| Building Dreams |

Building Dreams: Chapter 5    

“Oh, come on, Miriam,” I said, exasperatedly. “The Arabs are not dangerous here. They’re just… neighbors"




"A letter from who?” I asked, peering at the envelope in Mama’s hand.

“I’ll show you when Elka gets inside. We’ll all look at it together,” Mama answered.

“Aww, please? Can’t I see it?” I begged, reaching forward, but stopping myself before I snatched it out of Mama’s hand. If I did that, Mama would be really angry. And besides, I was a yeshivah bochur now — I was learning with the bochurim. “Do you think Elka will be back before I have to leave?” I asked worriedly.

Mama stood up from her seat at the table. “Where did you last see her? I’ll go bring her inside.” And before I could answer, Mama was across the room and opening the door of the apartment.

I had barely taken another spoonful of soup when the door opened again and Leiba and Miriam spilled into the room.

“Where’s Mama?” Miriam asked. Her hands were filthy.

“Outside,” I said shortly, swallowing the carrots and beans that filled my mouth. “What were you doing? Digging in the mud?”

Miriam just looked at me. She’s not as much fun to tease as Elka. Elka gets so upset when I say things like that, but Miriam just lets it float over her head, almost as if I wasn’t talking.

“I want,” Leiba demanded, climbing up on the chair next to me and pointing to my soup. Grrr. Where was Mama when you needed her? “Hey,” I began, trying to distract my little sister, “Mama went to get Elka because we got a letter.”

“From who?” Miriam asked, returning from the bucket in the corner where she had just washed her hands.

I shrugged and went back to my soup. At least Leiba wasn’t asking me for it anymore.

Finally, the door swung open again to reveal Mama and Elka. Elka, of course, was still sniffling.

“Who’s the letter from?” I asked Mama the moment the door closed behind them.

“One second, Dovid.” Mama held up a hand motioning me to wait. I looked at her impatiently. How much longer could I wait? If I wanted to be back at yeshivah in time to learn with Chaim, the bochur who said he would learn with me, I really needed to leave soon.

Finally, Mama sat down at the table. Leiba, Elka, and Miriam all crowded around at her side, and she pulled the letter out from inside the pocket in her dress. “Here we go,” Mama began, “it’s a letter from my cousin in Yerushalayim.”

“Who?” Elka asked, at the same time as I blurted, “What?”

We had cousins in Yerushalayim? Since when?

Mama laughed at the shocked look on our faces. “I guess I never told you — for some reason I thought you all knew. Yes. We have cousins in Yerushalayim. My mother — Bubby in Riga…” We all nodded to show we knew who she was talking about. Even if the last time we had seen our bubby was when Leiba was born, and Leiba was now already three. “Bubby has a sister, my Tante Chaya. Tante Chaya’s daughter and I were so close until we both got married and I followed your Papa to Kovno while she and her husband went to Yerushalayim.”

To be honest, I was starting to get a little bored. New cousins were exciting — really exciting — but I didn’t care how we were related.

“So we have cousins here, in Eretz Yisrael?” Elka looked at Mama, a smile slowly stretching over her face.

“Yup,” Mama nodded, “and they even have a daughter your age,” she added, bopping Elka on the nose. “Now, should we see what’s inside this letter?”

“I have to go already, Mama,” I said, putting down my spoon into my now-empty bowl. “But you can read it without me. I’ll get my chance when I get home.” I stood up feeling quite proud of myself. If Papa would see this, he would really realize how big I am.


I looked at Mama expectantly. A cousin? My age? That was even better than a best friend. Maybe I could write to her, and then she would write back to me and we would really be friends. And then I’d go to Yerushalayim and— my fantasy hit a brick wall. Go to Yerushalayim. As if Mama and Papa were about to take me to Yerushalayim. Why did these cousins have to live so far away?

Mama must have seen the smile sliding off my face, because she started tearing open the letter just then. “Let’s read it, Elka,” she said, her eyes dancing. Mama was excited, too, I could tell. She pulled out the letter and straightened it out.

To our dear cousins, Yosef, Rivka, and the children,

We were so happy to hear of your arrival. It is so exciting for us to finally have family join us here in Eretz Yisrael. We can’t wait for the time when we will have a chance to greet you in person. Perhaps in the summer, when Yerushalayim gets very hot, we will come to Chevron for vacation. Chevron is beautiful in the summer. Come visit us if you ever make the trip to Yerushalayim. Please write back soon,

With all our love,

Baruch, Yocheved, and the children

“That’s it?” I asked, peering over Mama’s shoulder to get a look at the words she was reading. “Nothing else? That’s the whole letter?”

Mama nodded.

“Fine.” I shrugged. At least it was exciting to find out about my new cousins. “I’m going to Papa in the shop,” I announced, turning around and opening the door.

“I’m coming,” Miriam said, hurrying to my side.

Fine. “Can you believe we have actual cousins here?” I asked her as soon as we were out on the street. “I wonder why Mama never said anything.”

“You’re sooo lucky they have a daughter your age,” Miriam said enviously.

“Yeah, but you have friends in school, so…”

“A friend is not a cousin.” Miriam shook her head. “Even a cousin who lives so far away.” Her voice started to trail off, and I noticed her eyeing the Arab lady down the road, a funny expression crossing her face.

“Oh, come on, Miriam,” I said, exasperatedly. “The Arabs are not dangerous here. They’re just… neighbors. You know what Papa told me?”

“No,” Miriam replied.

“Papa said the Haganah wanted to send soldiers to protect the Jews living here and the people here sent them back.”

“They should have kept them,” Miriam said, drawing a little closer to me.

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah. Soldiers for no reason. It would just make the Arabs think that we don’t trust them.”

“Well, I don’t trust them,” Miriam said.

“That’s just because you’re a baby,” I said. “Everyone else here thinks they’re our friends. You’re just being dumb. Do you think Akeem would hurt you? Or Jamal? He’s even nice to the goats! Now come.” I grabbed her hand. “Let’s go into Papa’s shop and see what they’re making there.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 903)

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