission that seems to drive you..."
"Ah, Ora. You're looking for so many answers so fast. This is something I've been carrying in my belly for years." Aghast, she looked straight up at him.
"You're surely not saying I'm the first person you've told any of this to?" He smiled at her affectionately and nodded.
"But what about Jeanine?"
"Jeanine has an instinctive understanding of many things. Her knowledge of my mission is on a different level entirely. You see, all my life I've been acutely aware of my spiritual link with our Planet and its destiny. I believe in humanity’s eventual transcendence into a multidimensional existence. For that, my project will be an important stepping-stone. On one level my dream’s new, but on another it's just a phase in the time-old Master Plan."
"So, Jeanine doesn't know about your idea for a global networking project?"
"Isn't that what you’re talking about?"
"I guess that's not a bad way of putting it," said Reuven with a look of sudden amusement.
“And the names?” asked Ora. "The ones you etched in the sand..."
“Family, friends, co-project workers – a nucleus that's already starting to come together.”
"So, tell me. Where are you thinking of building your project?"
"On the highest ground overlooking Jerusalem."
"Mmm. Jerusalem," she repeated. "I see."
There was no further exchange between the two and, in the next instant,
Reuven's companion departed without revealing his identity.
In the profound silence that followed, Reuven experienced the radiant
expansion of his spirit vibrating in unity with the land and echoing
patriarchal visions in just such a desert place. He understood that his had
been no commonplace messenger.
A gerbil scampered under the loose tent flap and, from beneath their dry
acacia refuge, a pair of ibex darted into the obscurity of the desert trail.
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