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Projecting A United Will

by Elisha Porat
 

translated from Hebrew by Hanna Lesh.

In my youth, the old-timers told me that people who  sought solitude in the woods near the kibbutz were unique. Too highly educated  to take part in the exhausting work, too sensitive for the daily hustle and bustle, too snobbish to participate in the daily affairs of the settlement, they  set out for the tall Eucalyptus trees on the outskirts of the kibbutz to hide in  the shade of their thick branches and build a tree house that could only be  reached by a makeshift ladder.

And that is why people would tell all kinds of  controversial tales about them; fascinating tales about a life of freedom up  here, in the shaded domes, completely isolated from the warm, pulsating life  beneath them. These men raised their hot heads upward, toward a different sky,  one that could not be observed by the pedestrians on the soft sandy path down  below. Some were dropped from the collective kibbutz memory soon after having  arrived. Others lived to a bright old age and eventually joined their comrades  down below. They merely blush a little on being jokingly reminded of their  former escapades in the tree tops. Several of them have actually become  mythical. But the tales serve to remind them of their first days in the country,  their first steps on kibbutz - most of all, they recall the unique smells.

As a lad, I chose to ignore the decaying tree houses in  which crows nested. I tried to disregard the large rusty nails that were forever  stuck in the large trunks and served as an annoying reminder. Walking aimlessly  beneath them, I would kick at some forgotten cigarette package and spit at the surprisingly fresh condoms that had somehow turned up under the tree houses. In  my wandering, I merely intend to discover some concrete evidence of legendary  existence.

And then, on one of my walks at twilight, as my power  of judgment seemed to be somewhat impaired, I came across that legendary figure  from the old-timer's tales. He looked just like one of us, in his dark blue  clothing and heavy rubber boots. "Come on up!" he called, encouraging me to  climb those precariously loose steps. "From up here the entire world looks  different". Overcoming fears that had been nurtured throughout sleepless nights,  I followed him up the tree.

"This way! This way!" He pulled me into his lofty  outpost, which overlooked tower tops and power lines. "Sit down! Why are you  breathing so hard, why are you so pale? They must have scared you with their  stories down below! After all, this is merely a simple tree house, not a dragon's nest.

"Do you remember Rabbi Haim Vital's stories? Do you  recall one about the Holy Ari and his failure?" Instantly he had removed all barriers. I was not longer a young dreamer, but his spiritual equal. I was no  longer a moonstruck lad, seeking temptation and sin in the woods, but a pupil  sitting in front of his teacher. I was extremely flattered to have been chosen  from among my buddies who had remained behind, down there in the teeming kibbutz  yard.

"If at one and the same time all the Jews of Saffad had  worn white clothing... If they had all left town together and marched toward  Jerusalem... Can you imagine that? Every individual wish would have disappeared:  one foot, one pace, a single united step by people in white... Their heads held  high and led by the Ari, they formed a united society.

"Follow me! We are about to deliver Jerusalem! We are  going to change the world!" Can you imagine it? Do you realize what a chance was missed in those days in Saffad? It is simply mind boggling!"

The floor boards creaked; the huge trees groaned in the  wind; a shower of fragrant Eucalyptus cups fell onto the sand below. Calmly  taking off his boots as though sitting on his porch, he comforted me, "Don't be  afraid. Worse storms have not managed to destroy my lofty eerie! Now, will you  please listen to me! Imaging everyone in our kibbutz - men, women, children, and old-timers - standing in front of their huts and tents. Everyone dressed in their Sabbath clothes. Holding hands, they sing quietly. And not just members  from our kibbutz, but from all neighboring kibbutzim, from the entire country!  An enormous force of kibbutz members who all project their will in a single  direction. Can you imagine what might happen? What might happen here and  throughout the entire universe?"

Bending low over the wooden boards of the tree house,  he covered his head as though trying to prevent it from bursting. "Such a  unified will, one that encompasses millions, may cause a real revolution. Not  just our country would be changed, but the entire globe; our miserable earth  would move in a completely different orbit, one that was intend from the  beginning. Do you see where the Ari erred? How could he have expected people to  be ready in a couple of hours! What a crazy schedule he tried to enforce! Who  can be expected to get ready at such short notice? Do you see the sorry chain of events that eventually led to a missed opportunity? What a pity! One could simply burst with frustration!"

Taking hold of my boyish hands, he folded them together  and said, "No power in the world can withstand a united people's will. You must  always remember this. Naturally, it would be nice if matters were accomplished tidily in suitable clothing  and accompanied by the right tune. But most of all, it is imperative to prevent  the disintegration of this united will into thousands of individual ones. Look  down at the kibbutz. What do you see? Everyone is going wild and pulling in a  different direction. That is not the way to achieve salvation! It simply makes  me cry!"

I strained my neck to look downward and see what he meant. I tried hard to imagine what such a enormous will, one that united the  entire kibbutz, might actually achieve. But aside from sudden tears caused by  the effort and an obscure but penetrating pain, I felt nothing at all.

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