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Tuesday, 8th June 1971—11:00AM
Kafira Weiss looked up at the bright, clear blue sky as the graduating class of 1971 from the Ben Gurion University, roared the joy of having successfully achieved their individual goal. Kafira was doubly pleased because her marks were slightly better than Ira Ratzik. Not that it mattered so much, Ira had been her constant partner through the last semester, and Kaffie was in love with him. In other words, she felt safe and comfortable with him, and they had shared the agony and frustration of studying to master their respective subjects.
Her parents Rachel and Simon, her brothers Hiram and Aaron, and her dearest friends, gathered around her heaping praise and congratulating her. Her Mother crying a little and muttering to her over and over, "Mazel tov, you bring many Naches."
Kafira looked lovingly at her mother and reflected how much easier it was for herself to achieve her educational goal. Her Mother suffered terribly through the Second World War in Poland, but through her extraordinary personal ambition and drive, Rachel graduated from the 'Underground University,' that was formed after the German Army shut down all Polish Universities in 1939. Living and studying in fear of being caught by the Germans was a constant threat to her and her family throughout those years, yet Rachel went on after the war to be recognised as an extremely capable and well regarded Gastroenterologist in Israel. Kafira learnt the story of her parent's hardship and ultimate survival through her father, as her mother did not talk about those terrible years at all.
Kaffie was nearly three years old in 1949 and obviously did not have a clear memory of leaving Poland in the train with her Mother and Father. Her Father described that train as being nothing more than a cattle truck that smelled terrible, with the food almost inedible. After suffering the two day journey, the family eventually arrived in Marseilles in a sorry state. There, they expected to find a ship that would take them to Haifa. Her Father being a Lawyer, had managed to secure a British visa to settle in Israel, but in 1949, Israel was in turmoil. Since June 1948, Israel had been at war for various periods, and despite Armistice agreements being signed, people were still being killed by those Arab nations who rejected the declaration of a Jewish State. The Family waited seven weeks in an extremely small hotel in Marseilles before a ship was willing to take the family, together with many others, to Haifa. During those weeks, Kafira was ill for five of them with a virulent stomach virus that her mother wasn't able to treat, simply because there were no drugs or indeed any money. Of course, under the ministrations of her Mother Kafira survived, but then Kafira became violently seasick on the voyage to Haifa.
The Weiss family reached Haifa on the 23rd March 1949, the day Israel signed the Armistice with Lebanon, and Kafira had wasted away to a shadow of her former self. However, they were joyously met on the wharf by Kafira's Uncle David and his Polish wife Gillian, who had arranged for them to travel to Tel Aviv some fifty miles to the south, in a decidedly old British truck. They travelled in convoy as there were still skirmishes along the coast with Egyptian militia, but they eventually arrived in Tel Aviv safely, where they were able to stay for two weeks before moving on to Jerusalem.
Kafira often wondered why her father so desperately wanted to settle near or in Jerusalem, and it didn't become clear to her until she was fifteen, and the trial of Adolf Eichmann was being held. She found her father weeping at the news. He then told her that Jerusalem to him was the exact centre of his being and that he regarded being in Jerusalem at last, as coming home and that the murderer of so many Jews was being brought to account.
Kafira grew into a tall, beautiful woman with jet black hair that grew down to her shoulders. To the envy of her girlfriends, Kafira was blessed with the same full, but slim figure as her mother, although she was singularly unconscious of it. Kaffie was a natural beauty with a lightly tanned complexion that never needed any makeup. In her High School, as she became a woman, she attracted most of the male population; but Kafira was wise enough to know that she didn't have to fall in love with the first boy who flattered her. In doing so, she acquired a reputation for being cold. Nothing could have been further from the truth! Kafira was acutely aware of her sexuality, but she didn't seek to dispel that perception, besides she was too busy concentrating on her studies to be terribly concerned.
Ira Ratzik was quite a different proposition; he didn't pay any attention to her at all, and it wasn't until the second semester of their last year while finishing their separate courses, that Kaffie noticed Ira. Despite her practised aloofness, it annoyed her that he simply looked through her. At a Campus party, her annoyance became an irritation when Kaffie saw that Ira was deeply engaged in a whispering conversation with a girl that she didn't know, but she could see that she was very young and giggly; probably in the second year! Kaffie broke away from her circle of girls, and walked over to where Ira and the giggly girl were standing. Kaffie said to the girl, "Please excuse me, I think I know your brother Danny, but I may be wrong! Please tell me your family name is Raiz?"
"I am sorry," said the girl a little startled, "It isn't! You have mistaken me for someone else, my family name is Schneider."
"Oh! Please forgive me. I obviously got that wrong," said Kaffie now looking at Ira. "And who might you be?" Trying to soften her face to look straight into his eyes. That was a mistake, because his eyes captivated her immediately. She didn't expect to see the softness and light that virtually shone from them and she suddenly felt funny and loose. Kaffie quickly recovered to hear Ira say politely, "My name is Ira Ratzik; and who might you be?" Bowing slightly toward her. Ira thought to himself, 'I know who you are, Miss Kafira Weiss. Everybody knows who you are! Kafira Weiss was probably the most beautiful girl in the University, but seemingly untouchable, and regarded as a bit icy. What do I do now?'
"My name is Kafira Weiss but, please call me Kaffie; all my friends do," said Kaffie holding his eyes with hers. Ira felt his stomach tighten, and managed to say,
"Ok, Kaffie it is," said Ira, who by now had forgotten that there was another girl standing next to him. The only thing that Ira could think of to say was, "Can I get you a drink Kaffie?" Kaffie thought quickly. 'I don't want to be left here with giggly girl,' she thought, and said, "Oh yes, thank you Mr Ratzik, but shall I come with you, to see what drinks they have?"
To Ira she smelt positively delicious as she walked close to him toward the Bar, and he had difficulty thinking clearly. Perhaps Kaffie sensed it, because she saved the embarrassment of Ira stumbling over his words trying to order the drinks, by confidently ordering a mineral water for herself and a Goldstar lager for Ira. Kaffie led Ira out onto the balcony where she toasted him, and looked into his eyes saying, "Mr Ira Ratzik you are the most beautiful man I have met," and standing on tiptoes leant forward and kissed him full on the mouth. Ira couldn't believe what he had heard and was now feeling. 'Why would this beautiful creature think anything of me?' as her lips pressed into his open mouth. Kaffie, lost in a warm haze, felt someone behind her, turning, she saw giggly girl approaching them saying angrily,
"Ira Ratzik, you brought me to this party, and you will take me home—now!" Ira disengaged himself from Kaffie and said quietly to her in a decidedly shaky voice,
"Kaffie, I think I should do the right thing and take her home, but please meet me at the University Refectory Café tomorrow at 10:00AM."
"You are a true Gentleman Mr Ira Ratzik, and yes, I will meet you tomorrow at 10:00AM."
Kaffie felt fantastic. She wasn't quite sure what happened, but she didn't care. Mr Ira Ratzik had had a profound effect on her; an effect that she enjoyed immensely, and for the first time in her life realised that she might be experiencing something more than infatuation.
Ira couldn't stop thinking about that kiss. He was afraid that come the morning, Kaffie would wake up and think, 'What have I done?' and decide to not meet him at the Refectory. He went to bed playing over and over the smell of Kaffie and her soft lips. He didn't sleep at all well.
At 09:30AM Ira was waiting anxiously at the Refectory Coffee Shop, trying to appear nonchalant, but failing miserably. 'I know that I'm early, but I want to watch her walk in. However, if she doesn't come, I can walk out as if I only came for a coffee on my own.' While he was waiting, his plan fell apart. As his so-called friends walked by, they immediately formed the view that he was waiting for a girl, and offered speculative comments to that effect.
But Kaffie arrived just before 10:00AM much to Ira's relief, and to the astonishment of his friends. There was no doubt that Kaffie was a beautiful woman. Her long, black hair was swept up in a ponytail, and her bright primrose dress swirled around her bare but tanned long legs. Kaffie walked up to him and kissed him on his cheek. Ira put both his hands on her shoulders; pulled her toward him and kissed her cheek saying, "Kaffie you look absolutely beautiful this morning. I am so glad that you came." His throat was almost closed with the emotion of seeing her that his words came out as a sort of squeak. Kaffie felt much the same. She had thought that she may have been mistaken last night, but upon seeing Ira, she felt the same emotion flooding through her. "I'm glad that I did Ira. I really wanted to see you again," Kaffie said breathlessly. They just stood there holding each other's hands in absolute silence. The spell was broken by Ira's friends making loud remarks at what they were seeing and again speculating as to what was going to happen. Ira said, "It was a mistake coming here Kaffie. Let's go to the park." Kaffie can't remember what the day was like; she felt so alive it could have been snowing, and she wouldn't have noticed. Ira asked her to sit beneath the large oak tree, now afraid to trust himself to do anything, but once again, Kaffie pulled him to her and rolled to the ground.
Tuesday, 8TH June 1971—11:45AM
Kafira was brought back to reality by Ira who gathered her in his arms and kissed her deeply; she kissed him back with equal passion. She felt secure and loved, and the world was before her. Her dream was taking shape, and she knew what she wanted to do. She also knew that with Ira beside her, she would succeed.
As they all left to go to the graduation party, Kaffie reflected on how she had reached this point in her life. For as long as she could remember, Kafira had been fascinated by bacteria and the various viruses. She knew from her mother that Gastroenterology was actually about 'bugs'. She also knew that Virology was still a vast field of science and that significant study had to be undertaken to understand all of the diseases that affect the human body. Kafira desperately wanted to study viruses and the virus-like agents; particularly the ways they infected cells, together with the diseases they caused. She wanted to be a part of not only understanding these things, but wanted to contribute to the science. She had a tangible dream, and she meant to realise it.
Despite their fierce determination to excel at their chosen subjects, their love for each other had evolved into an exhilarating and burning need. Ira was six feet tall with jet black hair and sleepy eyes that Kafira loved. She knew that he loved her dearly; he was like a large cuddly bear, and he cared for her. He made Kafira feel as if she was a princess, and he treated her accordingly. Kaffie wanted him terribly, but resolutely put up with the ache she felt inside every time she was with him. That is not to say that their lovemaking was in any way inhibited; quite the opposite. Kafira gave herself to Ira with wildly trembling abandonment, and she felt so free and loved that it overwhelmed her at times. Ira was an extraordinarily tender, caring, and considerate lover; he obviously joined with her in bringing her to a shuddering climax. Her only fear was the possibility of becoming pregnant. This was a constant concern for them both, and a great deal of planning went into making sure that she was safe.
Kafira and Ira made a solemn declaration to each other that they would wait until they had completed their study before settling down. Ira was impatient to marry, but Kafira wisely thought that they should fulfil their first goal without too many distractions. Of course, both the Families were delighted with this matching, and were none too subtle in suggesting that they marry. Her brothers were remorseless in their goading and sly remarks, but she knew that they said these things in fun.
Thus, graduating from the Ben Gurion University with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science, Kafira felt she was ready to realise her dream of becoming an expert in Viruses.
There was, however, the small matter of compulsory service in the Israeli Defence Force that was in the way. For Ira, it meant two years of service, and for Kaffie, eighteen months. Although both had been able to defer the compulsory induction until they had completed their studies, the fact was that they now had to offer themselves to the Army for the prescribed time. Ira was particularly keen to join, as he felt it was his duty. Kafira thought that after her basic training, she should be able to be posted to a medical corps and continue her studies.
And so it was. They both went to Tel HaShomer, the Israeli Defence Force Base to commence their induction training.
The first day Kaffie arrived at the Basic Training Camp was extremely orderly. But Kaffie was disoriented and felt lost as she was ordered to do this and then that, until at the end of the day she lay on her quite uncomfortable bunk bed—exhausted. The following weeks were equally exhausting, but Kaffie was becoming exceedingly fit. Kaffie learnt how to handle the Israeli Uzi Machine gun quite effectively, as well as being highly proficient with the Walther PPK sidearm. Her unarmed combat skills were such that she could floor Ira as he lunged at her, but then he ended up rolling on top of her and kissing her passionately. She lost what excess weight she may have been carrying, and her muscles were superbly toned at the end of the first month. Ira was doing the same course, but under his chosen Corps programme, they had little time together. At the end of their Basic Course, Ira and Kaffie went on leave to Haifa and spent two glorious days together.
Ira had joined the Infantry and Parachute Corps of the Israeli Army, and Kafira was posted to the Israeli Army Medical Corps. Because Kaffie was a Biologist, and having studied viruses, she was sent to Sheba Medical Centre as part of the Army's Terrorist Defence Team to study infectious diseases. Kaffie was delighted, because it meant she could pursue her study of Viral Diseases, as well as serve Israel. Tel HaShomer is an exceptionally large Base and Ira wasn't far away, so they were able to meet both in the course of duty and socially.
The Infectious Diseases Unit at the Sheba Medical Centre had been working on an effective defence against Anthrax. Anthrax is a bacterium that if inhaled, leads to destruction of the lining of the lungs that eventually bleed out, and the patient dies. Kaffie was aware that there were different treatments for Anthrax, but Kaffie's team was concentrating on being able to detect the presence of the Anthrax spores in the air before contamination, and the subsequent treatment that was required. Kaffie found that heat did kill the bacteria, but it was at such a high temperature so as to be impossible to implement. While it was a frustrating experience, Kaffie learnt a great deal about bacteria and in her spare time, about viruses. Particularly when working with Professor Shazom, whose work Kaffie came to recognise was probably the most respected in Israel!
When Ira and Kaffie managed to have their weekend leave, they spent their precious hours loving each other to exhaustion. Inevitably, their passion for each other made leaving painful, and it became worse each time. Kaffie could imagine what the future held for them both and longed for the time that the mandatory service would end.
Excerpted from Kafira by John G O'Neill Copyright © 2013 by John G O'Neill. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted March 1, 2013
What a wonderful story. O'Neill has written an enthralling novel about human relationships that provoke emotion. It is obvious that O'Neill has made sure of his facts and woven the reality of the times. The ending is a surprise, but I look forward to a sequel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.