My A-Z post for the F day is here.
This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples picks up where last week’s left off. It’s Rosh Hashanah 1994, and 18-year-old Agnieszka has been volunteering on a Haifa kibbutz with her best friend Lillian (a Western Hindu really into the hippie groove) since they graduated high school in June. Since before she arrived, Agnieszka has had a huge crush on the young director Ezra, four years her senior.
She was initially thrilled when Ezra made great friends with her, but now she’s started to believe this is too good to be true, and is planning to transfer to another kibbutz with Lillian as soon as possible. Ezra, however, has other ideas, and won’t dream of letting his mutual secret crush get away.
I’ve sprinkled in some of the pictures I’ve taken in Haifa and Rosh Hanikra for some local flavor.
She was glad when she didn’t catch sight of him in the crowds that night. She sat with an old woman who’d immigrated from Hungary in 1956, Ibolya, who’d come from Ophelia’s birthplace, Gyor. During the refreshments after services, he also didn’t make an appearance within her line of vision. Satisfied she’d eluded him, she left Ibolya and went outside. She would grab Lillian and as soon as the holiday ended on the seventh, they would apply for transfer to another kibbutz.
“You’re not walking home alone at night, especially wearing something like that. It was bad enough you walked here alone. Why did you walk away earlier?”
“Go back to your family. They don’t want a stranger horning in on their time together.”
“You’re not a stranger to me.”
“You haven’t even known me three months, Ezra. You don’t have a special connection to anyone so quickly. Real friendships take longer than that to be established. I am going to take Lillian and transfer to another kibbutz where the director doesn’t pay unwarranted amounts of attention to me.”
“I won’t let you leave. God sent you to Beit Alizah for a reason.”
“I’m no different from thousands of other volunteers.”
“Volunteer or not, I’ve never felt such an instant and intense connection to anyone on so many levels—spiritual, emotional, intellectual, psychic, you name it. Like I’ve known you for years, or in another lifetime. And if you do transfer elsewhere to avoid me, I’ll follow you. Something like this doesn’t happen every day.”
“What about your family?”
“They’re staying in a hotel.”
“You spoke to them in Hebrew in front of me. I barely understood a word you said.”
“I’ll teach you. You have a dictionary and four instructional books. It can’t be harder than Armenian, Russian, or Hungarian. But for now I’m taking you on a sightseeing tour. And then we’re going back home.”
Agnieszka took his hand and walked with him to the Mediterranean Sea, next to Mount Carmel, with the ancient city of Acre to the northeast. Further east was the snowcapped peak of Mount Hermon.
“And directly north is the white cliff of Rosh Hanikra, the checkpoint of our border with Lebanon. We built this land up from nothing, but these mountains and the sea have always been here. And when you see something that beautiful, you can’t imagine anyone else having it. They can look, but you know they’ll never love or appreciate it as much as you do, or feel such emotional connection. Something so beautiful can’t be given to someone who can’t appreciate it. And they mean something beyond just beauty.”
“You must be extremely proud of the land.”
“I’m not talking about the land anymore, I’m talking about you.” Ezra slipped his arms around her waist and kissed her, and Agnieszka melted into the curves of his body and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
He was very gentle and at the same time passionate. Agnieszka felt extremely safe in his arms, beyond just the fact that he’d just finished his army stint two years ago. He was full of love, compassion, and deep familiarity that hearkened back from another lifetime.
“I’ve been wanting to do that since the first time I saw you lying asleep in your bed, but I restrained myself for fear you wouldn’t feel the same way. I guess this means you have feelings for me too.”
“Since I saw your picture in the brochure.”
“And you never told me?”
“I was afraid. But not anymore. You can take me back to your room and do whatever you want with me.”
“I respect you too much to sleep with you the first night. A quality relationship is built on more than that. If we’re still together at least a year from now and know this is leading to something permanent, and we both feel it’s time, then it can happen. And I may be mistaken, but aren’t you a betulah?”
“Is that your concern?”
“You are, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” she admitted.
“You don’t have to be ashamed of it.”
“I want you to be the first.”
“If things work out like I believe they’re destined to, I will not only be your first lover, but your only.”
Agnieszka could barely sleep at all that night, thinking about Ezra and how strong his arms were, how soft his skin, his electric touch. She couldn’t wait to make love to him. She knew she could never go back to America.