Main Where the Desert Meets the Sea

Where the Desert Meets the Sea

Where the Desert Meets the Sea
EPUB, 371 KB
Download (epub, 371 KB)

Most frequently terms

You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.

A Cut Above The Rest

EPUB, 282 KB

Broken Wheels

EPUB, 181 KB
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2008 by Werner Sonne English translation copyright © 2019 by Steve Anderson All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Previously published as Wenn ich dich vergesse, Jerusalem by Berlin Verlag, Berlin, Germany, in 2008. Translated from German by Steve Anderson. First published in English by AmazonCrossing in 2019.

Published by AmazonCrossing, Seattle

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and AmazonCrossing are trademarks of, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781542043908 (hardcover) ISBN-10: 1542043905 (hardcover) ISBN-13: 9781542043915 (paperback) ISBN-10: 1542043913 (paperback) Cover design by Faceout Studio, Jeff Miller First edition


February 15–16, 1947

February 17, 1947

February 19, 1947

February 20–21, 1947

February 26, 1947

March 1, 1947

March 13–14, 1947

March 15, 1947

April 3, 1947

May 1, 1947

July 15–16, 1947

August 1, 1947

November 29–30, 1947

December 2, 1947

December 15, 1947

December 29, 1947

January 12, 1948

January 25, 1948

February 9, 1948

February 10, 1948

February 20, 1948

February 22, 1948

March 1, 1948

March 2, 1948

March 10–11, 1948

March 13, 1948

March 15, 1948

April 1, 1948

April 3, 1948

April 6, 1948

April 7, 1948

April 8, 1948

April 9, 1948

April 13, 1948

April 24, 1948

April 27, 1948

April 28, 1948

April 30, 1948

May 12–13, 1948

May 14, 1948

May 21, 1948

May 23, 1948

May 28, 1948

June 3, 1948

June 9, 1948

June 11, 1948





February 15–16, 1947

They have ; to be out there somewhere, she thought. If they spot us, it’s over.

The wind surged and the rain whipped at her face, running down her legs, combining with the seawater grabbing at her feet through the railing. It was a moonless February night. The storm had swept in from the northwest and sent temperatures plunging.

Judith Wertheimer watched the captain as he scanned the horizon with his massive binoculars, again and again, his greasy dark-blue cap pushed far back on his head. The Cypriot’s sharp features, framed by a stubbly gray beard, didn’t betray any concern. But she could make out a subtle clenching in his jaw.

She, too, stared into the darkness, toward the west, beyond the waves’ white crests and into that dark-gray mountain of clouds that seemed to merge with the churning Mediterranean Sea. Again the thought raced through her head. If they catch us, it’s over. What then? More barbed wire, more barracks, more camps? She couldn’t bear it, not again.

Judith pulled her old gray wool overcoat tighter around herself. It had once kept a German Wehrmacht soldier warm. Altered by a German housewife, it had changed owners numerous times before a Red Cross nurse pulled it from a pile of worn-out clothes and thrust it into Judith’s hands right before she left. Judith anxiously felt around in the pocket for the postcard, then calmed down once she felt it between her fingers, still safe and dry.

“You need to live. Come here,” he’d scrawled in old German script. “Come to my home, in Jerusalem. Your Uncle Albert.” In the upper left corner, squeezed in really small, was the address. “Albert Wertheimer, Ben Yehuda Street 112, Jerusalem, Palestine.”

How old would he be now—sixty-four? No, sixty-five. Her father’s brother, Albert Wertheimer, PhD, had been a lawyer and notary—back then.

Lost in thoughts of her uncle, Judith didn’t see the huge wave until it slammed against the bow. The ship lurched, then reared up, rising high, and smacked back down, a loud creak coursing through its old hull. The impact ripped the front lifeboat from its mount, and it tipped over the ship’s left side, dangling there a few seconds and banging against the hull until the last chain gave way and the boat was swallowed up by the dark water.

From below deck came the combined screams of many, then the piercing cries of a child, then nothing. Silence. It took Judith a moment to grasp what had happened. The engine laboring to propel the heaving ship had cut out, for the second time since departing Cyprus. The first time, they’d lost three precious hours firing it up again.

She knew time was running out. They had to arrive before dawn; otherwise, they’d be caught along the shore. She looked to the captain. He put down his binoculars, pushed his cap forward, and hurried down the short ladder from the bridge, disappearing below deck with a young crewman.

The Morning Cloud started to lurch out of control, a toy on the waves. An old woman appeared from the hatch; she staggered the few steps across the deck, clamped on to the railing, and threw up. Judith rushed over to hold her up. It was Esther, the little Polish lady who’d lived next to her in the barracks of the British internment camp on Cyprus. She was only fifty-seven but looked much older, emaciated and broken from forced labor in Hitler’s Germany, her narrow back hunched. She stared at Judith with her eyes wide, flashing with fear. She threw up again.

A dull rumble rose from inside the ship, first stuttering, then growing steadier as the engine returned to full speed. The captain climbed back onto the bridge and resumed scanning the horizon. The Morning Cloud gradually turned its bow back toward the east.

Judith had Esther by the arm and was holding her tight.

“Easy, easy! Just a few more hours and we’ve made it,” Judith heard herself shout into the wind.

Esther squeezed her eyes shut and nodded. Judith led her out of the rain that seemed even heavier now, back to the hatch, back to the nearly 250 exhausted people packed together below deck. The hold stank of fear and vomit, but the passengers seemed to feel that anything was better than exposing themselves to the storm’s fury.

Judith helped Esther down, then pulled herself back up along the thick, frayed rope railing. She glanced around the deck. Then she saw him, at the rear of the ship. A man in a black leather jacket, dark pants, boots.

She strained to make out more details. A red glow flickered, apparently a cigarette. His legs had a slight spring to them, balancing on the rolling waves. A realization hit Judith: she had seen him briefly when they’d come on board, together with Ari, the man from the Haganah. She remembered his jet-black hair, his equally dark mustache. About thirty-five, slim, fair. Under different circumstances, his figure might have been called athletic. Even more striking than his hair were his eyes—blue, very blue. Something about those eyes had disturbed her deeply.

She kept her own eyes fixed on that figure defying the rain and smoking in the darkness just ten yards away. She took a deep breath and concentrated. She was more and more certain that she had seen those eyes before, long before coming on board.

She turned back toward the bow. The wind still whipped at the waves, but the wall of rain had let up for the moment. She believed, or rather guessed, hoped, that she could detect some bright dots far ahead. Lights, she thought, and not on the water—lights on the shore, the lights of Tel Aviv.

“The ship’s coming.” Uri Rabinovich pressed the binoculars tighter to his eyes. “They’re coming,” he repeated, more urgent now. He waited a moment, wanting to be certain. “It’s them. Give the signal!”

Daniel Wyzanski sprang up and directed the spotlight at the sea. Three long flashes, two short, three long. Uri held his breath a second. What if he’d gotten it wrong? What if the Morning Cloud had already been intercepted, like so many ships before her? Seconds passed, feeling like minutes. He glanced at his watch. Half past five—they were late, far too late. Soon it would be light.

“Again,” Uri shouted to Daniel. He squinted through his binoculars. Still nothing. “Goddamn it,” he muttered. But then, there it was: flashing on the other end, three long, two short, three long. He lowered his binoculars.

“Quick! Prepare the boats.”

Five young Haganah men sprang up from behind a dune and ran down to the beach where their gray inflatable boats lay. Only two of the five had a motor. The others had to be rowed, roughly three hundred yards out over the roaring surf.

The Morning Cloud was now clearly in view. Uri reached the beach close behind the others, short of breath after his sprint. Just as he went to jump into an inflatable boat, a glistening light shot up high over the Morning Cloud, illuminating the old ship. Light from a flare. Uri raised the binoculars to his eyes, searching for the source. Then he saw it, far beyond the refugee ship, cloaked by the rain.

The British were here, and they were closing in fast.

Judith shielded her eyes, blinded by the light. For a moment, the spectacle fascinated her—the waves rolling, their ship bobbing, the rain now reflecting the white flare, the tattered clouds racing across the sky. Then shock set in. She now could see, barely, its outline against the dark-gray horizon of rain and sea and clouds: a British destroyer.

She instinctively turned her back, as if she could deter fate by not looking. She clapped her hands to her face, taking deep breaths. The events of the previous forty-eight hours replayed in her mind—their escape from the camp, the Haganah trucks rushing them to the ship, the British in pursuit, the throng of people scurrying up the narrow gangplank, the cramped and overloaded ship.

Judith knew what would happen if the British caught them. Esther had gone through it already. They’d be returned to the camp on Cyprus where the British had crammed in thirty thousand Jews, all survivors of the Holocaust and all with only one goal: to reach Palestine.

Suddenly, there was frantic commotion all around her. Three Haganah men were bringing up their human cargo from the belly of the ship. Frightened figures, unsteady on their feet, the crying children holding tight to the adults’ legs.

“Throw out the ladder!” Ari shouted.

As the rope ladder splashed into the water, another harsh jolt passed through the ship. The Morning Cloud had hit a sandbank. All eyes turned to the captain, who was trying to reverse course. To no avail—the Morning Cloud was stuck. The crew frantically grappled with the remaining lifeboat and lowered it down over the restless waves. Then they began handing out life vests, but there were only fifty for two hundred fifty passengers.

“Give them to the children, hurry!” Ari screamed.

Judith saw Esther put her life vest on a little girl.

She heard Ari shouting: “Hurry, faster!”

Judith grabbed the girl and pulled her close to the rope ladder. The girl hesitated.

“Where’s your mother?”

The girl gaped at her.

“Get going already! Go!” Ari yelled.

“You go with her,” Judith told Esther. “I’ll be right behind you.”

The Polish woman reached for the girl’s hand, helped her climb over the railing, then reluctantly climbed over herself.

“I—I can’t swim,” she whispered.

“Don’t worry, you can do it,” Judith reassured her.

Judith watched Esther struggle down the ladder, then followed, fighting the waves. Below, she could now make out a gray inflatable boat, where two Haganah men were reaching for the people abandoning ship. About five were already on board. One of them grabbed the girl, now howling in despair, and swiftly pulled her over and handed her to one of the women.

Next was Esther. She clung to the rope ladder, unable to move, frozen with fear. A hand reached out for her, but the Morning Cloud rocked wildly back and forth atop the sandbank. Esther hung with both hands clamped to the ropes, her face to the hull. A man finally grabbed her by the right leg, but she panicked, flailing. Then suddenly, unable to fight him anymore, she let go. Her leg slipped from his hands. She tumbled down headfirst.

Seeing Esther disappear into the waves, Judith didn’t shout, didn’t even think. She pushed off from the rope and dropped feetfirst into the depths. The shock of the cold water only hit her when she came back up spluttering, kicking to stay afloat. She frantically peered back and forth, searching for Esther. For a moment she thought she saw the woman’s head in the crest of a wave. She immediately began paddling in that direction, but her progress was painfully slow, damned from the start by her heavy coat and the ice-cold water.

“Esther,” she screamed. “Esther!”

Judith’s arms kept thrashing, yet she couldn’t gain even a yard. Her movements slowed. When the next wave crashed over her head, she swallowed a huge mouthful of water, then coughed it back up, retching.

“Esther,” she gasped.

Suddenly, she felt someone roughly grab the back of her neck, an arm wrapping around her torso. She flailed and fought, trying to free herself.

“Stop it,” said a male voice. “Stop, there’s nothing you can do for her.”

Yet she kept fighting, more violently now. The man tightened his grip.

“Hang on, the boat’s coming!” he shouted.

“Esther,” she muttered. Then she was right up against the gray rubber of the boat. Hands reached out to her, a face hovering, framed by jet-black hair. Blue, very blue eyes. More hands seized her overcoat. The man in the water released his grip and pushed her forward. Gradually, as if in slow motion, they pulled Judith on board.

Esther, she kept thinking. The woman had survived the German labor camps, the death marches, those uncertain days after the war, the British camp on Cyprus, and now she was dead. Drowned, only a few hundred yards from the shore of Tel Aviv. Judith’s eyes slid closed, and she passed out.

When she came to, she was lying between wool blankets, among sand dunes. The black of night had given way to the gray of daybreak. The rain had stopped. Several trucks waited on the sand with motors running. People were crammed on the cargo beds, their faces weary and drained. Mothers held their children tight.

A face leaned over her. She perceived what resembled a smile. It belonged to a man in his midtwenties. Short, dark-brown hair, dark and determined eyes, and a gentle mouth that didn’t seem to fit him.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

She sat up. It was a simple question to which she had no answer. Reflexively, she replied, “Um, fine, thanks.”

The man kept smiling. He held out his hand. “We already met in the water. Uri. Uri Rabinovich.”

She accepted his hand, shaking it gently.

“Judith Wertheimer.” Only now did she notice that she was wearing nothing but panties under the wool blanket. Her wet clothes lay next to her. She realized how silly their formal introduction was under the circumstances, and turned red. Yet Uri had already turned his eyes away and was waving over a young woman.

“This is Yael,” he said. “She’ll look after you.”

Yael smiled broadly at her. She was Judith’s age, with dark-blond hair, khaki shorts, and a dark wool sweater. She looked athletic, nearly tomboyish. She pulled some clothes from a paper bag: khaki pants, khaki shirt, and a sweater like hers.

“Put these on; it’s the kibbutz uniform.”

She gathered up Judith’s wet clothes and was about to stuff them in the bag when Judith stopped her. She reached for her overcoat and searched its right pocket. The postcard was more like a wet cloth now, the ink running. But the picture on the front was still discernible. A photo of the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock above it.

Uri had been watching her. Now, he lit a cigarette, then offered the pack to Judith and Yael. Yael took one out, letting Uri light it. Judith just shook her head. From a distance came the sudden howl of sirens. Uri’s face hardened.

“Shit, the Brits. The destroyer must have radioed them.”

He tossed his cigarette in the sand and waved at the trucks.

“Go, go!”

Yael pulled Judith to the rearmost truck. She was barely on the truck bed before the driver hit the gas pedal. Judith watched Uri run over to a dark car. She could make out the contours of a figure in the back seat. It was the man with the jet-black hair and mustache. Uri slammed the door, and the car sped off.

February 17, 1947

A banging on the door jolted Uri from his sleep. He heard a woman softly call his name.

“Uri, Uri, open up.”

He threw off the bedsheet, which left Yael lying naked and exposed. She muttered in her sleep. He tossed a blanket over her, then wrapped the sheet around his hips, pulled out his revolver from under the pillow, and rushed over to the door. Few people knew his address in Tel Aviv. He turned the key with his left hand and opened the door a crack.

Before him stood a full-figured woman in her late twenties, with bleached blond hair. Her shapely lips were painted red, and her blouse was open one button too many. Uri lowered the revolver and opened the door a little wider. She brought her face close to his.

“The Brits,” Hilda whispered. “They’re heading to the laundry today.” Her gaze wandered over his shoulder. “Sorry, I see you have a visitor.”

Uri looked and saw that Yael had woken up. He turned back to Hilda in the doorway. “Thanks, Hilda. You’ve been a big help, as always.”

He pushed the door shut and hurriedly threw on a pair of pants and a shirt. Then he put on his hat, a type of flat cap. Yael watched in silence. She’d arrived last night from Yardenim on a truck full of vegetables headed to market. Now she sat on the bed, her knees pulled up and her arms crossed around them, staring at him. Uri threw a glance toward the door.

“Hilda works for us.”

But Yael kept staring at him in pointed silence. Uri retrieved her clothes from a chair and tossed them to her.

“Here, get dressed. I need to warn the others.”

Yael put on her clothes without speaking.

“Let’s go,” she said finally.

They climbed into the old Ford together. Uri drove north. Yael looked out the window, slightly turned away from him.

“How’s that young woman, the one we pulled out of the water?” he asked, hoping to distract her. “What’s her name again?”

Silence for a moment. “Judith. Judith Wertheimer.”

“So? Is she settling in?”

“Not really. She’s been through quite a lot. First a concentration camp, then the camp on Cyprus, and now that cold bath on arrival,” Yael said. “That’ll take it out of you.”

Uri turned off the road. “Nearly there.”

On the edge of Tel Aviv, on the Ma’agan Michael kibbutz, stood the low laundry building. A truck was dropping off uniforms and shirts.

“British uniforms.” Uri grinned. “Good business.”

He stood outside for a few moments and watched. Nothing looked conspicuous. He signaled for Yael to follow him in.

Inside the laundry, a few young girls were ironing uniforms. Uri passed them by and continued through the large building. In a back room, he stopped at a trapdoor built into the floor. He knocked three times with his foot, then waited a moment and knocked again. Someone pushed open the hinged door from below. Uri and Yael descended the stairs into a cellar. Bare light bulbs illuminated a workshop where about a dozen men and women sat at unfinished wood tables crammed with gray cardboard boxes. In a corner was a lathe as well as a milling machine and other equipment.

“Take a look.” Uri pulled a handful of metal capsules from a box and held them up to Yael. “Meant for lipstick, imported directly from Great Britain, original packaging.” He reached into another box. “And out of those, we make these.” The lipstick capsules had been turned into large-caliber gun cartridges. “We also make hand grenades, small mines, explosives, whatever’s needed. I’m hoping to arrange a shipment to Yardenim soon.”

There was a sudden commotion near the stairs. A young woman who’d been ironing ran down, looking flustered, and whispered something to Uri.

“Everyone out of here!” he shouted. “Now!”

They all rushed up the stairs, and the men pushed a heavy cabinet over the trapdoor.

“Everyone go for a walk,” Uri said, “until they’re gone.” Then, turning to the girls at the ironing boards: “The British are coming. Just do your work; don’t act nervous.”

He escorted Yael back to his Ford.

“I’m sure they just want to pick up their laundry, but it’s better that they don’t see us here.” He lit a cigarette. “By the way, about Hilda. Most of her, uh, customers are British. She’s one of our most successful agents.”

He leaned over to Yael and kissed her. She returned his kiss and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Let’s go back to your place,” she said. “I still have another hour before the truck heads back to the kibbutz . . .”

She placed a hand on his knee, sliding it upward.

He grabbed the steering wheel with both hands and stepped on the gas.

February 19, 1947

The bus jerked to a stop before the mukhtar’s home, an imposing building in the center of Deir Yassin. Hana Khalidy stepped on board. A full half hour more, and then she would see him. She couldn’t wait.

She wondered if he’d find an opportunity to talk with her this morning beyond the course of their official duties. The notion made her stomach tingle. Butterflies, Nurse Sarah had once called the feeling, and Hana looked up the English idiom in the dictionary: “a fluttering sensation,” it said.

Deir Yassin, a village of modest prosperity, lay just a few miles west of Jerusalem. Many inhabitants of this Arab community of seven hundred souls worked in the city, and relations with the Jews were friendly.

The bus cleared the village after a few hundred yards and soon reached the road connecting Jerusalem with the coast. Twenty-five minutes, she thought. Still so long. Should she greet him first? For months, they’d been trading smiles and shy looks, but she didn’t want to be too forward. He was her boss, after all.

Hana clutched her purse tight and drank in the view of Jerusalem while the village disappeared behind her. She didn’t look back. Although she didn’t want to admit it, it became clearer every morning where her future lay: before her, in that big city, not in the village, not in Deir Yassin.

She could still hear her mother’s words in her ears. Hana, it is time. In the last few weeks, she’d been hearing it more often, more urgently. At twenty-three, she was practically too old now for a traditional life. Her younger sisters had long ago been married off to young men in the community and already had children. Both her brothers were married as well. And she herself had been promised to a neighbor’s son, Youssef Hamoud, who was to inherit a large bakery from his father. Youssef was twenty-five, and others in the village teased him for still being a bachelor. She had put him off again and again, but she knew that things couldn’t continue like this much longer.

What Hana wanted more than anything was to complete her training as a nurse. Then they could see about marriage. But, as she well knew, this only fueled his resentment. Youssef couldn’t bear for her to be trained in a profession where she had contact with other men every day, especially ones who weren’t Arabs but came from cities like Vilnius, Krakόw, Berlin, London, and even New York—Jews from across Europe and America.

From America, she thought, from New York. What did the women in New York look like, the ones that he knew? Had there been many? She glanced down at herself. She surely couldn’t compete with those women. She, an Arab, a nurse trainee. What could he ever see in her—in her of all people?

It is time, Hana, she heard her mother saying again, time for your marriage to Youssef. Only her father had stood by her side. He was a respected man in Deir Yassin, prosperous. He owned a few apartments in Jerusalem, some of which he rented to Jews. Hana was his favorite daughter. He couldn’t say no to her. He was secretly proud of her work, she knew it, of her getting to meet people from all over the world.

The trip didn’t take long. At the bus station in West Jerusalem, on the road to Tel Aviv, Hana transferred from the National Bus Company to the Hamekasher line that would bring her to Mount Scopus. An Arab news vendor was announcing the day’s headlines at the top of his lungs. Hana bought a copy of the Palestine Post, the English-language paper in the British Mandate region.

Asher Leibowitz was the kind of young man who’d rather be riding a horse on the kibbutz than driving an old bus, but this was his job for now. As long as he could spend weekends training with his comrades in the Palmach, best of all with hand grenades, it was okay with him.

He grinned at Hana and glanced at her paper. “Boker tov, Hana. Good morning. Those people in London are starting to get serious now. About time too.”

Hana cautiously glanced around: the usual Arab passengers’ faces looked indifferent. So she quietly replied in Hebrew: “Boker tov.”

Hana lowered the newspaper. In the British House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Bevin had announced that His Majesty’s Government intended to shift all responsibility for resolution of the Palestinian issue over to the United Nations. What would be the consequences of that? Her gaze turned out the window. She studied the passing ads for businesses bearing Arabic, Hebrew, and English lettering, depending on the neighborhood. She noted with satisfaction that she could understand them all. She’d worked hard to master Hebrew as well as English, along with her mother tongue, and in the hospital had even learned some basic Yiddish.

The British, Youssef, her mother, her career—they all spun around in her head. And yet again, she had that one thought she didn’t want to have but couldn’t stop: David. David Cohen.

Hot blood rushed to her face, and she tried to bury herself in the Palestine Post, in the article about Bevin’s speech from London. But the lines seemed to blur before her eyes. Only a few more minutes. Then she would see him.

The bus came to a stop before the massive Hadassah Hospital building, the most modern medical facility in Palestine. It sat high atop Mount Scopus, in East Jerusalem, in the middle of the Arab part of the city.

Hana climbed out and spent a couple minutes enjoying the view. At her feet lay Jerusalem. Rising from the Old City walls crowned with battlements is the Temple Mount, which Arabs call Haram esh-Sharif and Jews call Har Habayit. The mosque’s golden dome shone in the morning sun, above the rock upon which Abraham had nearly sacrificed his son. From here, tradition had it, the prophet Mohammed had ascended to heaven on his horse, accompanied by the Archangel Gabriel. After Mecca and Medina, it was the most important site of Islam, built by the Muslims right where the Temple of the Jews had once stood. When Roman legionnaires destroyed the Temple two thousand years before, they’d left the part of the foundation now known as the Wailing Wall. On the hills beyond lay the newer parts of this city that three religions claimed as their own. Hana spotted the King David Hotel, the British headquarters whose south wing the Irgun had blown up in July of last year. Right behind it, she could make out the prominent tower of the YMCA building. She clutched the cold metal railing in front of her. The British no longer wanted responsibility for this city. They were fed up with the constant attacks, the violence from both sides, the impossibility of reaching a political solution that would satisfy everyone, and only wanted to bring their boys home. Hana knew what everyone in Palestine knew. If the British left, it could only mean more violence.

Another full bus stopped behind Hana. Nurses, doctors, patients, and hospital visitors stepped out. A man carrying his white doctor’s coat on one arm, late twenties, slim, and dark-haired, passed by Hana and then stopped a moment once he noticed her.

“Good morning, Hana. How are you?”

She spun around with a jerk.

“Me? Oh, uh—thanks.” Then she recovered: “I’m fine, thank you, Dr. Cohen.”

He gave her a warm smile and looked like he wanted to say more, then blushed. He turned and disappeared through the hospital entrance. She picked up her purse and followed. It took her some effort not to run.

February 20–21, 1947

The night was moonless and cold. In February, day and night temperatures fluctuate heavily in Galilee. Judith tossed and turned, half-asleep. Her cough had worsened.

Woken by her roommate’s restless slumber, Yael got up and lit a candle. She felt Judith’s pulse.

“Are you sure you should be going anywhere? I think you still have a fever.”

Judith coughed again, from deep in her chest, wheezing. But she nodded. Yael held her hand.

“Listen to me. You should stay here until you’re fully back on your feet. Be sensible.”

But Judith needed to see him. It was the first time since being sent to Dachau that she would see a member of her family. Her father had clung to life for forty-eight hours after SA thugs beat him up on Kristallnacht, before succumbing to complications of a basal skull fracture. Her two brothers, Josef and Hermann, had been sent to England as children, on the last transport the Nazis had allowed. There was no way to track them down. She’d remained in Berlin with her mother until they were torn apart and sent to different concentration camps in 1944.

Judith was desperate to see her last remaining relative, even though she barely remembered him. In 1935, already over fifty, Uncle Albert had emigrated to Palestine after being barred from practicing as a lawyer in Berlin. At first, the Wertheimer family had thought him a naive idealist, an incorrigible Zionist who’d rushed to abandon his country, because the Nazis would soon vanish from the political stage—or so the family believed—along with so many others. If nothing else, they’d surely become more moderate once the Olympic Games proved successful. Yet now he was the only one left—a remnant of her identity, of her family, of herself.

Judith pushed off her blanket. She slowly sat up.

“I’ll be fine. We survived worse in Dachau,” she said, partly to herself.

Yael shook her head.

“You don’t need to play the hero here. Give yourself some more rest. What do a few days matter?”

She gently tried guiding Judith back onto the pillow of her narrow bed. Just then, the window shattered with a bang. A bullet struck the wall across the room and lodged in the wood. Yael reflexively dropped to the floor. She pulled Judith off the bed, dragging her under the table.

“Stay down,” she whispered, and rose again only long enough to blow out the candle.

They waited a few endless minutes in case the shooter outside targeted their window again. Judith fought to suppress a coughing fit, her upper body aching from the strain. Suddenly, Yael sprung up, rushed over to her bed, and folded back the mattress to reveal an old rifle. She chambered a round with expert skill, then used the barrel to bust out the jagged remains of the shattered window and crouched below the windowsill, her rifle at the ready.

Outside, they could hear rushing footsteps, a male voice shouting in Hebrew: “Spread out, go, go!”

Shots rang out, at first single ones from rifles, then the clatter of a machine gun. Judith stayed under the table. She watched Yael stare into the darkness down the barrel of her gun. She slowly bent her finger around the trigger, then pulled. A scream pierced the night, faded to a whimper, then finally fell silent.

“I think I got him,” Yael reported soberly as she chambered another round.

Judith had pressed her hands to her ears with her elbows bent inward. She was shaking uncontrollably. Cold sweat formed on her forehead. Outside, all was calm again now, apart from the sounds of the Palmach men using oil lamps to search the fields for any remaining attackers. But gunshots echoed inside her head. Endless machine-gun fire at the edge of the camp, where the SS was slaughtering the Russian prisoners of war. A deep rattle rose up in her chest, erupting as a violent, convulsing cough.

Only now did Judith notice that Yael had placed a hand on her head, stroking her hair to calm her.

“Come on,” she said gently. “I’ll help you lie back down. It’s all over.”

Judith woke to Yael standing before her, holding a tray with a cup of tea and a plate of scrambled eggs and bread garnished with cucumber slices.

“Breakfast,” she said.

Judith bolted upright. “What time is it?”

Yael glanced at the old clock on the nightstand.

“Just after eight,” she said. “You’re not still going, are you? Not after last night?”

Judith nodded fervently.

“Here, take it, eat something. The bus doesn’t come till nine.” She set the tray firmly on Judith’s lap. “Please.”

Judith began eating, mechanically.

“They found him. It was Mohammed,” Yael said. “A boy from the neighboring village. I used to play with him sometimes when we were kids. He was already a hothead back then. Now the mufti’s men are inciting them all, going through the villages, turning them against us. That was the third attack on our kibbutz this month.”

Judith looked up. “How is he?”

Yael gave her an irritated look. “How is he? He’s dead. I shot him.”

Judith dropped her plate back on the tray.

Yael eyed her with impatience. “Just eat it. Come on.”

Judith shook her head. “I can’t.”

She jumped up and pulled on the dress she’d worn on the ship. She squeezed into the old leather shoes she’d brought from Germany and grabbed her gray overcoat. She quickly ran a comb through her long black hair. Then she picked up the crumpled postcard with the picture of the Temple Mount from the nightstand and slid it carefully into her pocket.

“All right, fine. I’ll take you to the bus,” Yael said with a sigh.

“How’s Uri?” Judith asked.

“I haven’t heard from him for days,” Yael replied quietly, as if afraid of being overheard. “He’s almost always on the move now.”

Boarding the bus behind Judith was a young man in his early twenties, slender, his hair shaved so short she could see the skin on the back of his head. In the five days she’d spent in Yardenim, she’d only seen him once, briefly, in the kibbutz mess tent. She sat in the rear row, tucked into the corner, and rested her head against the window. From the corner of her eye, she saw the kibbutznik take a seat at the other end of her row.

The bus picked up speed. Judith watched the kibbutz fields rush by. This morning the young settlers were excavating a long sewage ditch with shovels. At the edge stood two men with Sten machine guns primed, their eyes on the Arab village just a half mile away.

Judith had fallen asleep. The diesel engine’s annoying growl woke her as the driver shifted gears to cope with the incline. The hills rose steeply to the left and right of the narrow road.

“Bab el-Wad,” explained the young kibbutznik, who’d moved over to sit next to her. “The Arabs call this stretch Bab el-Wad. The canyon’s especially narrow here. Occasionally, they sit up top there and fire down onto the road. I’d do the same in their shoes. There’s really nowhere for a person to escape here.”

He pulled up his shirt and showed her the pistol stuffed into his waistband.

“Don’t worry, we can defend ourselves.”

The bus crawled up the rise so slowly that Judith could’ve walked faster. She broke out in a sweat.

The young man spoke again. “We’ll show the Arabs. The only language they understand is violence.”

She noticed his lively dark eyes darting back and forth, almost frantically.

“Abraham Horowitz,” he said, and put out his hand. Judith shook it with hesitation. He held on firmly for a moment.

“You’re burning up. Fever?”

Judith pulled her hand back. “It’s not so bad,” she said, but Horowitz didn’t look convinced.

An armored scout car was coming their way. Waving at the tip of its bobbing radio antenna was the British flag. The soldiers casually waved to them, holding their red berets.

“Goddamn Brits,” Horowitz muttered, forming a fist. “Twice a day they send their scout cars down this road, from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. That’s about the extent of it for them—then they can officially claim the road is clear. Don’t want to know any more about it. And the Arabs pull back, of course, whenever the Brits come.”

The bus struggled to pass a donkey cart laden with sacks.

“Just look at them,” Horowitz said with a sneer. “A primitive people, donkey drivers and fellahs. They’ve been squatting on our land for centuries. Our land. It belongs to us, always has.”

Judith shrank deeper into her corner, overcome by the shivers that had reappeared over and over in the past few days, the result of her leap into the freezing Mediterranean.

“We all saw last night how much bolder they’re getting. But you can be sure of one thing: we’ll show them.”

The higher the bus climbed the hills of Judaea, the colder it grew. Judith huddled in her coat.

“These people don’t understand peaceful coexistence,” Horowitz started in again. “It’s either them or us.”

On the distant crest of the mountain, high above the road, they could see the jagged peaks of buildings in the now-blue sky.

“There!” Horowitz waved excitedly toward the east. “There, you see? That’s it. That’s Jerusalem.”

Judith rang the bell again. Then a third time. She pulled out the old postcard and again checked the building number. Ben Yehuda Street 112. His name was even listed by the door: “Albert Wertheimer, PhD, Attorney.” It had to be right. A woman came up to her, holding the hands of two small children, a shopping basket over one arm.

“Can I help you, dear?”

“I’m looking for Mr. Wertheimer,” Judith said. “He doesn’t seem to be home.”

The woman winced. “You know him well?” she asked cautiously and dug around in her basket for a key.

“I’m Judith Wertheimer. Albert is my uncle.”

The woman inserted the key in the lock.

“Please . . .” She opened the front door. “Come inside my place a moment. I was his neighbor.”

It took Judith a second to respond. “Was?” she asked. “Did he move away?”

The woman pushed the door open wide, let the children through, and waved Judith inside. “Uh, no. Just, please, let’s go up first.”

They took the stairs to the third floor. On the way, Judith had to stop twice for coughing fits.

The woman eyed her with concern. “Are you unwell?”

Judith shook her head. “I’m fine, fine. I’ll be all right.”

The woman’s apartment was untidy, like that of any family with small children. Judith noticed a lot of books and newspapers lying among a few toys.

“Excuse the mess,” the woman said. She gestured to the sofa. “Please, have a seat. I’ll make us tea real quick if it’s all right with you.”

She disappeared into the kitchen without waiting for Judith to answer. The two children moved closer to Judith, shy but curious.

Judith turned to the girl, who must’ve been about six years old. “What’s your name?”

“Ayelith.” She beamed and handed Judith a ragged old doll. Judith stroked the doll’s shaggy hair, which clearly delighted Ayelith. She chuckled.

“And this is Shimon.” She pointed at her brother, who was a little bigger.

The mother came back holding a pot of tea and two cups.

“I see you’ve already gotten to know one another,” she said. “I’m Tamar Schiff. My husband, Yossi, is at work.” She placed the teapot on the little table and started pouring. “Children,” she said in a firm tone, “please go into the other room.”

The two kids exchanged a look, but obediently disappeared. Tamar gently pushed the door shut behind them. “Sugar?”

She waited until Judith had stirred her tea and taken a sip. Then she sat up straight and cleared her throat. “So, about your uncle—” She raised her cup to her mouth, set it back down. “It’s like this. He’d already been ill for a while, pretty weak, I’d say. No surprise after those two heart attacks.” She paused again. “And then this young British officer came along. That was about two weeks ago. He appeared at his door, exactly like you today, and I was just leaving, about to pick up the kids, so I happened to notice him from the stairwell. Your uncle looked stunned. I don’t know what it was about, but he seemed really, really surprised. Then they went into his apartment.”

She took a sip of tea.

“Later, when I got home, I went to check on him. You see, we’d always looked after the elderly gentleman. He had no one else. He was practically part of the family. He’d often help the kids with their schoolwork. In any case, I went to see him. When he didn’t answer my knock, I went inside.”

She looked past Judith at a spot on the wall.

“He was sitting there in his armchair. He was dead.”

Judith’s teacup clattered against the table. “Dead?”

Tamar gave a helpless nod. “Yes, it was his heart, the doctor said. His third heart attack. Didn’t survive it this time. It was possible he’d gotten too excited.”

Judith couldn’t breathe. “And the Englishman?”

“He was gone.” Tamar placed a hand on Judith’s arm. “I’m sorry. Really sorry.”

It was silent for a while in the room. Eventually, Judith asked, her voice shaking, “The Englishman: What was he doing here?”

“I don’t know, I’m sorry. The only odd thing was that they both were speaking German. As far as I could tell, the Englishman spoke it quite fluently.”

Judith reached for her tea and took a sip. “Did you hear his name?”

Tamar thought about it. “Yes! I think he introduced himself as Goldsmith, Lieutenant Josef Goldsmith. Jewish name, sounds like.”

Judith tried recalling that name, rolled it around in her mind, looking for some kind of meaning, but nothing came to her.

She was overcome by coughing again, from deep in her lungs; it shook her whole body. And with her fit came the realization that she was now alone, completely alone—on another continent, in a country called Palestine, where she’d seen little more than violence and death in the few days since her arrival. Different than in Germany, different than in Dachau, but violence and death just the same. She slumped down, the teacup slipping from her hands.

“For God’s sake, are you all right?” she heard Tamar say as if from a great distance.

She tried to focus her eyes.

“Is there anyone who can care for you?” Tamar asked.

Judith shook her head.

“Listen, your uncle’s rent is paid until the end of the month, still a week off. I have the key to his apartment. You can stay there until you recover, and I’ll take care of you. Come on.”

She grabbed Judith’s hand and gently pulled her up.

In Albert Wertheimer’s apartment, Tamar laid Judith down on the broad sofa and covered her with a blanket.

“Get some sleep. I’ll check on you later.”

Darkness descended over Jerusalem early on February days like this. Tamar pulled the pot of chicken soup off the stove.

“I’ll be right back, darlings,” she told Shimon and Ayelith, who were playing in a corner of the living room. “I’m just taking our new friend something to eat.”

She opened the door to Albert Wertheimer’s apartment.

“Hello? It’s me, Tamar,” she called, switching on the light in the hall, then continuing on to the living room. It was dark.


She used her free hand to find the light switch on the wall. The dim bulb bathed the room in a soft light.

“Oh my God!”

Tamar hurriedly set down the soup pot on a sideboard and ran over to the sofa. The beige blanket over Judith’s body was soaked with blood, her left hand hanging down. On the floor lay a kitchen knife. Blood still pulsed from an artery. For a second, Tamar froze. Then she erupted: “Help! Somebody, help!” She heard footsteps in the stairway. A moment later, her children stood next to her, looking distraught.

“No, you two, go back, quick, run back to the apartment.” Tamar shoved them out the door.

She ran down the stairs, too, into the produce shop on the ground floor.

“Where’s your phone?” she panted.

The salesman stared at her blankly.

“I need an ambulance, quick!”

“There, back there in the corner.”

David Cohen snapped the lock of his worn-out briefcase shut. He was pulling off his white coat when the telephone rang in the physicians’ room.

“It’s an emergency,” said a voice on the other end of the line. “Urgent.”

David rebuttoned his coat. “On my way.”

A few minutes later, he pushed open the door to the emergency room. The ambulance medic was standing over the patient. “Heavy blood loss,” he said in David’s direction. “Still alive but not conscious. Slit her wrists. But she did it wrong—across the wrist instead of the artery.”

“Let me have a look.” David leaned over the woman.

The ambulance medic had tied off her arm and stopped the bleeding. David felt her pulse and noted her temperature. He pulled out his stethoscope and listened to her chest.

“Hmm. This doesn’t sound good at all,” he muttered. “Well, Nurse Sarah, let’s get to it. She needs a transfusion immediately. But first we need to determine her blood type. Plus an antibiotic for the fever—and x-rays, as fast as possible—I’d say we’re looking at severe pneumonia.”

The nurse nodded. “We’ll get right on it, Doctor. Hana?”

Hana was standing behind her, listening keenly. She pulled a syringe from a drawer.

“Good. You take a blood sample, Hana,” Nurse Sarah said kindly.

“Looks like you have a handle on things,” said David. “Call me when you have a blood type. I’ll be in the doctors’ room.” He turned to the door. “Looks like overtime again, Hana,” he added with a wink.

Blood rushed to Hana’s face. “I—I don’t mind at all, Dr. Cohen.”

The door flew open. Two orderlies wheeled in a man on a stretcher. The sheet over him was drenched with blood.

“Grenade attack,” one of the orderlies explained. “At Jaffa Gate, in front of the bus stop. Some guy threw a grenade right into a group of Arabs. Bald, around twenty, took off in a car. The witnesses say he’s a new guy, supposedly named Horowitz, probably with the Irgun. Done his share of butchering, apparently. This man here got it bad. Don’t think the leg can be saved.”

David pulled the sheet away. One leg was shredded, the bones showing. “Are there any other victims?” he asked.

The orderly shrugged. “We took them to the morgue. Mother and a little kid. Nothing we could do.”

When Nurse Sarah knocked on the door later, David was washing his hands. His doctor’s coat was smeared with blood—the orderly had been right about the young Arab’s leg needing to be amputated. At first, David wasn’t sure why Nurse Sarah was standing there.

She flipped open a thin folder with the lab results and made a grave face. She first looked to Dr. Cohen, then to Nurse Trainee Hana, who she’d brought along with her.

“AB,” she said in a grave voice. “The patient, she’s blood type AB.”

David nodded. “A rare type, but, all right, give her a transfusion right away.”

Nurse Sarah’s somber expression didn’t change. “The problem is, we don’t have any more. Too many injured in the last few months, and the number of donors keeps falling.”

David took the folder and stared at the lab results. He knew there was no delaying this. The patient had lost too much blood.

“So, we’re supposed to just let her die?” He looked helplessly at the two women.

Nurse Sarah was staring fixedly at the floor.

Then Hana stepped forward and cleared her throat. David gave her a quizzical look.

“I—” she began, “I’m type AB.”

“You are?” The surprise in his voice was unmistakable. “You’re sure?”

“I’m sure, Dr. Cohen. It’s in my file.”

“And you’d be prepared—I mean, are you aware that you—?”

Hana nodded. “Of course, yes.”

David placed a hand on her shoulder. “Thank you, Hana.” Then he added, businesslike: “Let’s hurry. We really can’t lose any more time.”

When Judith woke the next morning, it took her a while to grasp the situation. She was lying in a clean bed in a large, bright room with five other beds. A tube was sticking out of her left arm, leading to a bottle with liquid dripping from it. Her left wrist was bandaged. Her bed stood next to a broad window. Through the glass, she could see a patch of blue sky, below that a bare, light-brown hill with green stretches. In the distance, she thought she could make out tents with a flock of sheep grazing before them.

The door opened, and three people dressed in white, a man and two women, walked directly toward her bed. The man smiled. “You’re awake,” he said.

Judith tried to smile back.

“I’m Dr. Cohen, and this is Nurse Sarah and Nurse Hana.” The doctor pointed to the two women, one in her early thirties, the other about ten years younger.

He reached for Judith’s right hand and felt her pulse. “Better already. The fever also seems to have come down somewhat.” He took his stethoscope. “May I?” He opened her nightgown and leaned over her. “Well, the lungs don’t sound good, but no surprise there.” Dr. Cohen straightened up again. “You were lucky,” he said matter-of-factly. “Despite everything.”

He turned to the younger nurse, who handed him Judith’s medical chart.

“You have severe pneumonia, considerable blood loss from that, uh, cut on your arm, and a fever, of course.” He handed the records back to the nurse, then waved her forward. “This is Hana Khalidy. Without her, you’d be dead now.”

Judith took a closer look at the young woman.

“Hana donated blood for you. Considering your rare blood type, it was the only way.”

Judith wasn’t certain, but she had the impression that Hana looked Arabic. The doctor seemed to guess what she was thinking.

“Hadassah Hospital is supported mostly by Jews from America, but we’re an open institution. We don’t discriminate. We welcome patients from many countries, Jews, Arabs, Europeans, Americans. And that applies to staff as well.” He gave Judith a brief pat on the hand. “I’m thinking a few days of antibiotics and everything will be much better. Can we call someone? Relatives, friends?”

Judith shook her head. Dr. Cohen looked baffled for a moment.

“Then how about Nurse Hana looks after you for a bit? I mean, since it is her blood flowing in your veins.”

Judith smiled weakly.

“Good, then. Get some rest for now. We’ll check on you later.”

He turned to go, but then pivoted back as if something had occurred to him. He took her hand and held it tight a moment. He made eye contact, then said softly, “And no more foolishness. Promise?”

She lowered her eyes.

“Promise?” he urged.

“Promise,” she said.

He let go and strode to the door, followed by both nurses. Judith saw Hana turn back to glance in her direction.

“Now, what about that young Arab they brought in yesterday?” Dr. Cohen was asking as they left.

By the time the bus cleared the hill to the village, nearly everyone had gotten off. Hana had fallen asleep from exhaustion. She only woke up when they came to a stop at the house of the mukhtar of Deir Yassin.

She was shivering. The day had blessed Jerusalem with its first spring temperatures, but the nights were still cold. At the bus stop stood Youssef, his hands buried in his pockets.

“Where have you been?” he demanded.

She stopped before him. “At the hospital,” she said defiantly.

“At the hospital, with your doctors?”

“At the hospital, with patients.”

“All night?” he railed.

She withstood his glare. “All day, all night, and another whole day, until this evening.”

His eyes were cold. “So? What are you doing there the whole day and whole night in that Jew hospital?”

She stood erect, straightening her back. “Surely you remember Ali? Ali Heikal? About your age.”

“Ali? What about him?” he asked, annoyed.

“They were operating on him for half the night, and I was helping,” she said. “He’s lost a leg, but he’s alive.”

He stood there motionless a moment. Then he looked at her sharply. “Why did he lose a leg?”

She bit her lip. The truth would soon get out anyway. “Grenade attack, at a bus stop.”

“Those Jews! Every day there’s another attack. And you?” His voice broke. “You’re still helping them. This must stop, you hear me? I will not tolerate it anymore! God will punish me if I put up with this any longer.”

“We help everyone at the hospital,” she replied. “Arabs too. I just told you we were saving Ali. Hadassah is everything this land could be if we could all just let it.”

“Didn’t you hear me? I will not tolerate this. We’re getting married, and my wife will not work in some Jew hospital!” he screamed.

Hana lowered her head for a long moment. Then she raised it and stared defiantly into Youssef’s face. Her eyes flashed, but she remained silent. Then she turned, picking up speed as she walked away. A stone flew past her head, only missing her by a couple inches.

February 26, 1947

Uri tossed the cigarette to the ground and tried, like he did so often these days, to get the constant thoughts of Yael out of his head. Should he have asked her to stay in Tel Aviv? There was plenty to be done around here too. Uri knew it was dangerous for her to be on the kibbutz in Yardenim, that the Syrians were attempting to stir up unrest in Upper Galilee, and he couldn’t protect her there. But Yael was a sabra, a Jew born in Palestine—she was sure to put up a fight if he tried to coddle her. And the Haganah needed him here, in Tel Aviv. He was one of their commanders.

Right now he had to take care of the German. He climbed the stairs and knocked. When the door creaked open, he found himself looking into a pair of remarkably blue eyes. The man opened the door and let Uri step inside. Uri immediately noticed he had a Luger on the nightstand, within easy reach.

Uri held out his hand. “Let me see that, Adolf,” he said in German.

Friedrich Paulsen handed him the pistol. Uri weighed it in his hand.

“Not bad. How many Jews you kill with it?”

The question seemed to hang in the air. Paulsen sat on the edge of the bed with his shoulders drawn in and did not move. He stared at his bare feet.

Uri handed back the Luger. The German accepted reluctantly and returned it to the nightstand.

“Okay, Adolf, time to get ready. We still have a lot to do.”

“Stop calling me Adolf. My name is Friedrich, which you know, and people call me Fritz.” He paused. “At least, when they want to be my friend.”

“All right, fine, Fritz.” Uri stretched out a hand. “Call me Uri.”

Fritz shook it. Then he stood and went over to the little sink.

“Just need to shave real quick,” he said, lathering his face.

Uri looked out the window.

“How long do I have to keep up this masquerade with the black beard, the dyed hair?” Fritz asked.

“Just a little while longer,” Uri told him. “We can’t take any risks.”

Fritz placed the razor back by the sink, checked that the Luger’s safety was on, and stuffed the gun into his waistband. The two men went down the stairs together.

The streets of Tel Aviv were full of life. Buses puffed black billows from their exhaust pipes, expelling their human cargo, ingesting new loads. Clattering trucks headed for the many construction sites that were changing the face of Tel Aviv day by day.

A city on the rise, far removed from the European image of picturesque, Oriental Palestine. Most of the buildings were whitewashed, the lines of their facades stark and clear, the streets straight and wide.

“Three thousand,” Uri declared. “We’ve put up three thousand buildings—all in the same style. The Bauhaus architects were really able to pursue their vision here after Adolf kicked them out of Dessau.”

Small white clouds hung in the west, over the sea. The street cafés were as full as ever on this warm spring afternoon.

“Let’s sit,” Uri told Fritz.

A waitress came and asked in halting Hebrew what they’d like.

“Coffee, white bread, butter, and a couple fried eggs,” Uri ordered in German.

The waitress gave him a grateful smile. “Coming right up, gentlemen,” she replied in German.

“You’ll meet plenty of your countrymen here. Folks call them yekkes,” Uri said. “Came in the thirties, most of them. When Hitler started driving them out. First from Germany, then Austria. In the beginning, the Nazis were happy to deport their Jews to Palestine. Eichmann even worked on it with the Zionists. Pretty unbelievable today, but true. He only wanted one thing: to get rid of them as fast as possible. He was proud of every person he was able to dump in Tel Aviv. But in ’41, they shut down the borders for good, and then, well! You know, don’t ya?”

Uri reported this without any visible emotion as he attacked his fried eggs. Fritz just squinted at his plate grimly. At the next table, two middle-aged women were having a lively chat in Polish.

Uri turned to them, switching to perfect Polish. “Would you pass the salt?”

One of the women handed it to him.

“Dziękuję bardzo,” he said in thanks, then met Fritz’s quizzical eyes.

“Lemberg,” Uri said. “My family comes from Lemberg, or L’viv, take your pick. Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, Jews. We were a multilingual home. I was fourteen when we left, 1936. My parents were Zionists to the core, idealists, you know? To them, Theodor Herzl came second only to God, or maybe even before him. The fact that everyone around us was a brutal anti-Semite naturally encouraged them to see Eretz Israel as paradise. They went to a kibbutz right away, of course, and they’re still there, dreaming their socialist dream. Of course, Lemberg is socialist now too—Comrade Stalin saw to that.”

He offered Fritz a cigarette and lit himself one.

“If they’d stayed, they probably would’ve exited out the chimney at Auschwitz. Or Sobibor, Treblinka.”

He expelled smoke from his nose.

“And me with them,” he added, gazing into the bright-blue sky. He fell silent a moment. “Now we’re coming from all over Europe, from Hungary, Romania, France, Holland, and of course from Germany—though the Brits are making things much more difficult at the moment. As you yourself experienced.”

He sucked on his cigarette again.

“But we’re going to fight for everyone who wants to come. We’ll need every goddamn new arrival here if we want to become our own country. Every one. Otherwise, we won’t be able to protect ourselves against the Arabs.”

Uri’s voice quavered slightly, and Fritz looked up in surprise.

“We need to be fighting on two fronts at once—against the Arabs and against the British. There are one hundred thousand British soldiers stationed here in Palestine alone. And we’ve got just a few thousand fighters. But we have to prevail. We must drive the British from this land as soon as possible.”

Uri set a few bills on the table. They strolled the streets awhile, until they came to Allenby Street. A woman was leaning against the corner of a building, her makeup too garish for a sunny afternoon, balancing on pointy heels. She eyed the two of them expectantly.

“Hello, Hilda,” Uri said. And turning to Fritz: “Believe it or not, Hilda’s from Lemberg, too, from the same part of town.”

He patted her behind.

“Here.” He pointed at Fritz. “A new friend, right off the boat. He saved some peoples’ lives. Do him a favor, moja kochana, my love,” he coaxed. “I don’t think he’s seen anything as fantastic as you for a long time, at least not up close.”

Her lips curled into a smile.

He quickly added: “For free, understand?”

She hesitated a moment, then gave in. “You owe me one,” she whispered.

“Yeah, that I do,” he said, grinning.

He took Fritz’s hand and placed it in Hilda’s. Surprised, Fritz tried to pull away, but Hilda dragged him to the building she was standing in front of, pushed the door open, and led him up the stairs and into a small apartment on the third floor, its windows covered with black curtains. In the corner stood a wide bed, and above it, a large mirror. She began undressing without further ado. Fritz stood before her, undecided.

“What’s the matter?” she asked in Polish.

“I don’t understand,” he replied in German.

She smiled and switched to German. “That’s fine, honey. I’ll show you.”

She undid his belt, and the Luger fell to the floor with a thump.

“What do we have here?” she said, only slightly startled.

Her practiced hands pulled down his underwear and held his member. She looked surprised, but then smiled.

“Now that’s interesting,” she said as she led him to the bed. “I haven’t seen that in a long time.”

“What?” he asked, clearing his throat in embarrassment. “What’s so interesting about it?”

Hilda looked him in the eyes.

“You’re from Germany, but you’re not one of us at all. You’re not circumcised.”


“Not now,” she said and pulled him to her. “We can talk after.”

March 1, 1947

Judith stared at the ceiling. In the bed next to her, she could hear the Bedouin woman breathing deeply as she slept off her appendectomy. The four other beds facing the window were empty.

Right next to the door was a woman from Dresden—Roswitha Goldfarb, about sixty, emaciated, pale. For years she had hidden in cellars, somehow managing to elude the Gestapo. During the February 13, 1945, air raid, she was in the city center, hiding in a hole built into the far end of a cellar. Everyone sheltering closer to the entrance died, suffocated by fumes from the firestorm. Luckily, she knew of a tunnel that led to the air raid bunker in a neighboring building. In the turmoil after the first night of bombing, as the people of Dresden wandered the streets, no one paid any attention to this Jewish woman, just one of the ten thousand homeless. She persevered until the Russians came. After the surrender, a Jewish officer in the Red Army got her a seat on a train to Berlin. And from there, she’d made it to Palestine. Now she lay in Hadassah Hospital, with incurable stomach cancer.

Judith felt the bandage on her wrist. She had survived. But for what? At Dachau, she and the other prisoners, they had one goal. All they thought about was making it to the next day, and the one after that, and the one after that. They shared a kind of solidarity in their misery. Now, here she was, in a clean bed, but she had no goal. Make it to the next day for what? She was alone, alone in a strange land.

Roswitha was sitting upright in her bed and reading the newspaper, oversize glasses balanced on her nose. The rustle of the pages sounded unusually loud, dampened only by the Bedouin woman groaning. Occasionally, Roswitha would glance over at Judith, her eyes sharp and alert in her sunken face, and smile at her. Stacked beside her were magazines and books from the hospital library. Judith got the impression that Roswitha read practically nonstop.

The door swung open. Dr. Cohen strode in, Nurse Sarah and Hana in tow. He planted himself next to Roswitha and took her hand.

“Doing your morning reading already?” he said with a sad smile. “The nurses are here with your injection. I hope it helps you get through the day more easily.”

She nodded gratefully. The morphine injections were the only thing that helped ease her pain.

“By the way, I still have a few magazines from New York around here,” he said. “Do you know enough English? Would you like to have them?”

Roswitha nodded.

“Good, good. Hana will bring them to you in a bit.”

He turned to Judith. “And how are you doing this morning? Better?”

Before she could respond, he checked the chart hanging on the wall behind her bed. The doctor felt her pulse and listened to her lungs. “So, already much, much better. A few more days and we’ll be there. Today the bandage is coming off.” He nodded to Hana. “You can help with that in a minute.”

He’d already moved over to the Bedouin woman. He checked her pulse and took a look at her surgical wound.

“Looks good. She’s sure to be waking soon. Then we’ll have another look at her.”

He gazed around the group and attempted one of those broad all-is-well smiles that doctors do, yet Judith noticed the dark rings under his eyes.

“Well, then, see you tomorrow morning,” he said.

He stopped by Roswitha and put a hand on her shoulder. “Hana will be back with the magazines.”

Roswitha held his hand tight a moment. “I’m looking forward to it, Doctor.”

After a while, Hana returned with two issues of Life and placed them on Roswitha’s nightstand, then fluffed up the woman’s pillows.

“Would you like some tea?”

Roswitha was already buried in Life. “Oh, not at the moment, but thank you.”

Hana turned to Judith. “May I?”

Judith offered up her wrist, and Hana cut through the plaster holding the bandage in place. Her skilled hands unwrapped the gauze. The wound was healing well. Hana halted a moment, as if weighing whether her next question was appropriate.

“The number tattooed on your arm—what does it mean?”

Judith jerked her arm away and hid it under the covers.

“Excuse me,” Hana said, startled. “I didn’t want—I mean, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

Roswitha set down the magazine and stared through her huge glasses. Hana just stood there helpless, her shoulders drooping.

“Just tell her,” Roswitha urged. “There’s no shame in it, is there?”

Judith slowly pulled her arm out from under the covers. “It’s from the concentration camp. All the prisoners got one.”

Hana gasped. “I didn’t know.” She looked at the ground, her face red.

Judith shifted to one side of the bed. “Please, take a seat. Just for a moment.”

Hana found a spot on the edge of the bed, her hands folded in her lap.

“I know that you saved my life,” Judith said. “Sorry this is a little late in coming, but—thank you, Hana.” She placed her hand on Hana’s.

Hana sat completely still a moment. “What was it like there? In the camp, I mean.”

Judith’s head spun. She felt ashamed and yet relieved when the tears poured out. Her body shook, like an earthquake. She wanted to scream, wanted to scream it all out, all those years of silence, suppressing it, numbing it, but all that emerged from her chest were deep sobs.

Hana didn’t know how to react. Then, finally, she leaned down to Judith and took her in her arms, squeezing her gently for a long time while she wept.

“I—I’m sorry,” Judith said, falling back on the bed in exhaustion and relief. She tried to wipe away the tears with the back of her hand. “I’m sorry. I—I can’t talk about it now. Perhaps later.” She attempted a cautious smile.

“That’s all right, Miss Wertheimer. I don’t want to upset you.”

Judith grabbed her hands. “Please, Hana, please call me Judith. And you aren’t upsetting me. It’s the opposite, just the opposite. I’m grateful you asked. It’s just—I don’t know. It came as such a surprise.”

Someone knocked on the door. Nurse Sarah stuck her head in.

“Hana? Dr. Cohen needs you urgently.”

Hana went to stand, but Judith held her hands tight another moment.

“You have no idea how grateful I am to you.”

Hana smoothed out her white smock. “I’ll see you soon, Miss Wertheimer. Judith.”

Judith took a deep breath, feeling liberated. This young woman had triggered something inside her. She wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but one thing was certain: Hana was the first person to ask her about her time in the camp since she’d arrived in Palestine.

Uncle Albert was dead, her final link to her old life. But he did have a grave. She would try to find it. She recalled Tamar’s words, what she’d told her about his final hours—the British officer whose appearance had upset him so much he’d suffered a fatal heart attack.

Judith turned to Roswitha. “Is there a telephone here?”

“I think there’s one in the doctors’ room.”

Judith pushed back the covers and stood up. She was light-headed and needed to steady herself on the end of the bed for a moment. Then she went out into the hallway and found a nurse.

“Where is the doctors’ room?”

The nurse gave her a disapproving look but nodded toward the end of the long hallway. There was a door with a sign bearing Hebrew and English: “Physicians’ Room, Entry Prohibited.” She knocked and turned the door handle at the same time. Dr. Cohen, bent over a patient file, looked up in surprise.

“Well, who do we have here? Do you need me?”

“No, no,” she countered. “I just need to make a phone call. It’s urgent.”

Cohen pushed the file aside. “To whom, may I ask?”

Judith took a deep breath. “To British headquarters.”

Jonathan Higgins flipped through the file, then paused on a page, taking a closer look.

“Bloody bastard,” he growled. It was the third such incident this week, and again it pointed to the same suspect. “Horowitz, Abraham,” he read in the British police report. “Early twenties, noticeable feature: bald head. Brutal assassin. Previous offence: hand-grenade attack on a British jeep, one deceased, two severely injured. Attributed to the Irgun . . .”

The telephone rang. He set his cigarette in the ashtray.

“Office of General McMillan, Sergeant Higgins speaking,” he said.

He heard a female voice speaking English with a strong German accent.

“You wish to speak with whom?” he said. “Lieutenant Goldsmith?” He reached for his cigarette. “Regarding what, if I may ask?”

He listened to the woman with half an ear as she prattled on. Some nonsense about her departed uncle.

“And how does this concern Lieutenant Goldsmith? . . . I see, you aren’t quite certain yourself—do I understand correctly?”

Higgins was in a sour mood. Those Jews out there were becoming more and more brazen. And more dangerous. Every report of an attack on British soldiers passed across his desk here in the outer office of the commanding general of British Armed Forces in Palestine. Higgins had been at this for twenty years—India, Yemen, then the invasion of Normandy, finally Germany. He’d been with the troops that liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In the beginning, he felt compassion for the victims of the Nazis. But then he was transferred to Palestine.

Higgins had been in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem when the Irgun bombed it. He had escaped with an ear injury. Over seventy people had died. Since then, the Jews’ attacks on the military had only increased. British headquarters in Jerusalem resembled a fortress now, surrounded by rows of barbed wire. They called it Bevingrad, after Foreign Secretary Bevin. As with most soldiers, Higgins’s sympathy for the Jews had vanished completely.

Also like most of the soldiers, Higgins now wanted only one thing: to get home to his family in Lancashire. If the Jews and Arabs were so keen on war, then they could solve the Palestine problem themselves. No one had a solution, neither the men in London nor the British Mandate government. Now the United Nations was supposed to find a way. Please do, Higgins thought, and best of luck.

“Yes, Lieutenant Goldsmith does work here. But he’s not in the office presently.”

He pressed out his cigarette in the ashtray.

“When’s he returning? . . . See here, miss, it’s not at my discretion to reveal official business to strange callers.” Adding a sigh, he reached for a pencil. “What did you say your name was?” He scribbled on a piece of paper. Wertheimer, Judith. “Very well, I’ll pass along the message.”

Higgins hung up. Lieutenant Goldsmith was on an official trip to Cairo. He’d only recently arrived, transferred from the British occupation force in Berlin. And wasn’t he a Jew as well? At any rate, he was one of the few around General McMillan who wasn’t openly anti-Jewish.

March 13–14, 1947

Hana knew what was coming. And she almost felt bad for her father. As much as he wanted to, a leopard can’t change its spots. Her father had to make sure that certain conventions were followed.

Mohammed Khalidy stood at the window and looked out, his hands clasped behind his back. Though already past fifty, he still had a thick head of hair, even if steadily graying. As always, he wore a dignified suit and tie in the Western style. His own father had been a doctor and he, too, had studied medicine, in Egypt and London. Along with Arabic, he also spoke Hebrew, English, and French. But then his father had died, and Mohammed never finished medical school. He used the money his parents bequeathed him to build housing in West Jerusalem, apartments mainly rented by newly arrived Jewish immigrants.

Hana followed his gaze. Outside, his driver, Ali, was using a feather duster on the windows of the new Chevrolet.

“I understand you, Hana,” he said finally, “but you must understand me as well. Youssef belongs to one of the oldest families in Deir Yassin. His father is your mother’s cousin. I cannot simply reject him. You are promised to him, so we must adhere to that. Our family’s honor depends on it.”

Hana took a deep breath. “You know he doesn’t suit us, Father. You know that just as well as I.”

Mohammed Khalidy turned and eyed her keenly through his metal-rimmed glasses.

“He’s becoming more and more radical,” she said. “The mufti has too much influence on him. And on top of that: I don’t love him.”

Khalidy suddenly looked tired. Youssef was, without a doubt, the black sheep of the family. He’d stopped going to school, his work at the bakery bored him, and he had no professional ambitions—instead he’d attached himself to followers of Hadj Amin al-Husseini. The former mufti of Jerusalem had relocated to Cairo after a time in Berlin cutting deals with the Nazis. The man had devoted his life to fighting the Jews in Palestine, and now he was finding more and more eager followers in his mission to drive the Jews back into the sea.

Khalidy took a step toward his daughter and opened his hands in a gesture of helplessness. “You know how proud I am of you,” he said. “I wanted to become a doctor myself once, and now you’re the one helping people.”

Hana didn’t respond. She did recognize the difficult situation her father was in. He had allowed her so much freedom thus far, but how long could he go on postponing the wedding? It had been arranged long ago, when both of them were still young teenagers. But in the years since, Youssef had turned out to be a terrible hothead, and one of just a few men in Deir Yassin who had joined the mufti’s crusade.

Khalidy agreed with the mukhtar that it was important to maintain good relations with the Jews in Jerusalem. Everyone benefited from the situation remaining calm. The village leaders had contact with the Haganah as well—they had negotiated a type of standstill agreement, and it had functioned well enough so far.

“I will speak with your mother’s cousin,” Khalidy said. “He should give Youssef a good talking-to.”

Hana kept her head lowered. “I have to go. I have the late shift today.”

She would’ve liked to add: I don’t love Youssef no matter how many thousand times he tries pressuring me. I only love David.

Hana had bought a bouquet of spring flowers. She carefully arranged them in a vase before bringing them to Judith’s bedside.

“For me?”

Hana nodded.

“Oh, Hana, that’s so—I really don’t know what to say.”

Hana timidly picked at the flowers.

“They’re to say goodbye,” she said.

Judith abruptly sat up in bed and stretched high enough to wrap her arms around Hana’s shoulders. She hugged her so hard the young Arab could barely breathe.

Judith was crying. “My God, Hana, I don’t know how to thank you. For everything that you’ve done for me.”

Hana had trouble holding back her own tears. “What are you going to do, Judith?”

“I’m going back to the kibbutz. They’re willing to take me in there. It’s the only place I can go. What about you?”

Hana’s face darkened. Her voice sounded defiant. “I will stay here and complete my training as a nurse.”

Judith felt weak. She repeatedly had to stop on the stairs to rest. She propped herself against the wall with one hand, holding Hana’s bouquet in the other. She heard a noise behind her. Shimon Schiff came running, his face flushed, a soccer ball under one arm. He looked up at Judith in surprise.

“Is your mother here?”

Shimon nodded, ran up the rest of the stairs, and rang the doorbell like mad. Tamar Schiff opened the door.

“That lady is here, you know, Judith, the one with the hurt arm!”

Tamar stepped into the hallway and spotted Judith standing on the stairs. She rushed over and propped her up.

“Come on, I’ll help you.”

She took Judith’s arm. They walked up the final steps together. Inside the apartment, Tamar led Judith to an armchair.

“Sit, sit. I just made some lemonade.”

A few moments later, she set a glass before Judith, who took a little drink.

Judith’s voice was faint. “I just wanted to say goodbye, and of course to thank you again.”

“You’re going?” Tamar asked. “You’re really going to leave Jerusalem?”

“I am. I have too many bad memories here. Uncle Albert, my—” She searched for the right words. “My reaction to his death, the hospital—”

“Just stay. We’ll find something for you. We need young people in Jerusalem,” Tamar insisted. “You can live here with us for a while. It’s not a problem, it really isn’t.”

“Thanks, Tamar, thank you so much, but I can’t live here. And on the kibbutz, at least I can make myself useful somehow. I simply need a place where I belong.”

A piece of her homeland, she wanted to say, but she couldn’t bring herself to utter the words. Homeland? What was her homeland? It couldn’t be Germany. And here, in Jerusalem, that last link to her family had died. Home was gone forever.

Judith rose. Tamar sprang up to help her, but Judith waved her off.

“I’m fine, thank you,” she said. “I have to go. My bus to Yardenim leaves in fifteen minutes.”

Tamar ran into the kitchen. After a few moments, she came back with a package.

“Here. Half a cheesecake, for the road. It’s all I have in a hurry,” she said, placing it in Judith’s hands. She kissed Judith on the cheek. “Shimon,” she called out. “Be a good boy and take Judith to the bus. And come right back here after, you hear?”

Shimon came out with his soccer ball still under his arm.

“Can I stay out just half an hour, Ima?” he begged. “Menachem says I’m the best goalkeeper.”

Tamar stroked his hair.

“Fine, half an hour.”

The bus squealed to a stop by the road to Kibbutz Yardenim. Judith was the only passenger who got out. In her arms, she balanced the cheesecake from Tamar and the flowers from Hana. Yael was waiting for her.

“You’re finally back,” she declared in a pleasant tone and gave Judith a quick kiss on the cheek. “Thought maybe you were going to give us another scare.”

“Yes, I’m back,” was all Judith said.

She looked around. While she’d been gone, the residents of Yardenim had started constructing two wooden buildings to replace some of the tents. The roofs had just been finished. Yael was one of the lucky ones who’d already landed a room, as she informed Judith on the way to a tent.

“I’m sorry, we’ll have to put you up here for now. Later, you can share a room with me, if you want. But today—” She gave a bashful smile. “Uri’s coming.”

A Palmach man rode past them on a brown stallion, submachine gun at the ready.

“It’s been calm the past few nights,” Yael said. “The Arabs apparently learned their lesson. But that doesn’t mean we can give the all clear, I’m afraid. The stronger the Yishuv becomes, the stronger the resistance as well.”

Inside the tent, Yael found Judith an unoccupied bed. Judith looked around.

“Is there a vase somewhere?”

Yael smiled. “I’ll be right back.”

After a few minutes, she returned with an empty jam can filled with water. “This is all we have,” she said. “We live modestly, you know.”

Judith carefully arranged the flowers and set them next to her bed.

“A goodbye present? From some nice doctor?”

“It is a goodbye present, yes,” Judith said. “From Hana. She’s an Arab.”

The campfire flames blazed high into the sky, the heat radiating all the way over to their table and their bottle of wine.

“From Mount Carmel,” Yael said, and handed Judith a glass. “L’chaim.”

Judith took a hesitant sip. She wasn’t used to alcohol. Yael cheerfully emptied her glass. She kept looking at her watch.

“He said he’s coming.” She giggled. “And he always does.” She filled her glass again. “Come on, Judith, don’t make me drink alone.”

Judith took another drink and coughed. Yael patted her on the back. “Anyone who works hard,” she said, “should celebrate just as hard.”

They heard engine noise in the distance.

Yael beamed. “That must be him.”

An old Ford rolled up a few minutes later. Two men stepped out. Yael jumped up and ran to the larger man, wrapped her arms around him, and kissed him on the mouth. Uri freed himself from her, laughing, and reached into the Ford’s back seat. He pulled out a bottle and presented it to her.

“French champagne,” he said. “Believe it or not. From Tel Aviv.” He didn’t mention that a Haganah man had stolen it from a British depot.

Then he reached into the car again and pulled out a red rose. “Happy birthday,” he said so loudly that all could hear. He kissed her, grabbed her by the waist, and spun her around three times. Setting her down gently, he gestured to the man who’d come with him.

“This is Fritz. He’s a friend.”

Ben Zvi, a newly arrived immigrant from Romania, had already pulled out his accordion and was giving the thing all he had. The young kibbutzniks stood and joined hands, with Uri and Yael in the middle. They danced the hora around the fire, slowly at first, then faster and faster, in a circle spinning to the right, each dancer in rhythm, three steps in one direction, then a step back, putting out the left foot first, then the right. The circle turned faster and faster. Yael cheered. When she noticed Judith still sitting at the table, she waved her over.

“Come on, come join us.”

Judith stood reluctantly and joined the circle. The wine was hitting her; she had trouble trying to keep in step. The blood was rushing to her head, the flames blurring before her eyes. If the two dancers on either side hadn’t been holding on so tight, she probably would’ve fallen over. She let them carry her along like this, and finally, she became one with the rhythm.

The accordion ceased, everyone out of breath. Judith had a little trouble finding her way back to her seat. The red wine glasses were refilled at once. She looked around for water, glancing around the tables. On the far end, well apart from the others, sat the man Uri had brought along. The flames leaped up when Uri threw on another piece of wood, the fire’s glow illuminating the man’s face. Their eyes met, and Judith’s heart skipped. Now she was sure of it. Those blue eyes—she knew where she’d seen them. Dachau, April 1945.

Judith tossed and turned on her narrow bed. Occasionally, she’d wake up and pull the blanket over her shoulders before falling back into a restless sleep. The nights were still cool in Upper Galilee. In her dreams, the wine, the dancing around the fire, and that unexpected memory all blended into a wild mix of reality and fiction.

She couldn’t get his eyes out of her head. They’d stood out to her back then, too, when the vengeance erupted in Dachau. He was standing in the middle of a group of American GIs who’d crowded around to shield him. Several prisoners had planted themselves a few yards away, some carrying weapons they’d taken from the SS guards, the Americans looking the other way. While taking over the camp, the GIs had discovered the train full of hundreds of corpses, skin and bones in striped uniforms, prisoners who’d been starved, died from exhaustion. The SS hadn’t been able to dispose of them all, so these mountains of corpses became even more gruesome evidence of the terror they had wreaked in Dachau. The newsreel images soon spread around the world. Only then, during those spring days in Upper Bavaria, did it become clear to many American soldiers what the Nazi regime had stood for and what this war had been about, and they were full of rage and disgust. Some allowed the prisoners to take their revenge. The prisoners killed several dozen SS guards, without any intervention from the US Army.

Judith remembered this one German, in his uniform, with no rank insignia except those SS runes on his collar. And yet the Americans had shielded him from the prisoners, from their thirst for vengeance, from their wild and pent-up rage. They led that one man out of the camp in a jeep, to safety.

Judith pulled her blanket over her head. She tried in vain to drive the image from her head. Only when daybreak was finally filling the tent did she fall back into her restless sleep.

Uri was sitting at the head of the long table, eating with gusto. Yael was leaning close to him and holding her coffee cup. Fritz Paulsen had found a spot at the other end of the table, alone. The kibbutzniks left three places between themselves and the stranger. An intense aroma of orange blossoms wafted into the tent. Yardenim had started growing orange trees, all of them now in full bloom. Judith noticed the gap separating the German and sat down next to him. She reached for the coffeepot and poured.

“Would you like some?” she said.

Fritz nodded.

They sat in silence awhile, next to one another.

“I have to thank you,” she said.

Fritz didn’t respond.

“You saved my life, on that rubber boat offshore.”

He gave her a restrained smile but didn’t respond.

Judith held out her hand. “Judith Wertheimer, from Berlin,” she said. “Most recently, Dachau.”

Fritz reluctantly took her hand, then quickly let go. “Fritz Paulsen,” he muttered. “I’m from Berlin too.”

Judith sloshed the coffee around in her cup. She steeled herself. “I’ve seen you before, in Dachau. You were in uniform. An SS uniform.”

Fritz abruptly set down his cup. Judith noticed him give Uri a quick, startled glance, but Uri was chatting with friends, his arm still around Yael’s waist.

“In Dachau?” he said finally.

“Yes, in Dachau. On April 28, 1945, to be exact,” she continued. “Or maybe you’ll say I’m mistaken?”

Fritz lowered his head. He eventually shook it. “No, you’re not mistaken. I survived the camp, just like you.”

Judith sat up straighter. “What’s that supposed to mean? Survived? You were on the other side, with the murderers!”

Fritz grabbed her hand. “Not here. We can go outside if you want.”

Judith rose warily, then followed him toward the tent’s exit.

They walked to the orange grove. Judith breathed in the aroma. The spring sun was already gaining strength. It was a clear morning, the sky a pristine bright blue. Circling over the fields was a falcon. It plunged downward, then quickly rose again, a mouse in its claws. It turned away in the direction of the Arab village, where thin pillars of smoke rose from chimneys. Atop the wooden watchtower at the edge of the kibbutz, a man from the Palmach, his rifle slung on his back, scanned the surroundings with binoculars. Judith felt his presence as a blight on the peaceful scene. For a moment, she had even blocked out the reason for their stroll.

Fritz jolted her from her thoughts. “If the Americans had come a day later, I would be dead.”

Judith stopped short. “How do you mean?”

“Dachau was where they sent SS deserters—to execute them,” Fritz said.

“Deserters? From the SS?” She stared at him in disbelief.

“Yes. There were some, even in the SS. Men who’d stopped believing the Führer, who didn’t want to go along with it anymore.”

Judith could see it all again: Fritz Paulsen, surrounded by the Americans, in SS uniform, but no rank insignia.

“I was one of them,” he said.

Judith started walking again. Fritz followed her.

“But you were in the SS,” she insisted.

“Yes. Completely voluntarily, I’ll admit that. As soon as I was old enough, right after the Hitler Youth.”

The falcon had returned from its nest and was circling directly above them.

“You said you’re from Berlin,” Fritz continued. “Can I ask what part of the city you lived in?”

“In Dahlem. How come?”

“You ever been to Wedding?”

Judith shook her head.

“That’s where I grew up. Back of the building, sixth floor, toilet in the hallway. Working class. My father returned from the Great War a cripple, his left arm shot off. There were six of us. At first, he still had a job, as a night watchman. Then came the Depression. He had no work for years, like millions of others. I don’t know about you, but where I lived, it was chaos in the streets, everyone hungry. It can mess kids up, you know, always being hungry? And then came Hitler. He stopped the chaos, nearly overnight. He had his own methods, sure, but things were looking up. My father joined the Nazi Party—enthusiastically. And soon, so did I.”

Judith just stood there, unsure.

“Of course, he also drove out the Jews, first from public life, then from Germany. The Jews were to blame for the Depression, for the country’s downfall—that’s what they told us in the Hitler Youth. They were bloodsuckers. We were young; we believed it.” He gave a bitter laugh. “Then came the war, the big victories, the world belonging to Germany all the way from Norway down to the North African desert. No one could stop us. Hitler in Vienna, in Paris—‘Führer, command us, we follow.’ The SS had another slogan: ‘Our honor is our loyalty.’ I was there, yes, sir. I was one of them.”

“But you must have seen the murder behind the front lines, the mass shootings, the manhunts.”

“I did. Yes, I saw it all. At first, I thought it had to be that way; it was a part of war, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. The toll that must be paid to make Germany great again. And then came the doubt. Not just because of Stalingrad. The British air raids were getting more severe every night. My father died in the bombing, my mother six months later, and then of course, the concentration camps. I wasn’t there myself, but I knew about it. I can’t sugarcoat it—I’d taken part in too many other things. But at some point, I saw that it was wrong. I tried to help where I could. Maybe not decisively enough, maybe not bravely enough, maybe too late. But one day, when I was letting an elderly Jewish woman escape, they caught me, labeled me a deserter, traitor. And sent me straight to Dachau. I thought, now it’s over for me too. And I felt relieved, despite it all.”

Judith listened without interrupting, overcome with a mix of fascination and horror. Suddenly the idyllic morning seemed empty to her, inappropriate. She didn’t know how she was supposed to process what she was hearing.

Again she recalled that day in Dachau, visualizing the scene where she’d seen this Fritz Paulsen for the first time. Something didn’t fit. She could see him before her, his eerily blue eyes, the Americans placing him in the jeep. Then it came to her.

“You were blond then. The proper Aryan, blond and blue-eyed, a storybook Nazi. Why, Herr Paulsen, did you dye your hair black?”

He didn’t answer.

“And what are you doing in Palestine?”

Again, nothing. But she didn’t let up.

“If you don’t tell me—what’s preventing me from going to the others and telling them a former SS officer is hiding here, right on a Jewish kibbutz?”

Fritz met her eyes. “Do what you want, but I think that would get you into a load of trouble with Uri.”

March 15, 1947

On the other side of the valley, across from Mount Scopus, the lights of Jerusalem twinkled under a starry sky. Calm had returned to the hallways of Hadassah Hospital after a hectic day. Only the shuffling of slippered feet sounded occasionally, patients on their way to the toilet.

David Cohen sat at his desk and rubbed his eyes. He closed the folder documenting a complicated case from Tehran and set his feet on the table. Only now, with the telephone having been silent for an hour, could he feel his exhaustion. He reached for his cup of coffee and discovered it empty. He took a pack of cigarettes from the drawer, pulled one out, and fiddled with the matches. You shouldn’t, he told himself, not now and not later. He smoked too much, a bad habit from his army days. He set the cigarette next to the folder. Then came a soft knock on the door.

“Come in,” he said.

Hana’s kind face appeared. “I just wanted to see if there was anything else you needed.”

David glanced at his watch. Just after midnight.

“No, thank you, Hana.”

She started to leave, but he didn’t want to see her go.

“Actually, it would be great if you could rustle up one more cup of coffee.”

She nodded, her eyes shining, then withdrew silently.

David hauled himself up out of his chair and went over to the window. He usually rejected self-pity, but for this one moment, he savored it. What the heck are you doing here anyway?

He’d been asking himself this question repeatedly over the past few weeks. Right now he could be sitting at home, in Brooklyn, waiting to take over his father’s well-run Manhattan practice. His father would be grateful, very grateful even. His mother wouldn’t need to worry all the time in the face of increasing bad news from Palestine. And he? He’d probably be bored to death. And smoking even more. And waiting for something to happen.

He thought about Lea. She’d always wanted it all and right away. She wanted the apartment on Central Park, two kids, at least two nannies. She wanted the vacation home in Nantucket, the winter trip to Florida, and she wanted him. It had nearly come to that, but only just.

If David was honest with himself, Lea was one of the reasons why he’d applied for the job at Hadassah Hospital. She had opened his eyes to how his life wasn’t supposed to go. Lea, deeply hurt, had made a huge scene. Eight weeks later, she was engaged to a banker.

He’d spent the final months of the war as a young army doctor in the Pacific, where they were still fighting for weeks after the last guns in Europe had already fallen silent, and he’d seen what the atomic bomb in Hiroshima had done to the people there. At first, he hadn’t seen the newsreel footage from the camps with names he’d never heard before: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau. Only when he returned to New York was it clear to him what had happened in Europe. He had never been a devout Jew. The only time his family actually ever practiced was on Yom Kippur and a little bit at Hanukkah, to compensate for the Christmas festivities all around them. But after the war, David started becoming interested in his own history, his roots. His grandparents had emigrated from Ukraine at the end of the nineteenth century; he remembered them still speaking Yiddish at home. After the war, the news kept growing that attested to the unimaginable: the Nazis had killed millions of European Jews. Systematically. It had made David feel like a Jew for the first time, a survivor of a race the Nazis had designated for total extermination. So, when he read in the New York Times about Hadassah Hospital, he applied on impulse. That was a year ago now, in early 1946.

A knock at the door. Hana came in with a pot.

“Your coffee, Doctor.”

He went back to his desk and let her pour him some.

“Won’t you join me, Hana? Please,” he said and pulled a second cup off his shelf.

She hesitated briefly, but then sat on the front edge of the chair before his desk, her knees pressing together, her posture erect.

“I’m happy to, Doctor.”

“Please, don’t be so formal,” he said. “You and I are closer than that, aren’t we? It’s David, please.”

She turned red. “I’m happy to, David.”

He anxiously fiddled with his cigarette. What was he doing? It was the middle of the night and here he was sitting with this beautiful woman in the physicians’ room. He’d been sure he could keep his crush under control, taking pains to avoid putting himself and especially Hana in any risky situations, and now he’d thoughtlessly initiated one. He snatched up the matches, thinking, to hell with good intentions. He exhaled smoke through his nose with relish.

Hana sat on her chair as if nailed there, her hands on her legs. As much as he’d tried not to notice, her face was so thoughtful and so, so pretty. Well proportioned, finely chiseled. And that thick, black, shoulder-length hair she wore pinned up under her white nurse’s cap . . .

He took another drag of his cigarette. If this had been New York, he would have known what to do. But here in Jerusalem, the rules were different, and he was still struggling to figure them all out. Hana was Arab, and Muslim, but surely her family was open-minded if they allowed her to work at Hadassah.

He smoked his cigarette down to the filter and kept himself together just enough to light a new one. How incredibly rude, to invite her to coffee and then say nothing. But the only words on his lips were ones he didn’t dare to say. If he liked this woman, shouldn’t it be okay to tell her? Would she reject him for being Jewish? Would her family?

David let out a sad sigh. “Excuse me, I don’t know where my mind is.”

Hana smiled politely. Her face revealed nothing.

He stood up, came around the desk, took her hand, and led her to the window. The sliver of a waxing moon floated above the city, reflected in the gold of the Temple Mount.

“Jerusalem,” he said. “Everyone here is crazy.”

Hana didn’t respond, but he felt her lean tentatively against him.

“I guess I’m just as crazy,” he continued.

He stepped behind her and undid the clip holding her cap. Her hair fell down. He cautiously caressed it. She pressed her back against him. He hesitated, terrified. Then she abruptly turned, wrapped her arms around his neck, and passionately kissed him on the mouth.

April 3, 1947

Judith held the tattered textbook on her knees. She was perched on a boulder alongside the pasture strewn with stones and wild spring flowers. “Boker tov,” she spelled out. Then she practiced it several times out loud.

“Boker tov, good morning.” She ran her finger farther down the vocabulary list. “Laila tov, good night. Mazal tov, all the best.”

A sheep nudged her leg with its nose. She looked up and gazed at the herd. The roughly forty sheep were grazing quietly, the lambs seeking milk from their mothers’ teats, a scene of nearly biblical tranquility. Judith turned back to her book.

The sheep’s bleating was drowned out by kibbutzniks hammering away as they nailed down the roof of a new wooden house over in Yardenim. The village was growing at a rapid pace. Judith had gotten used to keeping an eye on the little herd. At first she’d protested, but soon realized that there was no other way for her to contribute to the kibbutz. She was completely lacking in any knowledge of agriculture and still too weak to do the hard fieldwork that was a part of everyday life here, even for the women. Yael had tried to console her.

“We plan to raise a huge herd, and you can help,” she’d argued. “Everyone here has to contribute whatever they can do best.”

This morning, Yael had even brought her coffee out in the pasture. She was beaming. Uri had arrived late last night for a brief visit. He’d also brought, hidden under a blanket, three rifles and a crate of ammo along with several homemade grenades.

Judith used her time with the herd to improve her miserable Hebrew. Yardenim was a babel village of languages—Yiddish, Polish, Russian, German. Hebrew was supposed to be the common language, but many of the new arrivals had a tough time getting used to the language of their ancient forefathers.

The hammers fell silent and the workers climbed down to pause for breakfast. Judith saw the falcon circle overhead. Anxious swallows flew back and forth, their nervous chirping blending with the sheep’s bleats.

Suddenly, she heard the drone of an engine coming from the road. A dark-gray jeep was approaching the village at high speed, leaving a long trail of dust. Sitting at the wheel was a man in uniform.

From her rock, Judith observed the kibbutzniks jump up and surround the jeep as it came to a stop in the middle of the village. She saw them gesturing and eventually pointing in her direction. The uniformed man made his way over to her. He was wearing sunglasses, the lenses coated with dust. Atop his head was a red beret, with short dark hair under it. His khaki uniform was ironed, his boots clean, his dark mustache precise. A thoroughly British officer, Judith thought. The British man stood before her and stared, his eyes concealed by his sunglasses. He slowly removed them, then his beret.

“Judith, is it really you?” he asked in German.

She dropped her book, her eyes widening. She clapped a hand over her mouth. She had opened it to shout but couldn’t get any sound out.

For a moment they faced each other, frozen. Judith could feel her eyes welling with tears.

“Oh my God.” She flung her arms around the man. “Josef, Josef,” she whispered.

He held her tight. Eventually Judith separated herself from him and took a step back, to get a look at him, to make sure this was no mistake. He smiled, that same boyish smile. It was him, no doubt about it, despite the British uniform. Her brother.

Josef took her hand, sat down on the rock, and pulled her next to him. He picked up the book, patted off the dust, and placed it in her lap.

“Mazal tov.” He smiled.

“Mazal tov,” she replied softly.

“It took a few days for me to find you,” he began. “All I had was a piece of paper with your name on it, a message saying you’d called headquarters. I went by Tamar Schiff’s again and learned about Uncle Albert dying right after my visit. Then Tamar told me about you showing up at her place, about your stay at Hadassah Hospital. At Hadassah, they told me that you’d gone to this kibbutz. So, well, here I am.”

“But the uniform, and your name—Goldsmith?” she argued. “I never would’ve guessed.”

“When I first got to England, I lived together with other kids, in a type of camp. Then I lived with a farmer and eventually a Jewish family, the Goldsmiths. They adopted me.”

He turned his red beret in his hands.

“As soon as I was old enough, I joined the military. To fight the Germans. I served all over, in Normandy, in Bergen-Belsen, in Berlin. I searched for our family there—but didn’t find anyone. Then I got myself transferred to Palestine.”

He grinned, revealing that rascally expression of his. He gave her a friendly nudge.

“So, I’m here,” he said.

Judith kept holding his hand tight.

“Looks like Uncle Albert brought us together after all,” she said softly.

He nodded.

“What’s next for you? Can I help somehow?” he asked after a while. He gazed over at the Arab village. “It’s so damn dangerous here. And the way I see it, the situation will not be improving in the near future. Do not delude yourself. The Arabs are still fairly unorganized, in contrast to the Jews, but they will not tolerate more and more Jews coming to this land.”

He paused a moment. “Nor will the British.”

Judith didn’t reply.

“One can hardly blame the Arabs,” he continued. “I me