The Black Sheep – Chapter 2

October 26, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 2 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Osher’s disappeared?”

Ariella gripped the note that she’d pulled off the magnet board. Osher’s handwriting danced in front of her eyes.

“This time, he didn’t really disappear,” her mother said heavily. Her voice sounded weary.

“But…?”

“He left us a message.”

Me, too, Ariella wanted to say.

“The mashgiach called to say that Osher came to tell him thank you and good bye, and that he was transferring to a different yeshivah. Then we saw the note. He wrote that he…” She fell silent for a moment. “That he loves us, and that we shouldn’t worry about him, because he’s going to a better place.”

“Last time, two summers ago, he didn’t leave a note, right?”

“That’s right.”

“At least he learned something since then.” Ariella’s lips curled into a ghost of a smile. “Let’s hope it’s a good sign.” She was quiet for a moment. “He told the mashgiach he was switching yeshivos?”

“Yes.”

“And he didn’t write anything to you about the new yeshivah?”

“No. Just that it’s ‘a better place.’”

“What kind of paper did he write the note on?” Ariella whispered.

“What?”

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The Black Sheep – Chapter 1

October 19, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 1 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Nestled among Arab houses, both new and old, on the corner of the alley near the sea, was a house surrounded by an opaque fence. The gate was open, and a two-story structure with winding stone stairs around the side came into view.

The visitor, Gad Shimoni, crossed the neglected yard to the metal door on the ground floor. He set his black case down on the ground and knocked lightly. Aside for the echo of his knocks, there wasn’t a sound to be heard. He turned right toward the stairs, beneath which rested a pile of broken boards, bent out of shape due to the rains and humid, salty sea air. The smell of the sea blended with the faint smell of sawdust.

Shimoni climbed the stairs. The higher he went, the more he could see parts of the boardwalk across from him. The tiny area that separated the top step from the door of the apartment was covered in some type of cheap, synthetic grass, and the heavy door bore a modern-looking nameplate that said “Reiness.” Here, too, his knocks did not draw a live soul to the door.

He retraced his steps and had reached the bottom when he heard the gate open. He put on his most official and professional smile. Were the man and his boys coming back?

They met at the bottom of the stairs, but this was certainly not Elazar Reiness. “Oh, good evening!” the new arrival exclaimed when he noticed Shimoni. He stuck his hand out in a friendly gesture. “Did you also come to meet Reiness?”

Mr. Shimoni politely shook the man’s hand. He was clearly Arabic, and his face was familiar. “Yes, I did come for Rabbi Reiness,” Shimoni replied. “Do you know him?”

“A bit. Not much,” the Arab replied. “But I know you, Mr. Shimoni. Truant officer, aren’t you?”

“Yes, indeed, and you?”

“I’m Hussein Abu Abed Al-Alami, the principal of Abu Usmia. You’ve visited us in regard to a number of our students…”

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The Black Sheep – Teaser

October 12, 2020

A dejected, misunderstood teenager whose diagnosis of ADHD follows him wherever he goes, like a depressing black cloud…

His older, widowed sister who feels she can’t get her act together enough to give her future another shot…

What happens when these two siblings find themselves in the remote port city of Akko, away from the rest of their family but still apart from each other?

And what is the mystery surrounding the yeshivah building in Akko, which is suddenly so high in demand by some local Arabs?

Read all about it in The Black Sheep, a new exciting serial by bestselling novelist Esther Rappaport!


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 73

October 5, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 73 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

A new door appeared just a bit further down the hall from the Potolskys’ front door. Elisheva had deliberated what to write on the nameplate, and finally, her excitement over the name “Ludmir” tipped the scale.

The carved wooden nameplate that she had ordered was a nice accent. The children loved dropping in to their grandfather “for just a few minutes.” They enjoyed walking out the front door and going down the hall to knock at his door officially, even though they could have easily crossed the hall inside the house and knocked at the inner door that connected them to Saba’s new apartment unit. He had bid farewell to the senior citizens’ home and had moved in with his family permanently.

Yisrael returned from Minchah together with his grandson Meir, and found his daughter standing at the door, scraping at the remnants of the glue from the nameplate. “Is everything alright?” he asked.

She turned. “Everything is fine, baruch Hashem. Just…”

“Are you expecting guests?” He looked at her, and when she blushed, he smiled and opened the door. Meir walked inside with him, and helped his grandfather hang his jacket on the hook. Elisheva turned around and walked back into her own home.

A few minutes later, she appeared in the room again, through the other door. “I brought you a cup of tea and your pill that you take before eating.”

“Tell me, Elisheva. Is Gustav coming to Israel?” he asked directly.

She blushed again. “Yes. You know me well, Abba.”

“When?”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 72

September 29, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 72 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

It was when she saw the paper trembling in her father’s hand that Elisheva could no longer contain herself. She suddenly burst into a torrent of tears, but could not find a tissue. Eliyahu stood there, steady and calm, and handed his father-in-law a small pill. “Take this, Abba, please,” he said. “You shouldn’t read this fax when you’re in such an excitable state.”

“Yes, you are right,” his father-in-law said, and raised his eyes. “But maybe give Elisheva one as well,” he added, with a ghost of a smile, as he nodded his chin toward his daughter. “She’s taking this harder than I am.”

“But Abba,” she said, tears still wet on her cheeks. “How can I take it differently? To think that you have family here, perhaps brothers, cousins, their grandchildren…it’s such an amazing story that I still cannot process it! Even simple, regular things change now! Like, how will you now be called up to the Torah?”

“I don’t think that anyone will change the name Yisrael after it has been used for seventy years,” Eliyahu remarked. “At most, you add the name Yosef.”

“One of the counselors on the ship sailing to Eretz Yisrael suggested that my father choose a name from a whole selection that he gave him,” Elisheva said to her husband. “He chose,” she glanced at her father, “a first name, and a family name: Yisrael Bentzion. Everything. He thought he had no one, and that he had to start from scratch anyway…”

Her father took a cup of water, made a brachah, and sipped silently. No one dared to break the stillness.

“Ulush wrote to me about Gustav,” he said, setting the cup on the coffee table. “And that his name is actually Yosef Ludmir.” He took a deep breath. His right leg, which had never gotten back to itself completely after the stroke, began to tremble slightly. “I thought he would invite me to come to him, but he didn’t. We didn’t meet in Israel even once.”

“Now you know why,” Elisheva said, her voice gradually sounding more stable. “It’s actually a way of judging him favorably now.”

“But he once sent me a big gift.”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 71

September 21, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 71 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Light burned his eyes. He coughed and turned over, and then, drawing on his strong self-discipline, stretched his arms and sat up. It was morning already. Actually, it was almost lunchtime. The sun was strong and too blinding. When had he fallen asleep? And why on the armchair and not in his bed?

Then he remembered: They knew everything.

Against, the pulse in his wrists began to throb rapidly, but not as much as the first time. At least a day and a half had passed since he’d gotten Mrs. Hartstein’s message. It was probably more like two days, based on the location of the sun right now.

He’d come home. He hadn’t eaten or slept, and certainly hadn’t spoken to a soul, or gotten back to anyone else on his list. He’d just paced from room to room, not finding a place to put himself down without feeling like he was choking. This wall belonged to Edo, and so did this couch, and this refrigerator, and the table… And everyone knew. Daniel and his father, and the rest of the extended Ludmir family, had probably heard about it already, and if they hadn’t, they would hear very soon…

He’d continued pacing restlessly, ignoring his age. Every so often, he’d slumped into a chair, drained, and then a short time later, he’d leaped out. He could not sit still. Only after the evening passed, and then the night, and a big chunk of the next morning and then the next afternoon, when he felt near collapse, had he called his doctor on his private line.

“This is…it doesn’t matter who, I don’t know anyway, and you can identify my number even without a name. I received some very harsh news.” He steadied his voice. “I haven’t slept for about twenty-four hours, and I hardly sat down at all during that time. Except for water, I haven’t eaten or drank a thing, and I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. What do you suggest I do now?”

“Wait a minute, this is Joe Ludmir, right?” the doctor asked, insisting on identifying him.

“If you want, for you, yes. And I remember my ID number by heart. At least that is mine.”

“How’s your pulse?”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 70

September 14, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 70 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Are you with us, Mr. Ludmir?” The young rabbi of the Bnei Tzion community felt very sympathetic toward the elderly yet energetic man.

“Yes, yes, absolutely,” Ludmir said, with a broad smile that was meant to cover up the fact that it was not absolutely at all. On his way here, he had passed by Alex’s house—or rather, the house that had been Alex’s. He’d stopped the car at the side of the road. Yesterday, the buyers had closed on the house and had gotten the key.

He raised his eyes to the five-story structure, the building in which he had spent so much time in recent years, since Martha had passed away. He opened the car window and gazed at the house thoughtfully. In parting.

You were everything to me, Alex had told him in the good days, the times when they could still speak normally and imagine that everything was still fine. When they could hope that those murky, foggy hours that separated them would not come again. You were for me a father and mother, brothers and sisters, a wife and children. Everything.

Alex was also the only survivor in his family, but he had always known where he had come from. World War Two broke out when he had been in his late teens, and ended when he was over twenty. It left him totally alone in the world. He had never married or had a family, and in the community here, everyone was his relative. Since Joe had become partners with him more than thirty years ago, the two were more like brothers.

You’re even closer to him than to Elisha, your cousin! Martha would marvel about the close ties between the two. But the reason for that was clear: Elisha wasn’t present. Seventeen years after they had established the shoe factory together, Elisha had sold his share to Joe and returned to Israel. Only his son, Daniel, had stayed behind in Perth. “Our only relative on the continent,” Martha would point out, because all her brothers and sisters and their families lived in America.

Joe would not bother to correct her.

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 69

September 7, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 69 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Maybe he’d gotten mixed up, her father had said.
That sentence echoed in Elisheva’s mind the whole following day, both at work in the morning, and during the busy afternoon with the children at home. Even later in the day, when Miri popped in with baby Shmully, and when Tzippy also turned up without calling in advance. Throughout it all, as the large dining room filled with cheerful shouts and cries, just like the dining room in the old house, Elisheva remained thoughtful. She made a large vegetable salad, fried omelets, put up a pot of soup for lunch the next day, and packed containers of food for her married daughters. And she kept asking herself: what would be if Ludmir had made a mistake?

The only Ludmir she’d ever heard of was that friend of her father’s. And if indeed, he was the millionaire who seemed to be behind all these strange events over the past ten months, then it was very likely that there was a mistake here. What did he and Abba have with each other these days? What was this sudden spirit of philanthropy toward her family that had taken hold of Ludmir?

And based on what Emmanuel had blurted yesterday to Eliyahu, it was not just a spurt of generosity; Ludmir considered this an old debt. That just made the whole thing even stranger.

“Ima?” Tzippy finally asked before she left. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes, baruch Hashem,” she said, putting a facsimile of her regular smile on her face. “And how about with you? What’s with that substituting job at the cheder office?”

“Oh, like I told you before, I’m going there this week also. My friend Avigail is moving to her apartment in Modiin Illit, so I’m taking over the subbing job she started. Didn’t you hear me telling you about it before, Ima?”

“Oh. Maybe I was in the kitchen just then,” Elisheva said quickly, widening her grin. But when put-on smiles are stretched, they don’t really grow; they just become more transparent and fake.

So Tzippy had been telling her about her subbing job. Oh. She hadn’t heard.

What would be if they would have to give everything back?

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 68

August 31, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 68 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Is this the Potolsky residence? Is one of your parents at home? Okay, so please leave a message that Meir Rosenblit, the lawyer from Ramat Gan, called. Tell them that I found out some information on the subject… Yes, they know what I’m talking about, of course. So please tell them that after making some inquiries, I understand that Korman in Australia had a business partner who worked very closely with him on all his decisions. So they should try to speak to him, and perhaps he can shed some light on this whole matter. His name is…”

***

Dear Mrs. Hartstein,

As per your request, I continued making inquiries at the offices of the Jewish organization, U’shemartem, in the United States. I learned that the apartment that was raffled off is actually located in Jerusalem, and a family named Kushner, from Philadelphia, was the winner. From a perusal of the correspondence of the organization, I understand that the Kushner family agreed to keep the win a secret, because someone contacted the organization with the unusual request that they announce that the Potolsky family of Bnei Brak had won (without a raffle) a different apartment. This person’s name did not appear anywhere, and it was likely erased as part of his contract with the organization. In addition, there was no mention of the size of the donation that he gave the organization in exchange for their agreement to this. But from the information I have amassed, I learned that he is Australian, and he lives in Sydney. Based on the investigations I have done, allow me to venture that he is the former partner of Mr. Alexander Korman, whose name is…

***

“You, again?!” Emmanuel literally shouted. “Leave me alone, Potolsky! Just leave me already! Stop chasing me all day and all night. What do you want from me? I didn’t do anything bad to you!”

Chalilah,” Eliyahu said. He’d incidentally emerged at that moment from the elevator on the second floor of the senior citizens’ home. “We never said such a thing. And honestly, I didn’t plan to meet you here, Emmanuel, so you can’t say I’m chasing you, and certainly not all day and all night. We met totally by chance.”

“Chance, chance, chance,” the man sneered scornfully. Excited yipping from the bag that he held accompanied his words – but provided a rather discordant note. “So what are you doing here, huh?”

“I came with my father-in-law,” Eliyahu said, pointing with his chin to the room. “He spent the day with us, and now he’s coming back here.”

“Oh, you came with him? So where is he now?”

“He’s in his room already, with my wife. I was delayed downstairs, leaving a message at the receptionist for your in-house doctor.”

“So he was in your penthouse today, or what? Ingrates.”

Chalilah,” Eliyahu said. “We don’t mean to make light of what you did for us, Emmanuel. Because of those tickets you sold to my father-in-law, we won an apartment.”

“Yes,” Emmanuel said, slowly releasing his breath. “So you remember that.”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 67

August 24, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 67 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Magdiel, Israel 1949

Gustav gaped in fascination at the large bundle that the woman was holding. “Please,” she choked out. “They told me that here, at Lucius Jan’s orphanage, you will agree to take him. There’s payment here for you… He’s already two and a half, sir, and his name is Yosef Ludmir.” She gazed one last time at the bundle. Gustav rose up on his tiptoes, but he couldn’t see anything. “Ludmir.”

Theodore locked the gate and took the little boy, wrapped up in the blankets. Gustav lingered at the gate, and the woman remained standing on the other side. “You are a Jew,” she whispered to him. “And you promised to help watch him. You promised.” She fumbled in her coat and took out a piece of paper. “Give this to him, to my Yosef, after the war ends. His details are written here, along with the address of his uncles in Eretz Yisrael, in Magdiel. He should go to them.”

She waved the piece of paper in front of his eyes until it blocked Gustav’s entire field of vision, including Yosef’s mother. But he knew she was there. He heard her screaming: “Why didn’t you give it to him? Why didn’t you tell him?”

“I wanted to tell him!” Gustav cried, tossing in his bed in Magdiel. “But I couldn’t find him. And then…then…”

“Why didn’t you tell him?! Why did you go in his place?!”

The wind suddenly swirled around him, carrying the voice far away, and Gustav continued twisting and turning in his bed.

“Yosef?” The hand that suddenly rested on his forehead halted his tortured movements. The light that hung from the ceiling sent yellow rays directly into his eyes.

“Enough!” he said, covering his eyes with his hands. “Enough, enough!”

“Yosef.” Gershon hugged him. “Is everything okay?”

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