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Brett F. Woods

Elisha Porat

Elisha Porat was born in 1938 to a "pioneer" family in Palestine-Eretz Yisrael (pre-Israel); his parents were among the founders of Ein Hahoresh, a kibbutz on the Sharon plain, near the city of Hadera. Today, Porat, devoted to the community ideal, still makes his home near the original tent erected by his parents in the early 1930s.
      In 1956, he was drafted into the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) and subsequently fought in three wars: the Six Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and the War of South Lebanon in 1982.
      Porat has worked many years as a farmer as well as a writer. His labors in the kibbutz fruit orchard, in contrast with his military tours of duty, have always influenced his art. Besides writing, his current endeavors include editorial duties for several literary journals. He is married with four grown children—three daughters and a son.
      His translated stories and poems have for years found their way into print, most recently in The Boston Review. In 1998, Porat journeyed out into the Internet, and his growing volume of work readily can be found in many literary electronic magazines.
      Porat was the 1996 winner of Israel's Prime Minister's Prize for Literature and has published 18 volumes of fiction and poetry in Hebrew since 1973. His works have appeared in translation in Israel, the United States, Canada, and England.
      His previous English-language short story collection, The Messiah of LaGuardia, is available from Mosaic Press.

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Projecting a United Will

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.

At Ein HahoreshAnd 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. 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.

Translated from the Hebrew by Hanna Lesh

 

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