Authors: Edeet Ravel
ALSO BY EDEET RAVEL
Ten Thousand Lovers
Look For Me
A Wall of Light
Your Sad Eyes and Unforgettable Mouth
FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
The Thrilling Life of Pauline de Lammermoor
The Mysterious Adventures of Pauline Bovary
The Secret Journey of Pauline Siddhartha
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First published 2011
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Copyright © Edeet Ravel, 2011
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Publisher’s note: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Ravel, Edeet, 1955–
The last rain / Edeet Ravel.
PS8585.A8715L38 2011 C813'.54 C2011-900749-5
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for my sister Sara
I began working on this story thirty-five years ago, when I was twenty. Written in the voice of a young girl, it was based on my childhood at Kibbutz Sasa in the northern Galilee, with an eighteen-month interlude in Montreal. I felt wrenched from my home when my parents left the kibbutz for good; I had just turned seven and for the next few years I daydreamed continually about returning. I never did return.
The subject of this backward look has remained consistent over the years, but changing perceptions have no doubt affected the child’s voice. I have also added to her account stray sections of what the poet Carl Sandburg called the labyrinth of sliding doors that is our collective past. Because no analogy can capture with finality what is never final, Sandburg contemplates another image: a book of ciphers, with its code buried inside a cave in the Sargasso Sea. The only way I can think of to explore that labyrinth, those ciphers, is through fiction.
I have capitalized several terms that take on special meaning in kibbutz culture: Children’s House, Group, Minder, Room, Dining Hall, Kitchen, Guard, Pioneer, Hike, Wake-Up, Bedding-Down. The First Rain and the Last Rain have proper names in Hebrew—
In past centuries, literary works were dedicated to kings and queens. You, readers, are today’s royalty; may my efforts please you.
The Satie Family
Naftali Satie (“Nat”/“Ricky”)
Varda Klein Satie (“Avra”/“Rita”)
David Satie (b 1950)
Dori Satie (b 1955)
Sara Satie (b 1959)
Martin Dubrovsky (“Michael”)
Isaac Milman (“Eli”?/“Rubin”?)
Shoshana, Ora, Yael, Emanuel,
Katzi, Tamir, Oded
June 1955 to June 1959
June 1959 to December 1960
January 1961 to June 1962
Utopia. From Gr. not (
) + place (
), i.e., no-place; an imaginary island, depicted by Sir Thomas More (1516) as a perfect social, legal and political system.
—OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY
Daily Schedule for Kindergarten/ Transitional First Grade Eldar, 1960
dress, wash up, free play
directed play with teacher
(art, stories, singing, holidays, nature, Hikes, literacy, numbers)
shower (if required)
Wake-Up (on-duty monitor)
three-hour visit with parents
return to Children’s House
We’ll build our country our country our homeland
Because this country belongs to us
We’ll build our country our country our homeland
Something blood something something generations
In spite of those who set out to destroy us
Fire something freedom something hope
I never can catch all the words.
Our First Year
On a cold day in January 1949, a small group of American Jews from the Young Guard Youth Movement unloaded their beds, straw mattresses, and toothbrushes, planted themselves in a deserted Arab village near the Lebanese border of Israel, and called themselves Kibbutz
Eldar. The fact was registered in the Zionist press throughout the world, in small or large paragraphs, depending on the source, then probably forgotten, as most news is.
I’m on the sofa in my parents’ Room. At night their sofa opens into a bed.
I could sleep on the floor next to them. I wouldn’t mind sleeping on the stone tiles in my clothes. I wouldn’t even need a blanket.
But Daddy says
time to go back to the Children’s House sweetie
Those words fly straight to my stomach. The Children’s House is as far away as the stars in the sky.
Once upon a time, many centuries ago, there was—
“A king!” my little readers will say immediately.
No, children, you are mistaken. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood.
Unfortunately children aren’t allowed to sleep in the Rooms. We’re free but not that free.
I could pretend to fall asleep. That way Daddy will have to carry me back. Or I could beg for another page of
Or I could do both. First beg for another page and then pretend to fall asleep.
Daddy believes that with children you have to say yes. That’s lucky for me. Very lucky. Not all children are so lucky. I beg for another page and he agrees. I told you!
Daddy was away for three months. He wasn’t here when it snowed. I didn’t want to play in the snow because nothing counted until he came back. Besides there was snow in Canada—though I must say I prefer the snow in Eldar. It makes a very loud noise when you walk on it and you can smell it on the earth and on the leaves. The snow in Canada didn’t have a smell.
I waited for Daddy the whole time he was away. I don’t know why he had to stay in Canada but he promised to come back and he did.
Parents aren’t allowed to break a promise.
Mostly I like
. I don’t understand some parts. I don’t understand the part with the cricket and I don’t really know what a cricket is. If I was the writer I’d choose a butterfly or a lizard. Lizards sleep on rocks in the sun and if you’re very quiet you can touch their soft skin before they run away.
I don’t understand the part with the non-Jewish wig
either. What is that all about?
Israelis wear non-Jewish wigs too by the way. Not Pioneers of course. But Israelis in cities for example. I don’t know why it’s called a non-Jewish wig.
I love the fairy with the blue hair. She’s so beautiful!
now we really have to go—it’s very late
. There’s nothing I can do. I asked for another page of
and Daddy read me another page. And now we have to go back.
I have to decide. If I pretend to fall asleep Daddy will carry me but if we walk I can walk very slowly.
Daddy takes my hand and we leave the Room. In the evening the plants and bushes have a marvellous smell. The darker it gets the more marvellous the smell gets. The sun is starting to set but it’s not dark yet. Soon the Last Rain will fall. We won’t know for sure it’s the Last Rain until it doesn’t rain again. If it doesn’t rain again we’ll look back and say
that was the Last Rain
Unless the Last Rain comes very late. If it comes after a long time without rain then we’ll know for sure that it’s the Last Rain.
People say the mountains are beautiful but I don’t know why. The mountains are never an interesting colour. They’re always dark brown or dark grey or dark green. There’s nothing beautiful about them.
Everyone is excited because you can see Mount Hermon from Eldar. I’m the only one who can’t see it. I can’t see it and I don’t know why it’s exciting but I’m also excited.
Behind the mountains lies the Enemy. Unfortunately the Enemy wants to destroy us. The Enemy keeps trying and we keep fighting back. It isn’t easy but so far we’re succeeding.
My brother David says the country behind the mountains is Syria but his friend Noam says it’s Lebanon. David says Syria hates us more than Lebanon but Noam says they both hate us the same.
Our First Year
13 January 1949.
The process of settlement took place so suddenly that most of us haven’t had enough time to digest its significance.
We were told to expect settlement within a short time.
We were told to consider Eldar, an Arab village none of us had ever heard of before, in the high and windy hills of Galilee.
We were told to prepare to leave our interim kibbutz in five days. We packed our stuff into three trucks, rode to the North, unloaded, and started on the life-long process of building a new community in the Palestinian wilderness.
From Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and other points, to Eldar. Indescribably exciting and almost unbelievable.
Well here we are. Here we are. We’re late but Shoshana doesn’t mind. That’s because of Daddy. Shoshana knows that if she does anything to me I’ll tell Daddy and he’ll get angry. That’s why I’m safe. Jonathan and Skye are safe too.
Daddy is laughing with Shoshana. She shows him the red spots on her long feet. She pretends to be a nice ordinary person. She takes off her sandal and puts her long foot on a chair and shows him the spots and he nods. She has a hoarse voice that hides who she really is. Daddy is smart so how come she can fool him?
Between the Motion and the Act
Nat stood close to the kibbutz nurse in order to absorb the ebbing current that emanated from her body. After she was gone, he turned to Rubin, tanned and smiling under his Pioneer hat, and asked, “Why do we do it?”
“Run after women.”
“Biological urge, I think.”
“If our wives did the same thing we wouldn’t like it.”
“You know what I think, Rubin? I think that if I knew Avra
would always be loyal I’d make a commitment to be monogamous.”
“You’re joking! Judging by the six lookers I know about, you’re no slouch.”
“No buts. I know you. Why did they give you fur-lined underpants on Purim? You know, Nat, I discovered that women are at their most vulnerable after the first child. Wait two months and you’ll be able to get them all.”
Daddy leaves. It’s not so bad though because either Daddy or Mummy will come back later to kiss me goodnight.
I’m the only one who’s allowed a goodnight kiss. That’s because in Canada we all slept in the same house and when we came back to Eldar I cried and screamed when Mummy tried to leave me in the Children’s House. Even though the Minder
was Doreet. Doreet was my Minder before we left Eldar and for a short time when we came back.
Doreet was nice but I didn’t want Mummy to leave. I held her shirt and wouldn’t let go. Mummy said
she’s having trouble getting used to the Children’s House
and Doreet agreed.
Finally Mummy promised to come back later to kiss me goodnight. I stopped crying right away. I was so happy that she was coming back. So happy! Now I get a kiss every night.
The other children wish their parents could kiss them goodnight too. I don’t really know why Mummy is allowed but somehow she got permission. I’m not complaining. It’s not fair but I need it.
The Parent Clutch
Not too long ago I gave everyone in my Group
Lulu is red. She has a red rash around her mouth and a very good heart. She shares the candies her parents give her on Friday with me—including the red ones that change the colour of your tongue. Actually I don’t really like the red ones. They’re too sharp.
Simon is green. He’s chubby and he hardly ever says anything and also Daddy told me a story about a boy called Simon who wanted green hair.
Gilead is brown of course. He’s tall and has brown skin. He doesn’t have a father and he wasn’t born on Eldar. There’s a lot I don’t know about Gilead.
Skye is very very dark blue. Her hair looks dark blue in the sun and the sky is dark blue at night and she’s the most serious in our Group. Also the smartest.
Elan is white. His skin is white and his hair is almost white and he’s skinny and scared. He’s so scared he sometimes shakes like a ghost. I don’t know if he has a mother but his father is a round jokey man who’s crazy about my sister Sara. He calls her Suraleh.