Only Yesterday

By S. Y. Agnon; Barbara Harshav | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
On the Soil of the Land of Israel

1

Isaac stood there on the soil of the Land of Israel he had yearned to see all the days of his life. Beneath his feet are the rocks of the Land of Israel and above his head blazes the sun of the Land of Israel and the houses of Jaffa rise up from the sea like regiments of wind, like clouds of splendor, and the sea recoils and comes back to the city, and does not swallow the city nor does the city drink up the sea. An hour or two ago, Isaac had been on the sea and now he is on dry land. An hour or two ago, he was drinking the air of other lands, and now he is drinking the air of the Land of Israel. No sooner had he collected his thoughts than the porters were standing around him and demanding money from him. He took out his purse and gave them. They demanded more. He gave them. They demanded more. Finally, they wanted baksheesh.

When he got rid of the Arabs, a Jew came and took Isaac's belongings. He led him through markets and passages, alleys and yards. Trees with abundant branches rose up, and strange cattle were chewing their cud. And people wrapped in turbans mock in their own tongues. The sun is blazing above and the sand is burning below. Isaac's flesh is an enveloping flame and his sinews an ardent fire. His throat is hoarse and his tongue is like parched soil, and his lips are dry and his whole body is a jug of sweat. Suddenly a light breeze blew bringing life in its wake. But as suddenly as it came, so it disappeared. And once again he seems to be inside a case of fire and a pool of boiling water. He looked in front of him and was stunned. His escort had brought him to a yard and taken him into a dark house full of sacks and bundles and belongings and packages

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