the short story project


Yitzhak Auerbach-Orpaz | from:Hebrew

Talitha Kumi

Translated by : Dalya Bilu

In September everyone’s looking for an apartment. Especially in Jerusalem. Especially students. This is the busy season for Yochanan Dvir, apartment renovator and owner of a few of them himself. Two small apartments which he renovated in Nahlaoth he rented out immediately for 4oo dollars each. He was on the point of renting out the third, a one-room apartment in Abulafia Street, for 300 dollars, but before he could sign the contract Haimke Levine called him from Tel Aviv and said: “Listen. Maybe you’ve got something for my daughter. She’s been accepted at the Betzalel art school and she needs a one-room apartment.”

Yochanan said “Yes.” Without hesitation.

Haimke Levine had helped Yochanan when he was in big trouble. He had fallen in love. Suddenly he understood the meaning of the words “for love is fierce as death”. And the girl  ̶  a high-school student. He stopped working and ran around like a lunatic. One day he began taking an interest in the Shalom Tower, walking around and counting the floors. Haimke went with him, ate with him, refused to leave him alone. And all the time he told him horror stories about this one and that one and how they all, thank God, survived in the end. And were getting along nicely too. Once he even jumped into the Gordon swimming pool for him. He shouted “I’m sick of it!” and jumped in at the deep end. He didn’t know how to swim. Yochanan naturally jumped in after him and pulled him out. Afterwards it turned out that Haimke was once the junior swimming champion or something. He simply never left him alone. This was four years before. Yochanan got over it, and in the end he even got married (and divorced again). They didn’t see much of each other. But Yochanan kept a warm spot in his heart for Haimke. And when he called and asked a favour for his daughter, Yochanan immediately saw before his eyes Haimke’s floury face, his soft laugh, and the exposed gums at the front of his mouth. He wouldn’t hear of an implant or a prothesis. He claimed that he couldn’t afford it, that the alimony he paid for his two daughters ate up everything he earned teaching mathematics at a crammer ‘s. As far as this was concerned Yochanan didn’t believe him. In Yochanan’s opinion, Haimke knew that the exposed gums were part of his elderly charm. In any case, Yochanan was delighted to have the opportunity to repay him. He had never seen Haimke’s daughters.

“Her name’s Dana,” said Haimke Levine. “You’ll recognize her immediately. Innocent-looking with big eyes.”

They arranged for Yochanan to meet Dana the next day at seven o’clock in the evening next to Talitha Kumi,1 to show her the apartment and give her the key.

“How much?” asked Haimke.

“Don’t insult me. We’ll talk about money later.”

His watch was fast. Sometimes ten minutes and sometimes twenty. This didn’t bother him. He liked feeling that he was running ahead of time. He took his shoulder bag, but instead of wearing his regular jeans, which he used for work too, he put on a striped shirt and wide cotton trousers. He checked his beard after shaving too, smelled his armpits after showering, and combed his short, strong hair, and suddenly it occurred to him, and he wasn’t even surprised, that he was getting ready for a blind date.

But he didn’t change the contents of his shoulder-bag. The usual pliers and screwdriver, he never left the house without them. Any repair or renovation, big or small, you began with them.

And there was also a thick notebook with a hard black cover in the shoulder bag, on whose first page, under the word ‘Diary’, the opening date was written in green ink, and after that nothing. And there was also a thin book published by the Open University in a soft cobalt blue cover, the color of his Subaru car, on the subject of quantum theory. The fate of the universe had been worrying him lately.

Equipped with all the above, he made for Talitha Kumi. The clock on the facade of Talitha Kumi said six-thirty. He compared it with his wrist-watch, which said six-forty. He trusted the Talitha Kumi clock, which left him enough time to duplicate a key for Haimke Levine’s daughter, who appeared in his imagination as a pale, fragile girl who spoke in a whisper and whose big soft eyes shyly caressed his face.

At about the time Yochanan was putting the finishing touches to his mental portrait of the girl he was going to meet next to Talitha Kumi, the man finished duplicating the key. Yochanan was pleased by this synchronization, it seemed to him like a vestige of some longed-for, harmonious world which had once existed but was now lost. It also held out promise for a successful meeting. He looked for a key-ring and found a gilt medallion with a picture of Madonna. He supposed that she would want Madonna. He himself detested Madonna. The duplication of the key cost him four shekels, the key-holder eight. This seemed exorbitant to him, and he almost bought one in the shape of a Dutch clog for four shekels, but at the last moment, for the sake of Haimke Levine, he decided to buy the medallion with Madonna nevertheless.

A wonderful feeling of generosity flooded him. He didn’t exactly know what to do with it. He dropped a whole shekel into the violin case of a street musician, and called up one of his two tenants, a new immigrant from Russia, and asked him what he could do to help him. The new imniigrant said: “Everything. Everything. Nye harasho.” Yochanan promised to come and see what he could do. Maybe that very evening. He knew, of course, that the faucets had to be fixed, but his experience as a landlord told him that if he didn’t do it, the tenant would. The tenant, however, who misunderstood the landlord’s good intentions, said something in Russian which sounded to Yochanan like a curse.

Yochanan thought that this was unfair. But he made up his mind not to let it spoil the rendezvous. He returned to the Talitha Kumi plaza. On his arm he carried a black anorak. As a native Tel Avivian he mistrusted the Jerusalem weather: suddenly in the middle of summer, especially here, you would be hit by a freezing wind. Even without a wind, it was September now, and September evenings in Jerusalem meant sweaters and anoraks.

Talitha Kumi is the place where everybody meets everybody, especially at this hour. The light took on a a kind of blueish hue  ̶  he was always astounded by this color of light in Jerusalem, in the last ten minutes before darkness gathered. Perhaps they would be in time to meet inside the blue. Now he saw her as a Japanese silk doll. Deathly pallor worked well on his hormones. He was glad that he had been given the opportunity to discover this side of himself. Not only would he give her the gilded key-ring studded with glittering stones, he would show her the apartment and ask her what it lacked, and after she told him shyly what it lacked, he would say to her, casually: “At the landlord’s expense.”

He liked these thoughts. He wanted to cry. His ex-wife’s words still rang in his ears (“You only think of yourself”), and in view of all this abundance he was about to shower on his friend’s daughter, he was overwhelmed by a swelling surge of self-love. After a long time of dulling his mind with house renovations and apartment rentals, together with abstract concern for the fate of the universe  ̶  he suddenly felt good, and he was almost happy.

The watch on his wrist said ten past seven. Another ten minutes at least, he said to himself. Maybe fifteen. He looked forward to a delightful hour, and in the meantime, in a kind of eagerness hitherto ahnost unknown to him to do something for others, he went up to a particularly vociferous group clamoring near the edge of the plaza, and suggested that they state their case quietly. One of them, holding a placard with the clenched fist of the Kach movement, bent down and roared into his face: “Are you for or against?”

Yochanan thought that the man was joking, but he was afraid to laugh. At a distance of a few steps from there a young man in a teeshirt and short trousers was standing and muttering: “No more war, no more bloodshed.”2 Yochanan wanted to tell them that now, when the world was abou .to collapse anyway, there was no point in worrying about trifles. Most of all he wanted to shout: “I’m happy! I’m happy!”

But the lout with the placard, puzzled by the mumbling of the weirdo  ̶  who at this moment opened his arms as if to embrace the world  ̶  lowered his heavy head with a roar:

“Are you for or against?”

The question was definitely unfair. Yochanan saw the dagger flash under the flapping shirt of the armed giant with the cobalt face who was threatening the world.

He thought of inviting him to discuss the problem over a cup of coffee in the Cafe Atara, but in view of the urgency of the matter, he immediately declared:

“I’m for or against.”

The clenched fist of his interrogator remained suspended in the air, enabling Yochanan to withdraw in a more or less orderly manner.

As he retreated, walking backwards, Yochanan admitted to himself that the Cobalt Man’s question had a certain justice, if not in its style then in its content. He had never completely made up his mind whether he was for or against anything. It seemed to him a little besides the point. For example, if he happened to bump into a high-school student with a murmuring voice and caressing eyes, he wouldn’t ask himself if he was for or against, he would simply die for her.

Dana, for instance.

At this moment he realized that he was imagining the kind-hearted Haimke’s daughter as a kind of double of the high-school student for whose sake he had almost thrown himself off the Shalom Tower. This moved him, and he couldn’t come up with any good reason to fight against this wild flight of his imagination. Somewhere deep in his heart he was always ready to forget his apartments and the alimony which had turned him unwillingly into a landlord with apartments to rent, and the never-ending worry about the imminent destruction of the world, which appeared to him in the form of a cobalt-colored booklet shooting out of his bag and exploding into a million scraps of coloured paper  ̶  a real celebration!  ̶  and to begin the adventure of his death from the beginning.

A few useful details about the life history of Yochanan Dvir:

Motherless from the age of six, a bookworm to the age of sixteen, fatherless from the age of sixteen, apprenticed to a renovations contractor from the age of sixteen, non-registered student in the departments of Jewish Mysticism and Business Administration at Tel Aviv University, a six-month course in Japanese flower arrangement, two years as a pilgrim at a temple in Nepal, whence he returns bearded, smiling, and silent, to work from the age of twenty-four at odd jobs, and between one job and the next to lie on his back and smile at the ceiling. Sometimes he announces, alone or among casual acquaintance, over a glass of beer, in response to urgent events: “It’s impossible to know anything.” in this manner ten years go by. At the age of thirty four he is pushed into marriage by two of his acquaintances, themselves married, who are unable to bear his provocative bachelorhood. From the age of thirty-nine divorced with a child. At this age, one day after his divorce, he bought a thick notebook with a hard cover and wrote under the word ‘DIARY’, printed in large letters: “Begun on the 15th of September 198  ̶  Yochanan Dvir.” The date was important, since it was his birthday. But Yochanan did not believe in horoscopes and the signs of the zodiac, and accordingly he did not see the date as having any significance beyond the date itself . Ever since then he had carried the notebook around with him wherever he went, in a special compartment in his shoulder-bag. Apart from the opening date he didn’t write a single word in the notebook. After his divorce, his wanderings, the death of his parents, and his first love, he was sure that he would have something to write in the diary. But when he sat down to write in it, everything seemed to him trivial, meaningless, and incomprehensible, and the notebook remained empty. Nevertheless he never stopped believing that one day he would find something to write in his diary. When he fell in love with the beautiful high-school student, who spoke to him  ̶  her private tutor in mathematics  ̶  in a soft voice and with a caressing look, he decided that this was the thing he had been waiting for, and everything assumed a tremendous significance. Her name was Dana. In his dreams she smoked his pipe (he had never smoked a pipe) which had a gigantic stem. He immediately understood that the sights of Nepal were intruding here and signalling to him: This is your bride. This is your betrothed. He almost began to write in the diary, but then the girl made it clear to him that she had a boyfriend, and that if he continued to harass her she would call the police, and he began to contemplate suicide. Yochanan was sure that there had been a misunderstanding here, that she was meant for him, and that it was only because of some fault or hitch in a dark corner among the stars  ̶  of which he could know nothing because of the immanent uncertainty stemming from quantum thcory  ̶  that it had not come off, and the little high-school student had exchanged him in her blind naivete for some stupid athletic boy who still had pimples on his face.

According to the same logic, Yochanan argued in his own favor, as he lay on his back for days at a time looking at the ceiling, it was possible that some other, opposite fault, a kind of anti-fault, in some other corner of the universe, would cancel them both out, and the girl would return to him as naturally as the sun returns to its course in the morning, and his life would be saved.

Equipped with these thoughts and a full measure of self-pity, he stood for hours in front of the Shalom Tower and counted the floors from top to bottom, without any intention of committing suicide, but full of gratitude to Haimke Levine who took his tears and threats seriously From the age of thirty-nine he worked as a renovations contractor, both because of the need to pay alimony for his son, whom he hardly ever saw, and because of the opportunities offered him by the Jerusalem building market, which began to boom with the mass immigration from Russia; but mainly because of an inner consciousness that Jerusalem was a place in which everything was still possible. He soon found himself with apartments to rent. He had an accounts book, also in a hard cover, in which he wrote down his income and expenditure at the end of the day, but he did not take this notebook with him in his shoulder-bag. He thought: if what he had heard a scientist saying on the radio was true, that it was enough for a butterfly in Kamchatka to flutter its wings in order to create a cyclone in the constellation of Sirius, then mixing up the two notebooks could be really dangerous.

Yochanan shook his arms as if they were crawling with vermin, but for safety’s sake he also sent a conciliatory wave in the direction of the lout, who had not yet recovered from his stupefaction.

The twilight blue dissolved into the cold neon lights of the evening, and Yochanan asked himself if he had done everything possible to be worthy of the frissons of delight awaiting him at the appointed hour. In the meantime he scratched his back between his shoulder-blades, where a kind of scabies had taken up permanent residence during one of his journeys. A cold wind descended on the plaza and went away again, and the crowds of people, of all races and ages, who momentarily raised their heads as if to see where the cold wind was coming from, immediately returned to their searches or their wares, jewellery and balloons, knitwear, missionary leaflets and prayer-books for the High Holidays; the violinist to his violin, the messiahs to their demented mutterings, and the quarrelers to their quarrels, and a rabble of faces and garments moved to and fro like sleepwalkers around the stone arch bearing the name of a young girl who had come back to life  ̶  and they all looked as if they were searching for their blind date.

Yochanan put on his black anorak, which up to now he had been carrying over his arm, examined the way it lay over his white shirt with the brown stripes, and leaving the sleeves unbuttoned for an effect of careless grace, he looked at the Talitha Kumi clock and was shocked.

T’he clock still said half past six.

The anticipated frissons of delight gave way to confusion. On principle he was against confusion. And,so he resolutely exchanged the confusion for paternal concern. What had happened to the girl? His dear friend Haimke had entrusted her to his care, and now where was the girl? Irrelevantly he remembered that he hadn’t had any supper. He bought a hotdog for three shekels, demanded mustard, crammed half of it into his mouth with one bite, and immediately spat it out into the municipal litter bin, into which he also disgustedly threw what was left in his hand. There. In spite of his hunger, he had given up the hotdog. This seemed to him a worthy sacrifice. His watch said seven forty. How was he to tell if his watch was fast or slow? Suddenly he no longer trusted his watch. He wanted to swear, but he couldn’t find the right word, and so he ripped it furiously off his wrist, but he couldn’t bring himself to throw it away and he put it in his pocket instead. He asked someone who looked serious: “What’s the time?” “I’m not from here,” said the man. Another man asked Yochanan if the number 4 bus went to Kiryat Yovel. Yochanan, who believed in the supreme importance of maintaining your presence of mind under stress, expIained patiently that he could go to Kiryat Yovel with the 18, 20, or 27, and that the nearest bus stop was in Jaffa Street. But the man interrupted him with a dismissive gesture and said: “All I asked was if number 4 goes to Kiryat Yovel.”

Suddenly he had the distinct feeling that all the people here, waiting on the steps of the monument and milling around it, had been waiting and milling around since yesterday, since the day before yesterday, and maybe forever. And they had all missed their appointments because of this bloody Talitha Kumi clock, which had probably stopped two thousand years ago at least. In the grip of this defeatist thought, he turned to a pale young girl, who was sitting and writing from left to right on a letter pad, and asked her, after apologizing in two languages, what the time was. She said: “Eight o’clock.” In Hebrew.

Her voice was soft, something delicate and painful tightened her lips. For a moment he hoped that she was Dana. In the terrible pressure he felt in his guts, he was ready to compromise, and so he asked her if she was by any chance Dana Levine. She whistled a few words between her almost-closed lips, among which he identified one English word he know: “Asshole.”

A mumbling, bearded messiah-freak who was standing with his back to the big display windows of the Mashbir Letzarhan went on mechanicafly repeating, in a nasal American accent: “The last train, gentlemen. It’s not too late.” Only now, perhaps under the influence of the words of the mad, self-anointed messiah, Yochanan grasped his new position: that he was late. By a simple calculation, while he was duplicating the key, phoning his tenant and messing around with the morons from Kach, Dana had been looking for him. He was at least half an hour late. Dana had waited for him for half an hour and left. He dismissed out of hand the possibility that she had not recognized him  ̶  in such cases your eyes met with the force of an electric shock. By a simple calculation, the cold wind had descended on the plaza at exactly half past seven, and that was supposed to be the niinute at which it would happen. I’m thinking like a madman, thought Yochanan. He immediately formed a two-pronged plan. One: call Haimke  ̶  Dana had undoubtely phoned him to tell him what had happened. And if the first move failed, then the second came into operation: he would go to the apartment in Abulafia Street, within spitting distance, and there  ̶  he could see the picture in front of his eyes  ̶  she walks past the entrance, lingers for a moment, and her big eyes caress the iron door, and she rings the bell, and listens, and when nobody answers she leans against the doorpost and waits.

He inserted ten tokens, anticipating a long conversation with his Tel Aviv friend. There was no reply. He proceeded immediately to the second move. But half-way there, as he crossed Mesilat-Yesharim Street, he remembered that he hadr’t retrieved the telephone tokens. He decided not to make an issue out of it and to continue on his way. But in the narrow alley, Avi, a skinny youth with a stealthy step, known in the quarter as something between a thief and a junkie, barred his way. Avi’s mother was sitting on the steps of the Hagoral synagogue, holding a chicken in her lap and stroking it. She always sat on the same step with a chicken in her lap. in the quarter they said that she saw everything, but she had one eye stuck together permanently shut. Her son, Avi, stood barring the way with his legs wide apart, and took a deep drag from his cigarette. The alley was narrow, barely one and a half metres wide, and it was impossible to pass without pushing up against him.

“I’ve got somebody for you.”

His voice was menacing.

“Thank you. I’ve already got someone,” said Yochanan.

“A girl, right?”

“How do you know.”

His heart was full of foreboding.

“There was some female here,” said Avi. “Don’t worry. I’ll give you a girl you can rely on, just right for you. Two hundred, maybe two hundred and fifty  ̶  what the hell’s the matter with you!”

Yochanan charged forward, almost knocking him over. He ran, but immediately slowed down. He rang the bell and knocked on the door of his house, as if Dana were inside. But Dana wasn’t even outside.

He went up to his apartment. For a moment he wondered why Dana wasn’t there. Then he wondered at his wonder. In the meantime he promised himself that even if she wasn’t there, she would come back, of that there could be no doubt. After all, she belonged here.

The thought that Dana belonged here and that she would therefore simply return here, was so pleasing to him that he awarded himself a laugh in front of the mirror, rubbed his teeth with his finger and smelled it, and in order to give full expression to the feeling of relief he stretched his arms out to the empty room and yawned a deep yawn. And then he was seized by a terrible panic.

Maybe something had happened to her!

Yochanan Dvir found himself at this hour, inside his house, in a state of total uncertainty as to where to go and what to do, but with the clear knowledge that he had to do something, come what may. This being the case, he took his accounts book and began to write down his expenditures for the day: duplication of key 3 shekels, keyring for Dana Levine 8 shekels, hotdog, telephone calls  ̶

A police car, or maybe an ambulance, drove past with a wail, right under his window. The situation seemed urgent, even threatening, but on no account could he clarify to himself where things had gone wrong. The Talitha Kumi clock appeared before him, confident and eternal, its hands on six-thirty. He tried to phone Haimke and found the line dead. it must have been that junkie Avi who had cut the line. The neighbourhood boss. Skinny as a dried fig, and lording it over everybody like a rooster. He had to phone the police, but the phone was dead.

Yochanan resolutely dismissed the idea that everyone had conspired against him. The effort he invested in this refusal made him sweat, especially in his armpits. He smelled his armpits. The smell wasn’t so bad, but nevertheless he sprayed himself with a deodorant. He liked &-odorants that smelled of tobacco. He liked his body. He still saw himself going to keep his appointment with Dana. He drew encouragement from his short, hard haircut, and decided to act with presence of mind.

And immediately, as if he had gone beserk, he began to run. In his catastrophe-haunted heart he immediately connected the nervous wailing of the police cars and ambulances arriving from the direction of the Talitha Kumi plaza with the inevitable death of Dana, hope of his life. As he ran he tried to connect his permanent anxiety about the collapse of the universe with the death of Dana, but they wouldn’t connect. The little pimp with his eternal cigarette barred his way, this time facing the opposite direction. Yochanan decided that with the wailing of the sirens in the background and Dana hovering between life and death it wouldr’t be so terrible if he knocked the little bastard out of his way. He did it. “I don’t believe it,” he said to himself in surprise. “I dor’t believe that I did it.” Judging by the squawking of the chicken, Yochanan guessed that the little pimp had rolled onto his mother.

But Yochanar’s heart was already elsewhere. His Dana lay dying on the Mashbir plaza, at the feet of the Talitha Kumi archway, covered with a blanket, and they were already pulling a stretcher out of one of the ambulances. He heard shouts: “Kill them, They work for Jews and come at you with knives.” He crossed knots of people, shouts, wailing sirens. He sensed huge powers in himself. Policemen grabbed him and he eluded them, and fell on the body. He tore the blanket off the body and lay down on it full length and shouted ‘Kumi, get up, Dana my soul, get up, Dana my heart – ”

That was as far as he got. The policemen grabbed hold of him and dragged him behind the arch of Talitha Kumi and seated him on the concrete step.

Someone brought water.

Yochanan rejected the water. The sweat was pouring off him. A policeman wiped the blood off his face.

“Take it easy,” said the policeman. “Is this yours?”

Yochanan nodded and the policeman hung the shoulder bag on his shoulder.

“Are you related to her?”

“She’s my brother’s daughter.”

“What’s your brother’s name?”

“Haim Levine.”

His answers were lucid. He didn’t look anywhere. He knew that all in all he was the hero of a tragedy and the victim of a great love, and decided to act accordingly.

“What’s your name?”

“Yochanan Dvir.”

“How do you know that she’s your brother’s daughter?”

“That’s an idiotic question,” said Yochanan.

The policeman put the side of this hand in position for a dry chop. But another policeman intervened:

“Leave him alone. Can’t you see? The guy’s in shock.”

“What’s her name?”

“Dana. Dana Levine.”

The second policeman, the one who had spoken before, rummaged in a small denim knapsack and pulled out a document that looked like a passport. He paged through the passport and showed Yochanan the photo.

“Do you know this woman?”

“No,” said Yochanan.

“Her name’s Sandra Lee, Arkansas, USA. Is that your brother’s daughter?” asked the policeman.

“No. But. . .” said Yochanan, “it’s not too late.”

He stretched out his finger and pointed it at the level of their eyes. The second policeman exchanged a glance with the interrogating policeman.

“You can go,” said the interrogating policeman.

Yochanan felt slighted at not having been taken in for more serious questioning. What could you expect from policemen who saw the world through the nickel of their police badges? There had been a big mistake here, of that there was no doubt. A colossal mistake in his opinion, but completely comprehensible. If they had given him a chance he would have opened their eyes to see that there was something more, something else, more than the human eye could see, and that it was an everyday matter. Yochanar’s mind, which had in a certain sense been clouded, but in another sense been granted clarity, immediately connected everything with the great imminent collapse, when the bodies racing toward nothingness, toward the gathering darkness, would open up to each other like lovers at the hour of their last farewell. What’s the wonder that my Dana, Dana my soul, came back to life.

Pityingly he now looked at the two ignorant policeman, who didn’t understand what they saw. One thing was absolutely clear: as long as he waited for his Dana, as long as he waited for his Dana, his Dana was alive.

These are good thoughts, said Yochanan to himself. He went up to the battery of public telephones to call Haimke, but remembered that he had no tokens left, and turned round to go home. His whole body hurt, but the sacrifice was worth it. Even if he never saw Dana as long as he lived, he had done his bit. At the same time, however, he wasn’t sure if the cosmic forces which had assisted hirn to bring Dana back to life would be enough to protect him from the swift knife of the little pimp, who was presumably lying in wait for him in the alley. Accordingly he made a detour round the quarter via Agrippas Street and approached his house from the rear, stealthily, and immediately phoned Haimke.

He was sure that Haimke knew everything. The hand which had previously cut the line had now repaired it. Haimke was on the line.

“Listen, Yochanan. It’s a good thing you phoned. Danka’s found something else. A friend of hers has rented a two-room apartment and she’s going to share it with her. Not far from you, by the way, in Bezalel Street.”

“But…..” said Yochanan in bewilderment. ‘She. You know. That’s to say..”

“Yes. Of course. She came to tell you. You sound … is anything wrong?”


“Then bye for now. Drop in some time.”

Yochanan leant on the table. He was very tired. And now he also felt a pressure at the base of his head, where it joined his neck. This he imagined was where the plug connecting all the positive cosmic forces was situated. He felt exhausted. He wasn’t sure that he would be able to play his role in maintaining the system. He needed concrete proof Accordingly he phoned his Russian tenant and the moment he heard the word ‘faucets’ he went for him and told him not to expect any refunds or repairs from him: “Listen here”  ̶  he yelled at him – “you fix those faucets yourself. I’m telling you. Everyone has to do his bit, and that’s that.”

What he said sounded to him barbaric. But completely justified. It was high time they learnt Hebrew.

He went into the bathroom and tested the hot water. There was hot water. He left the faucet open. He liked seeing the steam rising from the hot water. As he pulled off his anorak and kicked off his sandals, he reviewed his day with detached interest, like a person examining someone else’s clothes. He vaguely remembered the clock set into the stone arch of Talitha Kumi. The clock said half past six. Why half past six, for God’s sake?

“Here’s something to open the diary with,” he said to himself.

In the meantime he got into the bath.

“It can wait till tomorrow,” he said to himself.

*The story is published in cooperation with The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature.

  1. Talitha Kumi: ‘Arise, little maid’, words spoken by Jesus (Mark 5: 41) on resuscitating a young girl. When the school by this name-a school for Arab Christian girls established by German missionaries in the last century-was demolished to make way for a shopping Complex in downtown Jerusalem, some of the features of the historic building, including an arch with a clock, were preserved and reconstructed as a little edifice on the plaza in front of the Mashbir Letzarhan department store.
  2. In English in the original.

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