Yehudah tells Hershel and Dovid’l that Berl and Fisch are alive and that they are going to sail to Palestine. He also tells them he has seen Kalonymous.
* * *
His normally reserved expression flushed with excitement, Bruno dashed home and burst through the door. Berl and Fisch were in their usual places out on the balcony.
Berl stood to greet Bruno. “What is it?” he asked.
“You two gentlemen are officially on your way to Palestine!” He held out the telegram from Mordechai Rothstein guaranteeing their tickets, with instructions on where to retrieve them.
Overcome, Berl sank back into his chair. Fisch beamed so brightly Bruno almost had to look away.
“What if they don’t remember us?” wailed Berl. “It’s been so long.”
Bruno reassured him. “If the Rothsteins are still looking for you and are willing to send ship tickets, the boys must speak of you often.”
“When do we leave?” asked Berl.
Bruno consulted the telegram. “A week from today! And guess what? I will be escorting you! The Center has generously agreed to finance my journey to ensure your safe arrival, and I’ll get to stay a few months as well.”
Berl was genuinely pleased at the news, after all. The entire time they’d been waiting at Bruno’s for the call, worry had nagged at him over how they’d manage on the journey. The logistics were terrifying, and that was even before the fateful reunion with their children. Knowing that Bruno would attend to the details made him feel better.
“Fisch,” said Berl, returning to his seventy-four-minutes younger brother, “you heard?”
Fisch nodded vigorously. “Palestine!” he exclaimed.
“Yes, Palestine. We’ll see them again,” said Berl. He reached out and held Fisch’s hand tightly in his own.
The rest of the week was spent in a frenzy of preparation by Bruno, with the help of his mother. Clothing was measured for and sewn, ironed, and packed; shoes fitted for and made (Berl required special shoes, which Bruno made sure were comfortable); food for the journey; whatever salves and tinctures they could get their hands on, for any possible malady that might occur, and a host of other items crammed into an old steamer trunk used by his grandparents when they first traveled from Uzbekistan to Denmark.
Berl and Fisch stood by and watched the tumult taking place around them with part amusement and part terror, alternately worrying and anticipating as the mood struck them.
When the day came, all was loaded into Dagfin Gasner’s gracefully loaned, officially allocated motorcar and transported, both human and inanimate, down to the Port of Copenhagen. The parting from Bruno’s mother — the devoted Mrs. Olsen — was emotional on both sides. Gasner, trusting his precious vehicle in the hands of a hired driver, stood by and offered his own farewell, shaking the hands of both men and embracing Bruno.
Berl and Fisch held on tight as the automobile wended its way toward the Nyhavn port. Once there, their baggage was loaded onto the MS Jutlandia. They were escorted to a double stateroom, while Bruno sufficed with a single.
They would disembark in Port Said and from there travel by train to El-kantara and then on to Haifa. Motti would meet them at the station there, and they would proceed to the house near Chevron.
It was a grueling journey for the two wounded men, but they were as stoic as soldiers. Eventually, Haifa came into view and, with deep breaths and fear, the three travelers disembarked.
Catching sight of the arriving travelers, Motti’s breath caught in his throat. They looked almost as bad as the Sperlings upon their arrival, but he could see immediately why the boys had loved them so loyally. There was a palpable warmth emanating from the two men that inexorably and inevitably spread to anyone around them. Berl held on to Fisch as though to guide him; Fisch held on to Berl to help him walk with more ease; and their companion Bruno supervised closely the porters off-loading all of their luggage, keeping a sharp eye that none of it was pilfered.
Zayit, faithful friend and companion, had offered to accompany Motti and help cart the baggage while Motti transported the precious human cargo, and before long, every inch of space on both wagons was filled.
Bruno introduced himself to Motti and Zayit and stood by until everyone was acquainted. Then he turned to Berl, asking, “What’ll it be, gentlemen? Do you want me to go with you?”
The brothers looked at each other, unwilling to part with Bruno and go with the strange men, but recognizing that they had to face this on their own. They all hugged warmly, and Bruno wrote down the address where he would be staying.
“Best of luck to you, my dear friends.” To Motti he said, “Take good care of them.”
“We will,” promised Motti.
Meanwhile Fisch was looking around frantically, distracting Motti and upsetting Berl.
“What is it?” asked Motti, as yet unaware of Fisch’s precarious mental state. “What is he looking for?”
Berl nodded with perfect understanding.
“He’s looking for Kalonymous, of course, along with the little ones. Where are they?” His eyes suddenly flared with alarm. “Has something happened to them?”
To be continued . . .