ESTER'S CHILD



Excerpts from Part 3

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Ester carefully appraised the pictures of her handsome son before passing them, one by one, to Joseph. "He does look well," Ester commented, a small smile on her face.

Sitting sideways, Jordan leaned her head on her father's shoulder, peering at her brother standing next to the sea, his weapon in his hand. In the background there were a number of bikini-clad, Lebanese women.

Joseph winked at his daughter and gave a small laugh. "Better not show this one to Dinah."

Michel looks like a tourist," Ester mused.

Jordan made a small sound with her tongue before lifting her cup for a sip of coffee. Suddenly, unable to restrain herself, she slammed her cup on the table causing the coffee to slosh over the white cloth. Her dark green eyes flashed in anger. "We have no business in Lebanon!" she exclaimed. "Michel should resign from the service. And come home!"

Joseph grunted, hoping his daughter wouldn't become too emotional. After Stephen's death over a year ago, Jordan had become increasingly disenchanted by the continuous turmoil with the Arabs, dismaying her family by becoming a Jewish pacifist. Jordan's endless talk of senseless Jewish aggression did nothing more than upset the family, particularly her brother, Michel, who had an opposite point of view. Michel Gale was a military man who intensely disliked Israel's Arab population and was convinced the Israeli nation would never enjoy peace until every Arab was expelled from the country.

With one child a hardened warrior and the other a pacifist, there was no peace in the Gale household.

Much to Joseph and Ester Gale's sorrow, Michel had grown up believing that war and killing were a normal part of life. Only a baby during the 1948 War against the Arabs, with heroic Jewish soldiers filling the Gale home, Michel's earliest ambition was to become a member of the Haganah. When asked why, Michel had shocked his parents and delighted the soldiers by replying in his baby voice, "So that I can kill Arabs."

Deliberately provocative, Jordan repeated the same words she had said many times before, "I only wish the two of you would admit what I know you both think...our country is built on injustice!"

Suppressing the retort he longed to utter, Joseph patted Jordan's hand. "Jordan, please." He took a deep breath.

The opposite of her parents and older brother, Jordan reveled in dramatic outbursts. When she spoke again, her tone was spiteful. "War and victory! War and victory! There is no such thing as victory in war. Every victory is full of holes!"

Ester glanced at her daughter. "Oh, stop it, Jordan!"

Hoping to still Jordan's emotions, Joseph returned to the subject of Michel. "Your brother will be home soon, sweetheart. I'm sure when you hear the details of his mission, you'll agree he had no choice but to fight the terrorists." Seeing Jordan's face turn bright red, he continued, "Try not to upset yourself, sweetie."

Jordan's bitter memories overcame her and she snatched her hand away before running from the kitchen and shrilly shouting at her father. "How will Michel come home? In a body bag? Like Stephen?"

Joseph felt the wind go out of his body. He stood up and started to follow his daughter, but Ester said smoothly, "Let her go, Joseph. This is one of her bad days."

Hearing Jordan's sobs through the thin walls, Joseph felt drawn and weary. After a long silence, he finally spoke. "What a pity. Since Stephen's death, our daughter recognizes nothing good about our country."

Ester agreed. "You are right about that, darling. Jordan can see nothing but defects."

Joseph and his wife stared at one another for a moment before Ester returned her attention to Michel's photographs.

While his wife continued to stare at their son's likeness, Joseph walked onto the balcony looking over the rooftops of his neighbors. The thought of his daughter's sorrow and the brutal manner of her fiancé's death blended together and sank into Joseph Gale like a dagger. "Poor Stephen," he muttered.

Like all Israeli men, Stephen Grossman was required to give three years of mandatory military service. During the final six months of his service, Stephen was stationed near Gaza Beach Camp, the most dangerous of assignments.

Unlike Michel Gale, Stephen Grossman was a man too temperate to have been born in a land at war. While at Gaza, Stephen began to question the policies of his own country. He thought the Arabs were treated unfairly, and he often told the Gales that one day, if they wanted to survive, Jews were going to have to accept the Arabs as equal partners.

On his last weekend leave, Stephen had confided to Jordan that he was looking forward to leaving Gaza, that no matter how friendly he was, the Arabs looked at him with faces of pained endurance, like hate biding its time.

Stephen's words had been eerily prophetic. The following week, Stephen Grossman had been kidnapped, tortured, and chopped to bits with a scimitar. Without knowing it, the Arabs had killed one of the few Jews sympathetic to their plight.

© The Sasson Corporation • Rights to publish Ester's Child owned by Windsor-Brooke Books, LLC.

Excerpts from Part 3

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