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THE APPLE ORCHARD
By Steven Irwin Fine
Balboa PressCopyright © 2012 Steven Irwin Fine
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Bus
She entered the bus like a leopard stalking through long grass, beautiful and stealthy with a sinuous grace. Her hair was parted slightly over one side of her eyebrow.
Shimon observed her when she stood in the queue, and she was unaware of his intense scrutiny. Her eyes were a greenish blue, almost iridescent, her eyebrows dark and neatly groomed. Just about an inch from her left eye, he noticed twin beauty spots, one on top of the other. Her figure was slim, and she possessed firm breasts. Something about her, an aura of some sort, alerted Shimon's curiosity. She seemed to melt among the people.
Shimon traveled from the Israeli city of Haifa to Kibbutz GanYam on route number two. He was away from his parents and all his family in South Africa, let loose in a foreign country where he had learned Hebrew intensively on an ulpan, for half a day and then went off to the fields, fish ponds, or factory to work.
It was nearing the end of 1972, and Shimon had arrived that December with a friend named Sarah. With long black hair and brown eyes, she was beautiful. Their relationship was one of a cordial kind—no sex, just great friends.
He made up his mind; he would learn the language, sleep with as many gorgeous girls as possible, join the army, and live for the day. His veins pumped with adventure, and his testosterone levels were higher than Mount Everest.
Reminiscing, his upbringing had been a difficult one. His parents loved him but struggled to make ends meet.
Arriving in Israel as a new immigrant with a handful of dollars in his pocket, the vibrant cities, good coffee, and spectacular nightlife intoxicated him. It was a land of contrasts.
A couple of weeks later, Sarah's brother, Joe, also arrived at the settlement. He was more or less Shimon's age, and he had also had a rough life. They were both street-smart, but Joe had the temper of a pit bull. Rub him up the wrong way, and a fist collided with your nose. And if this was filmed in slow motion and played back, you would still not see his fist coming because it struck like a flash of lightning. And yes, the thunder followed. Dishing out fists was serious and not tolerated in the land of milk and honey.
Shimon worked in the fields, and Joe worked in the fishponds. The latter was tougher. Besides that, there were girls assisting in the fields. Soon, Shimon met Brenda. She had been working in the plastics factory, a lucrative industry on the settlement. It manufactured plastic parts like pipefittings, poultry drinking systems, and toilet-flushing systems.
She had grown up in Canada. She had short black hair, brown eyes, and subtle but well-sculptured lips with gorgeous dimples. Brenda was intelligent and had a sexy body along with an interesting laugh. It did not take too much time before she ended up in the sack with Shimon.
After about a month, Shimon noticed that a burden was on her mind. During one cold night, they huddled together. "What's on your mind?" he asked her, almost in a whisper.
"I have to share something with you," she responded in a somewhat nervous manner.
"My father used to sleep with me."
Shimon's heart nearly bounced out of his rib cage. He wanted to run; the lurid statement had shocked him.
"It started when I was a teenager. He did it so many times."
Shimon decided that this would be the last time that he would sleep with her. Perhaps it was not her fault, but his mind was strictly made up.
"Did you tell your mother or seek help?" he replied in a nettled manner.
"My mother found out and divorced him."
"Jesus, she should have contacted the police and welfare."
She stared at him, waiting for further comments.
He continued, "I mean he must have been a very sick son of a bitch."
"Yes, he was." She looked at Shimon with a confused gaze, hoping for some sort of reassurance. This was not forthcoming, and so ended their fling.
Shimon realized that the poor girl had been the victim of abuse and that it was not her fault, but he was not prepared to entertain support or get too involved with someone involved in incest.
During the months of 1973, Shimon enjoyed many more beauties, and thankfully, none had been in sick and weird relationships, at least none that he knew of.
The ulpan months were great ones in which young men and women from all over the globe were socializing, working on the kibbutz, learning Hebrew, and touring the Holy Land. What was interesting and comforting was that although there were many Jewish people, there were just as many Christians. Respecting each other's religions, beliefs, and cultures was important to them. And the Israelis encouraged this respect on the ulpan and kibbutz.
After working very hard and enjoying his work, it was soon Shimon's day off, and he decided to visit Haifa. Shimon walked out the entrance of the settlement and marvelled at the banana plantations alongside the road. He duly hitched a ride to the main road and soon boarded a bus to Haifa.
Haifa was about forty-five minutes away; Shimon visited Steimatsky's bookshop, enjoyed a cappuccino, and wandered the city area while he marvelled at the pretty girls, especially the female Israeli soldiers. The coffee and pastry shops, schwarma, and falafel kiosks were extremely magnetic. That day, he eventually decided to lunch.
After a delicious pizza and a bottle of malt beer known as beera schora, which was actually nonalcoholic, it was time to head back to Kibbutz GanYam.
At the bus terminus, he waited for roughly twenty minutes before he boarded the bus, which belonged to the Egged Transport Company. He sat toward the back and alongside a window in order to enjoy the scenery and watch the different people as they got on and off at the stops.
While the bus driver revved the engine, hinting departure, he saw her again, the graceful leopard. She sat two rows in front of Shimon, and he took advantage of the empty row in front of him and moved forward. She was unaware of his presence.
Taking stock of the situation and contemplating his next move, he leaned forward. "Excuse me, my Hebrew is not great, but is this the bus to Tel Aviv?"
At first, she ignored him.
A minute later, she turned to look at Shimon. "Why did you not ask them at information before you got on the bus or check with the driver?"
"I think I just needed some self-assurance," he replied. "I am new in Israel."
"Where are you traveling to exactly?" she asked. Boy, her English was good.
"To Kibbutz GanYam on the Haifa-Tel Aviv line."
"Yes, I know it."
"Where do you stay, may I ask?"
"Oh, I am from a small village," she answered.
"Do you work in Haifa?"
"As a matter of fact, I am studying in Haifa."
"What are you studying?"
"I am doing a part-time course in journalism."
"Do you intend to be a news reporter or something in a similar role?"
"That will depend on what the crystal ball dictates. I am keen to write magazine articles, and then we will see where that takes me."
Then there was silence. His mind raced ahead, and he wondered what she was thinking. He wondered how old she was, and in a way, he was a bit disappointed when she did not encourage further conversation.
Well before his stop, she stood up, smiled briefly at him, and commenced to disembark the bus. No one paid attention, as most of the passengers were sleeping, with the exception of one bald man who looked up briefly above his spectacles and then resumed reading his crinkled newspaper.
He watched her carefully, and she never glanced back.
What was interesting was that on the other side of the road was an Arab village. However, she continued to walk straight. She did not cross the road.
Over the next few days, he thought about her, and even once or twice in class, he mulled over the brief encounter in his mind.
A few weeks later, he visited his good friend Avi on Mount Carmel in Haifa. This was a beautiful upmarket area with attractive apartments, villas, tall trees, and clean streets.
Haifa was the third largest city in Israel and was at least 3,500 years old. Historically, the city had changed hands many times and had been either conquered or acquired by the Persians, Hebrews, Phoenicians, Romans, Hasmoneans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Arabs, Ottomans, British, and Israelis.
Shimon and Avi made their way to the beach, which was nestled on the picturesque Mediterranean coastline. They found soaking up the sun and surf, enjoying an ice cream or two—and the bikinis that lined the beach like sardines—extremely satisfying.
Later in the afternoon, after a refreshing shower and light lunch at his parents' apartment, Shimon bid them farewell. They were very hospitable and kind toward him.
Soon, he made his way to the central bus station and back to the settlement, which was the largest kibbutz in Israel. As he climbed the few steps aboard the coastal bus and walked toward the rear, he saw the woman sitting halfway back and looking out the window. Again, it was the beautiful leopard.
The seat beside her was vacant. Shimon paused for a second, and then he greeted her. "Shalom. Good to see you again."
She smiled back. She knew exactly who he was, and he felt pleased by that.
"May I join you?" he asked.
"What?" She raised her voice because of the din of the bus's engine.
"Can I sit next to you?" His voice was a tad hesitant, and the noise from other buses and announcements over the public intercom irritated Shimon.
"Yes, no problem," she replied, staring at him.
"Thank you. My name is Shimon. What's yours?"
"Leia," she answered. At least she was Israeli, he reassured himself.
"You look sunburnt," she said.
"Yes, I'm tanned from working outdoors, and a short while ago, I was on the beach." He realized she was very observant.
"Shimon, it entered my mind that perhaps you should meet my family."
She really caught him off guard. What a direct approach!
Why meet the family? Crumbs, they didn't even know each other, and they were certainly not dating!
Maybe this was a golden opportunity to get into the sack together.
"S—s—sure," he said. "When?"
"Are you going to Haifa again soon?"
He did not intend to go for at least three weeks, but he said, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I'm going in about two weeks."
"Good. Let's meet then at the Haifa bus station. What day is good for you?"
His lips were dry and his throat drier. "How about Thursday?"
"Thursday it is. We will meet at the bus stop of departure in the queue. I would say just before 3:00 p.m., okay?"
What did he have to lose? The options were limited. He would take that day off and volunteer to work in the dining room or kitchen. Either she would turn up or not, and if she did, then she was genuinely interested in him, which was good. He would be the pleasant ambassador to her parents, and he pictured the bedsprings going boing, boing, boing!
They chatted for the remainder of the journey about her folks and her course, and he responded to her with tales about migrating to Israel and how he enjoyed the country and his work.
When she said good-bye, she seemed to stare at him for a few seconds. She pressed the bell, and soon, the bus stopped. And off she went.
He watched closely as the bus accelerated slowly. She walked straight, but when the bus was in the distance, she crossed the road in the direction of the Arab village.
And she did so before his very own eyes as he gazed out the back window, and he thought to himself, Houston, we have a problem.
Chapter TwoThe Village
Back on the settlement, Shimon decided not to share this incident with anyone as it would be more appropriate to talk to an Israeli, someone who could offer sound advice.
He befriended a resident, a doctor in marine archaeology. Eli Ilder was one of the most renowned marine archaeologists in the world. At the time, he lectured at one of the main universities. Eli's contributions to this subject, particularly in Israel and Italy, had resulted in many international awards. However, there was more to his success. He had once been a member of the Palmach, a strike force of the former Hagana, the Israeli Military organization.
Shimon remembered that Eli had shared with him that as a very young man, he was a Tzofim, a scout member. Eli married his wife, Nina, in 1951, the year that Shimon had been born.
Shimon told him about the sequence of events. Shimon was interested and excited, but above all, he recognized his trepidation in meeting a girl named Leia—a Hebrew name that may come from an Arab village.
They spoke outside Eli's home, away from everyone, just the two of them with Lord, Eli's pet collie sat by his side in the manicured garden. Eli brushed his hair off his forehead and peered at Shimon through his glasses. "Shimon do not overreact, but there could be something here. She may feel for you and genuinely want you to meet her family. On the other hand, she gave you her name, a Hebrew name. This may not be her name, but she could be too embarrassed to give you her real name if that name were Arab."
Eli paused, placed his finger on his lip, and Shimon could see that this mountain of a man was in deep thought.
"What next?" Shimon asked.
"We cannot take a chance. Yet, the Arab villages in the area are peaceful ones, and the relationship that we have with them is a respectful one. Leave it with me. I will give it more thought, but above all, do not tell a soul."
"You have my word." Eli called to the Lord, and he mumbled something under his breath. Then he said, "Come, my faithful dog. It is dinner for both of us."
The following day and far into the evening, Shimon thought about what had transpired to date. He sat outside watching the sun set over the Mediterranean. The flaming ball was orange tinged with pink. Gulls flew across the sinking sun, and a pelican resembled an old gentleman, flapping its wings in a slow but powerful manner.
Shimon felt somewhat snookered. He felt keen to see the woman again. He couldn't even mention her elusive name in his thoughts, afraid that such might have been blasphemy. She was beautiful, but entering an Arab village went against his grain. He was an ardent Zionist and was understandably suspicious.
Shimon continued working in the grapefruit section of the fields, not far from the den of the leopardess. Shimon held the record for the amount of grapefruit picked, which he achieved through the use of a hydraulic, mobile machine.
A few days before "his date," he walked into the communal dining room, and before he had a chance to sit next to his friends, a familiar voice called him from behind.
A man accompanied Eli, a man in his early thirties, and he was tall, muscular, and striking, dressed in casual clothes.
"Shimon, I'd like to introduce you to Yonah Cohen."
"Shalom, pleased to meet you."
Yonah fell quiet and his eyes alert.
Eli led them to a table that was empty, and Shimon sat down facing the calm sea, which was a stone's throw away. The sea provided therapy for Shimon as his tumultuous mind raced. Eli and Yonah sat facing him.
Eli looked at Yonah and then Shimon. "Shimon, tell Yonah in your own words what you shared with me. Tell him how you met, the invite, and the part about her walking straight and then crossing the road toward the Arab village."
Shimon knew that Eli had briefed Yonah, and one did not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that Yonah worked in a security field of some sort.
The meeting was not too lengthy. Shimon was instructed to go ahead with the rendezvous. He was assured that "they" would be watching him all the way and that it was vital he remain as calm and natural as possible. He was also told not to share this information with anybody, and this was a strict instruction.
They ate lunch together, and Yonah asked Shimon some questions about his background in South Africa. Then Eli and Yonah shared some pleasantries about their respective families. Yonah finished eating first, and then he excused himself. He shook hands with Eli and Shimon.
A few minutes later, Eli and Shimon walked to the automatic dishwasher and placed their plates, cutlery, and trays on the conveyor belt. On the way out, Eli placed his hand on Shimon's shoulder and said, "Shimon, Yonah is from the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security. His agents will be on the bus and in the vicinity of the village. You are in good hands, my boy."
"I assume they will not be in uniform and spook her," Shimon commented.
"The Shin Bet is never in uniform."
Two weeks later on Thursday at about 3:00 p.m., the leopardess known as Leia and Shimon met at the central bus station and at the bus stop as arranged.
She looked good, and when Shimon stood closer to her, he found that she smelled fresh, even though it was late in the day. They said little until they sat down together.
On the bus, she fiddled with her sunglasses. She took them off momentarily and then placed them back on her olive-skinned face.
"Were you waiting long for me?" she said as she brushed the hair off her brow with one hand.
"Not really. How were your lectures today?" Shimon asked as he removed the small daypack from his back.
"A bit boring, as our main lecturer was ill and there was a standby replacement."
"How is your family?" he asked.
Excerpted from THE APPLE ORCHARD by Steven Irwin Fine Copyright © 2012 by Steven Irwin Fine. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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