Only Yesterday

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

CHAPTER FIVE
Before the Painters of Jerusalem

1

Within four or five days Isaac became an affiliate of the painters of Jerusalem. The wages his boss paid him were meager, nevertheless he consented, for others wouldn't agree to give him even that paltry wage. Isaac went to work as a daily laborer, from sunrise to sunset. From Jaffa, Isaac had brought fine colors he had bought from a shopkeeper from Odessa, and the painters of Jerusalem called them the colors of the Viennese, after Isaac, since Isaac is from Galicia and Galicia is located in the states of His Majesty the Kaiser and the capital city of His Majesty the Kaiser is Vienna, the city of Kaiser Franz Joseph, who spread his grace over most of the Ashkenazi residents of the Land of Israel and took them under his wing to defend them against the wrath of the oppressors.

Isaac was affable to his companions and his companions were affable to him, as craftsmen in Jerusalem tend to be affable to everyone. For their spirit is low and their mind is humble, for they are lowly and humble in the eyes of the officers who give them Charity according to the number of souls in their family, and don't add to their allowance any special money that comes from time to time, as they do for the Torah scholars and other privileged people. But Isaac was from Outside the Land and most of the Jerusalemites see everyone from Europe as if the keys of wisdom had been turned over to him and they consult him on all difficult matters. Isaac didn't put on airs with them, but on the contrary, humbled himself and replied, You surely wanted to do thus and so, and what you wanted was right. If they told him, That didn't occur to us, he replied, You clowns, you want to test me. And they are astonished and don't know what to be

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