Excerpts from Part 1
Joseph 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 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 thought 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. 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 hours."
"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 close, German soldiers marched six-thousand prisoners out of the Auschwitz death camp and away from Russian liberators. The retreating Gestapo had shot the prisoners 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'm 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 opened 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 won't 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.
© The Sasson Corporation • Rights to publish Ester's Child owned by Windsor-Brooke Books, LLC.
Excerpts from Part 1