Books By Jean Sasson

 

Prologue

On November 29, 1947, the future of 1.3 million Arabs and 700,000 Jews living in Palestine rested with the decision of fifty-six delegates of the General Assembly of the United Nations.  Jewish celebration and Arab mourning commenced at the moment those delegates cast their votes in favor of partitioning the ancient land, thereby fulfilling the two-thousand-year-old Jewish dream of returning to their historic home.

            From that day, Jerusalem became a war zone.

 

 Jerusalem: Wednesday, January 7, 1948

             Moving swiftly from side to side to avoid sniper fire, a tense Joseph Gale quickly approached the front door of his unpretentious block home.  Once inside, he continued his fast pace, giving an alert glance at his sleeping son before rushing through the sitting room and into the cramped hallway that had been turned into a delivery room.

                Ester Gale didn’t notice her husband’s return.  She was rolling back and forth on the thin mattress, holding a damp cloth to her chest, making small, animal-like noises that broke the stillness of the room

                Joseph’s sister, Rachel, and Anna Taylor, an American woman who had befriended the Gales upon their arrival in Palestine, were at Ester’s side.

                Joseph glanced at his sister and noticed that her eyes were fixed with a hopeful stare on the open doorway.  Joseph shook hi head and held out his arms in a gesture of defeat.  He whispered, “I could find no one.  Not even a nurse.”

                Rachel took a deep breath.  She was relieved at Joseph’s sage return, but dismayed that he had been unable to locate a physician.  Rachel exchanged looks of apprehension with Anna before murmuring, “Well, we will do the best we can.”

                “Birthing is a natural act,” Anna responded.  “Ester will have a healthy baby.”

                Trying to hide her anxiety, Rachel agreed.  “While being help at Drancy,” she whispered, “I once assisted a woman in childbirth.”  Located on the outskirts of Paris, Drancy had been the most notorious of the holding camps for the French Jews awaiting transport to the Auschwitz Death Camp in Poland.  Remembering that terrible time, Rachel gazed into the distance, purposely not mentioning that the woman had died during childbirth.

                Ester began to chew on the cloth, and the color of her face paled.

                Rachel’s thin lips grew thinner still as she spoke out of the side of her mouth, “Joseph, the time is near.”

                Joseph felt his stomach tighten as an inner voice whispered to him that their survival had been useless if he lost Ester.  He bent over his wife’s small form, brushing her cheek with his lips, and telling her, “Hold on, darling.  Soon this will pass.”

                Ester grunted her disbelief, and spoke with a croaking sound, a hoarseness that hid the usual softness of her voice, “Never. Never. Joseph, this pain has become a part of me.”  She shuddered in agony.

                Tears filled Joseph’s eyes.

                Anna rose and began to rub Ester’s shoulders, motioning with her head for Joseph to leave.  She reminded him, “The water.  Can you boil the water, now?”

                “Yes, of course.”  Joseph gave Ester a kiss before leaving the room.  Passing through the narrow sitting room, he took time to cover Michel with a second blanket before going into the kitchen.

                Using the last of the precious kerosene, Joseph heated a small amount of water over a small burner.  Not only were the citizens of war-torn Jerusalem short on food, but water supplies were at a critical low point. 

                Joseph visibly flinched when he heard the sounds of Ester’s muffled screams.  He began to pray aloud for the safety of his wife.  “Her my prayer, Oh God.  Keep her from harm.”  He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead with his fingers.  “Ester’s life is all I am asking for.”  Hesitating with emotion, he whispered, “You decide upon the child.”

                Michel Gale awoke from his nap and began crying and calling for his mother.

                Joseph held his precious child in his arms and offered to play a game, but nothing he could say or do comforted they boy.  Just as Joseph was thinking the situation could not possibly worsen, Ari Jawor knocked determinedly at the front door, bringing Joseph unwelcome news.

                Ari Jawor was Joseph’s closest friend, and a member of the Haganah, the Jewish Defense Force.  Ari was a squat, broad-shouldered man with a hard-exterior, soft-interior kind of character.  And he tended to be overly dramatic.  Today he was speaking even louder than usual.  Without taking time to greet his friend, Ari filled the house with his unmistakable passion, “Joseph, they did it again!” he slapped his open palm against the wall.  “The old man is furious!”

                Joseph quickly locked the door before running his attention to Ari.  He wasn’t sure who “they” were, but he knew that the “old man,” as he was affectionately called, was David Ben-Gurion, the leader of the Jews in Palestine, and the man who would surely become the first Premier of their new country.

                Joseph stared at Ari and almost laughed aloud, thinking that with his nervous eyes, grimy face, ill-fitting clothes, and thick red hair standing straight and stiff from dirt, Ari resembled a demon.  And, his unexpected visit clearly meant bad news.  Joseph tried to keep the alarm out of his voice, “Ari, what has happened?”

                Ari curled his hands into fists and looked as if he wanted to strike out.  His face, already red from the cold, grew redder still.  “There’s been a massive bombing at the bus station at Jaffa Gate.  Just a short while ago.  Only God knows how many are dead and injured.”  After a moment’s hesitation Ari added, “I was told the street looked like a slaughterhouse.”

                The Jaffa Gate area was the main commercial artery of Jerusalem and was usually crowded with shoppers.

                Joseph answered softly, “God…how easy it is to be alive one moment and dead the next.”  Since leaving Europe and coming to Palestine, Joseph had often thought the old hatreds that had percolated on the land promised the Jews by God now threatened every living soul, Arab and Jew. 

                Ari leaned his M-1 rifle against the wall.  “Our sources tell us the Irgun gang was responsible.  They managed to steal a police van.  Then, those bastards rolled two barrels of TNT onto a crowded Arab street.

Women…children…all turned into shredded meat.”

                Joseph spoke in a low voice and did not look into Ari’s eyes.  “Dear God.” He then asked, “Did they capture the men?”

                Ari nodded, “After throwing a second bomb at the intersection of Mamillah Road and Princess mary Avenue, members of the gang crashed the van and tried to escape on foot through the cemetery.  The British police and an American Consulate Guard followed the men, killing three of the gang.”

                The Irgun gang was an illegal military group, led by Menachem Begin, a man whose unassuming appearance gave no indication of his murderous anger.  His followers consisted of hardened Holocaust survivors willing to kill anyone trying to block the creation of a Jewish homeland.  These men believed their miraculous return to the Promised Land was a sign of God’s devotion to their cause, and they justified every terrorist action with a biblical verse.  The Irgun gang violently disagreed with the idea of compromise with the British, American or the Arabs, and their reckless acts had caused David Ben-Gurion many sleepless nights.

                Jospeh suddenly remembered.  “The water!”  He rushed into the kitchen.

                Ari gave him an uncomprehending look but followed.

                Taking little notice of the two men, Michel Gale sat silently on the floor, playing with a small metal soldier.

                “Michel, Ari is here.”

                Michel pursued his lips but he didn’t look up.  He only wanted his mother.  No one else would do.

                Joseph stuck his finger into the water.  “Almost.”

                Ari helped himself to a small amount of the precious water, savoring the drink with a loud swallow.

                The two men were silent for a minute but they were thinking the same thing:  Arab retaliation was sure to come, and the Musrara area where the Gale family lived was particularly vulnerable to Arab snipers.  The neighborhood was adjacent to the old city of Jerusalem and sat squarely between the Eastern-Arab-side and the Western-Jewish-side of the city.  And while their street was solely occupied by Jews, only one block away the street was occupied by Arabs.  The few Arab snipers presently in the area had done little more than to irritate and isolate their Jewish neighbors, but the sniping had escalated into full-blown fighting in the Sheikh Jarrah quarter, which was only a short distance from Musrara.

                The though of an even greater threat caused Ari to make a motion with his hand toward Michel and announce, “You have to think about the child, Joseph.  Pack a few things.  Pack a few things. I’ll try to get a truck and get you out of here.”

                Joseph slowly shook his head, “No. It’s impossible.”

                Ari’s eyes were inquisitive, and when he opened his mouth to protest, Joseph explained, “Ester’s been in labor for the past six hour.”

                “Well, then, that paints a different picture.”  Ari pulled on his thin mustache, thinking of their options.  “If you can’t leave,” he said finally, “then we’ll have to bring a few men into the area to protect you.”

                Fully understanding the grave shortage of Jewish fighters, Joseph protested, “I can take care of myself.”

                Ari gave a wide grin, “I don’t doubt that.”  In battle, no soldier was fiercer than Joseph Gale.  He slapped his friend on the arm. “There are other Jews in the area to worry about besides the Gales.”

                Joseph looked thoughtful for a moment, then brightened, changing the subject, “How is Leah?”

                Leah Rosner was Ari’s new bride, and like Ari, she was serving full time in the Haganah.  While the Arabs Leah fought called her a fair-haired devil, her Jewish comrades considered her to be an extraordinary soldier.

                In her presence, Leah’s restless green eyes never revealed the tragedies that had marred her life.  She was the sole survivor of a large Czechoslovakian-Jewish family.  As the end of World War II drew near, German soldiers marched six-thousand prisoners out of the Auschwitz Death Camp and away from Russian liberators.  The retreating Gestapo had shot the prisoner unable to keep pace.  After Ari’s father was executed, and Leah’s last remaining sister died from starvation, Ari and Leah drew strength from each other.  Surviving against all odds, they had become inseparable, and had recently married.

                Ari smiled with pleasure and his voice rang with pride, “Leah is wonderful, Joseph.  I am the luckiest man alive!”

                Michel began to whine, and as quickly as he arrived, Ari left, leaving Joseph with something new to fret about—Arab revenge for the Irgun’s vicious attack.

                The hall door creaked open and Rachel’s shoes made a clicking noise as she walked across the tiled floor into the kitchen.  She had failed to close the door and Ester’s stifled cries escaped from the hallway.

                Terribly frightened, Michel began to cry once again.  Something awful was happening to his mother.  He didn’t bother to wipe the mucus running from his nose onto his lip, but instead used the tip of his tongue to lick his upper lip, swallowing the salty liquid.

                When Rachel entered the kitchen, Michel grabbed the bottom of her skirt and refused to let go.

                “Come now, turn loose!”  Rachel tugged on her dress, but when she looked down and saw the boy’s twisted face, she raised her voice, “Michel! Where are your toys?”  She shot an accusing look at her brother, “Joseph, why isn’t he playing?”

                “I’ve tried everything, Rachel.  The boy wont be satisfied until he sees his mother.”  Joseph began to pour boiling water over the knife, scissors, and other metal objects entrusted to him by Anna.

                In a thin high voice, Michel insisted, “Mommy!  I want my Mommy! Now!”  His fear made him determined.

                An impatient edge crept into Rachel’s voice, “Oh! Michel! Later. Later, you can see mommy.”  She wiped his face with the edge of her skirt and told him, “Run along.  You can see mommy soon. I promise.”

                Seeing the open door, Michel dashed into the forbidden room.  No one was going to keep him away from his mother. “Mommy!” Michel yelled as he ran toward her bed.

                Rachel stuck her head in the doorway, “Sorry Ester, he got away from us.”

                At the sight of her young son, Ester Gale moved her lips into a smile, though the painful grimace which shadowed her face neutralized the smile. “Michel! Darling, come here.”  She weakly held out one hand.

                Michel held tightly to her hand, viewing her huge belly with a trace of suspicion, vaguely recalling that somehow, a baby had gotten in there.  Confused about a world that no longer revolved around him, Michel wanted to climb onto the mat with his mother, to snuggle close, the way they used to do.  Just as he started to make a playful leap, his mother arched her back and gave out a high-pitched shriek.

                Michel screeched in terror!

                Anna Taylor jumped to her feet, shoving Michel toward the door and Auntie Rachel. “Rachel! It’s time!”

                Michel heard his father roar in a tone that he had never heard in all his two years of living, “Ester! Darling! I am coming!”

                After Miss Anna told him in an impatient, sharp voice, “Michel! Find something to do,” he lay down behind his father’s sitting chair and fell into a troubled sleep.

  

Haifa, Palestine

            Palestinian teacher and scholar George Antoun enjoyed a passion for ancient history, and in particular the writing of the Greeks.  George often said that the Greek culture had spread throughout the world as a swelling stream of culture and learning and that every modern man benefited.  He was enjoying a moment of solitude with a treasured copy of the Iliad when he heard a purposeful pounding on the front door.

                Mary will see who it is, he thought to himself.  Suddenly struck with a painful memory, he closed the pages of hi book.  Mary had suffered yet another miscarriage the day before and was confined to bed.  George was beginning to realize that Mary would never carry a pregnancy to full term.  Only married for six years, the couple had suffered through ten heartbreaking miscarriages.  They had no living children

                “One moment,” he called out.  A reluctant George stood to his feet and walked out of his office and up the hallway

                The knocking grew even more determined. “George!  Answer the door!”

                George recognized the voice.  His visitor was Ahmed Ajami, a member of George’s reading group who was also a long-time family friend.

                “Yes? Ahmed?  What is the rush?”  George asked with a smile as he flung open the door.

                The mournful expression on Ahmed’s face alarmed George.  Something was dreadfully wrong.

                “George, my friend, where is Mitri?”

                George’s stomach plunged.  Was Ahmed bringing the most terrible of all news?  Had his beloved father been in an accident?  He clutched Ahmed’s arm and pulled him into his home.  “Papa walked down to the coffee shop over an hour ago.  Has something happened to him?”

                Ahmed took a deep breath and closed his eyes.  “George.  There has been a terrible attack in Jerusalem.”  Ahmed leaned his head against the wall.

                “What?”

                Ahmed took a second deep breath before looking closely into George’s eyes.  “My friend.  We just received word from my cousin in Jerusalem that many people were killed.”

                George began to tremble.  His two brothers and one sister lived in Jerusalem.  Combined, those three siblings were the parents of ten children.  From Ahmed’s reaction he knew that members of his own family must have been seriously injured in Jerusalem.  The city was the scene of increasingly violent acts between the Jews and the Arabs.  George clutched at his own throat.  “Who?  Just tell me who.”

                Ahmed slowly shook his head and pointed toward the sitting room.  Tears cam into his eyes.  He was afraid that his friend might faint.  “Sit down, George.  You need to sit down.”

                George Antoun was a gently man and no one had ever heard him raise his voice.  George startled Ahmed when he shouted, “Just tell me! Who?”  George took a step closer to Ahmed.  “Ahmed!  You must tell me, now!”

                Ahmed began to weep and wave his arms around.  “George, my friend.  There was deadly bombing at the Jaffa Gate.  You lost them all there.  Peter and James and Emily.  They are all dead.”

                George stood without speaking.  His limbs began to go numb.  As he sank in a heap to the floor, he heard the familiar sound of his father’s footsteps on the stone walkway.

                George began weeping.  He covered his eyes with his hands, muttering, “How can I tell him this news? How?”

  

Jerusalem

                 Several hours later the sound of his father’s triumphant voice woke Michel.

                “Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe Who is good and does good.”

                Rubbing his eyes, Michel wandered out from behind the chair.

                Joseph beamed affectionately at his son.  “Michel, did you hear the good news?  You have a baby brother!”

                The thought of a new brother did not strike Michel as terrific news.  Everything was too unsettling.  Michel’s dark eyes brimmed with tears, but his father didn’t seem to notice.

                The knowledge that his beloved wife was safe, and that she had given birth to a healthy baby boy, caused the tension to seep away and brought tears to the eyes of Joseph Gale.  He was not going to lose Ester!  God was fair, sometimes.  Joseph picked Michel up in his arms and recited once again, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe Who is good and does good.”

                The sound of a crying infant sent Michel into a grip of fear.  He began to whimper at the cataclysmic changes going on around him, knowing that nothing would ever again be quite the same.

                By Friday evening Michel felt slightly more friendly toward his new brother.  The baby lay sleeping in Michel’s old cradle, which had been set in a corner of the center room.  Their new Bedouin maid, Jihan, a woman who used to work for Miss Anna, but was now going to attend to the Gale family, sat crouched on the floor by the side of the crib, her hand lightly touching the infant’s back as she gently rocked the cradle.  Jihan was singing a plaintive melody.

                Standing with his back against the wall, watching Michel play and his new son sleeping, Joseph was happier than he had been in a long time.  In spite of the Jaffa Gate attack, the Arabs had not avenged the deaths of their loved ones.  He was surprised, but encouraged, hoping that the Gale family would not be the ones to pay the price in the never-ending cycle of revenge.   He cheered himself with the idea that before too long, perhaps Jews could move beyond a time when survival was unexpected and death was commonplace.  And, since this morning, when three men of the Haganah arrived to guard the area, the sniper fire in the neighborhood had ceased.

                Rachel interrupted her older brother’s thoughts.  She looked at Jihan with glaring disapproval.  “Really, Joseph.  A blind maid?”

                Joseph’s face was free of expression when he glanced down at his sister.  “She’s very capable.”

                “Capable?  How can a blind maid be capable?  Are you joking?  What help can she be to Ester?”  Rachel’s voice grew louder.  She was furious that she had not been asked about the arrangement.  “Anna is mad to suggest such a thing!”

                Joseph’s voice remained patient.  “Rachel.  Jihan has lived with Anna since she was a young girl.  She is wonderful with children.”

                “No!  I can’t believe it.”  Rachel lowered her voice.  “Obviously, Anna is weary of feeding a useless mouth!”

                Joseph spoke in a vaguely disappointed tone, “Rachel.  Don’t be unkind.  This is Ester’s wish.  And, mine.”

                Rachel Gale was a stubborn individual who liked having her way.  Added to that misfortune, she was a plain, dumpy woman born into a family of tall, handsome men.  Without a suitor in sight, she understood she would never have a family of her own to nurture.  Rachel had looked forward to playing a pivotal role in the upbringing of her brother’s children.  Her ton was bitter.  “Joseph, you are making a terrible mistake!  A blind woman!  Mind what I tell you, she’ll do harm to the children!”

                Looking at his sister’s face, Joseph had a quick thought that Rachel was becoming impossible.  He gave his sister a hard look and his back stiffened.  With angry words he told her, “Rachel, the decision has been made!  Now, close your mouth and leave me alone!”  Joseph walked away.

                Rachel stared at her brother in astonishment.  Joseph was a gently, soft-spoken man, and she had rarely heard her brother raise his voice in anger.  Indeed, his kindly manner had encouraged Rachel’s sharp tongue.  Grumbling under her breath, “Blind maid, indeed!” She hurried into the kitchen to prepare the food.

                The dark memory of a time when Rachel was truly alone tempered the argument with her brother.  A survivor of Auschwitz, Rachel had hidden in the women’s barracks on the day the Nazi’s emptied the camp.  After the Russian Army liberated the camp, she had hitchhiked from Poland to France, sleeping in fields and surviving on the kindness of people she did not know.  Month later, and with indescribable joy, she arrived in liberated Paris and waited with excited expectation for returning members of the Gale family.  While in Paris, Rachel had joined hundreds of other Jews at the Hotel Lutetia, all searching for news of loved ones separated by the deportations.  Notes were posted and bits of information exchanged between concentration camp survivors were eagerly pursued.  Week after interminable week, Rachel waited, unwilling to believe that she was the only survivor of her family. Clinging to what others called futile hope, she sat in the lobby of the hotel, carefully examining each Jew with interest, bombarding every newcomer with descriptions of her parents and brothers.  After a month, she learned from eyewitnesses that her mother and father had been sent to the crematoriums at Auschwitz.  Michel, her oldest brother, was last seen in a work camp located in the perimeter of Auschwitz.  Abbi, Michel’s Christian wife, made her feelings clear when she refused Rachel’s request for a place to stay.  During the long occupation of France, Abbi had come to regret her marriage to a Jew.  And Jacques?  At the time Rachel was deported from Drancy with her parents, Jacques had been a resistance prisoner of the Gestapo in France.  The last known new of Joseph, Ester and their child, was that they were still living in the Warsaw Ghetto during the spring of 1942.

                Rachel was almost at the point of abandoning all hope and accompany her insistent Jewish acquaintances to Palestine when she recognized a familiar figure reading the posted notes at the hotel.  Joseph had returned!  After a tearful reunion, Rachel joined her brother and his wife on the journey to Palestine.  Europe was no longer safe for Jews.

                Only after arriving safely in Palestine, had they learned of Jacques’ fate. 

                With a sad grimace, Rachel began to arrange food on the serving trays.

  

The Friedrich Kleist home in East Berlin

    The same haunting dream came to him every night.

                Although Friedrich Kleist tried to look stern as he shouted orders to his mean to hurry the family, he was completely distressed.  His S.S. superior, Karl Drexler, had put Friedrich in charge of clearing the Moses Stein apartment and putting the entire family on the next transport to Treblinka.  Friedrich felt the eyes of his hated superior on his back, although when he left S.S. Headquarters he saw that Colonel Drexler remained hi his office.

                Friedrich gave a start when he realized that the men of the family were gone.  He wondered about the big French Jew—the one who had almost broken Friedrich’s jaw during the furor at the apartment earlier in the week.  Friedrich decided not to advise Colonel Drexler that the two men had escaped the noose.  Let what would be, be, he told himself. 

                Friedrich stood as in a trance and watched as the weeping women and children continued to file past him.  He couldn’t help thinking that they were a comely crowd—pretty women and adorable children. But his Colonel said they were not fit to live, and die they would.  Friedrich knew that oo soon those pretty faces would turn to ashes and go up with smoke in the crematoriums.

                Friedrich allowed his eyes to linger on one of the youngest of the children.  The girl was only two or three years old and quite beautiful.  With dark bouncing curls and a sweet smile.  She ran toward him.

                A hand reached out and grabbed her.  “Dafna, come with Mommy, please.”

                Dafna laughed with excitement.  “Are we going to ride a train?”

                The mother’s voice choked.  “Yes, my precious.  We will see the trees and the flowers.”

                As Friedrich stared at the child’s face he realized something was terribly wrong.  The child’s face was beginning to smolder!  Her flesh began to shrink.  Smoke began to rise above her head.  The little girl began to howl and twist in agony!

 

                Friedrich was shrieking as he bolted upright in bed.

                Eva was talking in a low voice and trying to soothe him.  “Friedrich, it was only the dream.  You are in Berlin.”

                Friedrich was shaking so violently that the bed mattress was moving.  He forced himself to get up.  He kissed Eva on her forehead and told her, “Sorry.  I will get some water.”

                Eva sighed unevenly and turned over.  These dreams were getting worse.  Where would this end?

                Friedrich Kleist sat up for the remainder of the night, oblivious to this moans as he lived that fateful day over and over—a day in 1942 when he had sent the Stein family of Warsaw to burn in the ovens of Treblinka.

                Although it had been six years ago, and he had not actually witnessed the crime, Friedrich could smell smoke created by human flesh.  The stench of the smoke was growing worse, night by night, dream by dream.

                Friedrich began to weep, wishing that he had not survived the war.

  

Jerusalem

 The house was soon filled with sounds of celebration of the night of the Shalom Zachar (welcome to the male child). Regardless of the deterioration of Jerusalem life, neighbors and friends of the Gale family filled the house.

                Ari and Leah Jawor made a last-minute appearance.  They were delighted when Joseph asked them to be his new son’s god-parents.  They began to excitedly discuss the Brit Milah, the traditional ceremony held eight days following the birth of a male child, where the child is named and circumcised.  Neither Ari nor Leah knew the name chosen for the boy.  Such information would be held privately within the Gale family until the Brit Milah, but they knew the infant would be named for a departed member of Joseph and Ester’s family.  Ashkenacic Jewish tradition taught that the memory of the departed would guide the life of the newborn, and due to the Holocaust, Joseph and Ester Gale had numerous possibilities from which to select.

                Suddenly, there was a loud applause.  Rachel brought out three bottles of red wine she had hidden away for the birth of her brother’s child.  For the first time in months, the kitchen table was loaded with food.  Each guest had generously contributed some bit of food they had stowed away for a special occasion.  There were cooked beans and peas, some boiled potatoes and even a box of fresh fruit.  The fruit had been smuggled into the beleaguered city by Ari Jawor.  The precious fruit and wine created more excitement that the birth of the child.  There was even a cake, dangerously tilted to one side from the lack of certain ingredients.

                While swaying to the sound of sonorous Hebrew singing, Joseph gathered Michel in his arms, whispering, “You are the light of my life!  You are perfection!” Joseph allowed Michel a sip of wine, telling him,  “My son! To life!”

                A big smile crossed Joseph’s lips.  New life meant Jewish strength!

                Ester smiled the sweetest of smiles, watching her husband delight in their eldest son.  She leaned her head against Joseph’s shoulder and closed her eyes, reminding herself of the wonderful reality that she was the mother of two healthy sons. 

                The cantor continued to lead the guests in song, and everyone was smiling and happy, unwavering in their resolve to enjoy the moment and forget about the violence which was overtaking the small country they now claimed as their own.  When the sound of gunfire erupted in the neighborhood, two of the men armed themselves and went outside to guard the house.  The remaining guests raised their voices and sang even louder, drowning out the chaos of Jerusalem, portraying a perfect picture of people living in a time of peace and harmony.

                The moment became bittersweet for Joseph.  The scene around him required all the restraint he possessed to maintain his composure.  Only a short while ago their future had been intricately intertwined with large and caring families.  World War II brought deadly consequences for those whom they loved, and more of Joseph and Ester Gale’s past had been lost than saved.  Now, too soon, they again found themselves fighting for their lives and the lives of their two young children.

                Joseph was fighting the urge to burst into laughter and to cry out in anguish, both in the same instant.  His eyes teared with happiness at the safe birth of a son and with sorrow at the thought of the loved ones who had not lived to experience this cherished moment.  Yet, Joseph felt some small comfort from the knowledge that the memory of Ester’s most beloved brother, Daniel Stern, a good man, a brave man, would now live through their own son.  Earlier in the day, Joseph and Ester had made the decision to name their new son Daniel.  Daniel Gale.

                His mood reached his wife, Ester, and she nodded.  She understood:  although her sons carried the names of those lost, they would never forget Joseph’s brother Michel, or her own brother, Daniel.  Looking into Joseph’s face, she knew that her husband was seeing another place and another time, and despite the tremendous joy he felt from the birth of two healthy sons, he remained desperately sad.

                The traditions of Jewish life called out for the large families they had both lost at Treblinka and Auschwitz.  As scarred survivors of the Holocaust, Joseph and Ester had never dreamed the day would come when there would ever again be cause for celebration in their lives, just as in the years before the Holocaust, they never could have imagined the empty void which would come to a culmination at their most significant family events.

                Joseph and Ester stood beside each other, hiding their true thoughts, while singing and exchanging pleasant conversation with their friends. 

                Their guests would have been surprised if they had known Joseph and Ester Gale saw no one standing before them, no one at all.