The Cuckoo Clock – Prologue

April 1, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents 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. 

Prologue

 

Bratislava, 5704/1944

 

With a hungry look in his eyes, he looked out to the distance, gripping the wrought iron bars. His cheek already had a reddened imprint of a leaf, left there by the metal carvings, but he didn’t feel anything. His eyes gazed into the night in an effort to see something.

But, like every night, nothing happened.

He shook the gate and wept quietly, tearlessly and soundlessly. The gate responded with thin wails of its own. Perhaps that was why he didn’t hear the footsteps approaching from behind him.

“Gustav, what is going to be with you?”

The child shrugged but didn’t respond.

“Again you’re out here, shaking in your pajamas? Are you waiting for the soldiers to come and kill you, or do you prefer to die from pneumonia?” The man behind him laughed at his usual joke. “Maybe I need to try and leave you outside one night,” he said. “Come.” And he stuck his big hand into the boy’s small hand.

“No!” the boy objected. As usual.

“Don’t tell me no. Come!” Theodore gripped Gustav’s shoulders forcefully, and the boy writhed away, flailing his arms and legs every which way. He closed his eyes, waiting for the blow. But remarkably, it did not come.

Theodore left him alone.

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RECENT RELEASE: Metamorphosis

March 26, 2019

About fifteen years ago, I attended a most unusual wedding. The chassan and kallah were both Lubavitch, as were the kallah’s parents and extended family, but almost all of the chassan’s extended family were Bobover chassidim. I’m not sure exactly which family members had “defected” to the other chassidus and when, but what I do know is that the wedding was a truly joyous and memorable event, with both Lubavitcher and Bobover chassidim dancing merrily together. White socks mingled with black socks, shtreimlach with bent-down hats, and, in the ladies’ section, regular sheitels were interspersed with shpitzlach and covered sheitlach.

And I remember thinking: What gadlus that Klal Yisrael has the capacity to do this! What inner strength these people must have, to look past their family members who turned their back on their chassidus and chose another one instead, and nevertheless join them in dancing together and being mesamei’ach chassan v’kallah!

Metamorphosis, by Dr. Zev Zalenko, reminded me of that wedding.

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Night Flower – Chapter 63

March 11, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 63 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Today we went swimming in camp, and the house is all decorated! Did you see the massive sign hanging on the door outside?” Naomi swung her legs, looking around wide-eyed. “All these good things, happening at the same time! Oh, I can’t wait to have a piece of that cake!”

“You’re so funny,” Dovi said. He waved a rattle in front of Yisrael Meir’s face. “The main thing is not that the house is all decorated, or that so many people brought over fancy cakes. The main thing is that Abba is coming home!”

“You’re funny yourself. He’s not even coming home.” Naomi continued to look hungrily at the cake, adorned with blue and pink flowers, courtesy of Yehudis Pesserman’s baking. “He’s coming on a plane, and he’s going straight to prison, without even coming home. So what’s it worth anyway?”

“Of course it’s worth it; you don’t even understand!” Dovi said scornfully. “Didn’t you hear Ima say that he will be able to come home sometimes for Shabbos? And besides, it doesn’t matter—we’re going to see him today!”

“I think you two should stop arguing like this. And besides,” Chaiky abandoned the refrigerator, where she was trying to organize all the boxes and containers of food so they could fit inside, and lifted her scowling daughter’s chin, “it’s only for three months that he’ll be in prison here. Three months is not a long time.”

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Night Flower – Chapter 62

March 4, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 62 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Chaiky? Anna called me. Noa.” Mira’s voice sounded a bit strange, and Chaiky, who could not see her face through the phone, couldn’t quite place what she was hearing. Was it excitement? A complaint? Sometimes the two of those could sound quite similar.

“She called? What for?”

“To tell me that she’s living in Basel, Switzerland. She found a good job and is renting an apartment. She just wanted me to tell you again that she is very sorry and hopes everything works out.”

“Nice that she hopes that. I also hope the same thing.”

Mira smiled. “I almost said something similar myself, but in the end I just kept quiet. She said that she has neighbors across the hall from her who are frum, and they have told her she’s invited to them for all Shabbos meals. There’s a beautiful kehillah of ba’alei chessed in Basel; I’ve heard about it.”

“Maybe we should warn them,” Chaiky muttered.

“I’m not sure about that,” Mira replied quietly.

“Why? Would you be ready to invite her to be your regular Shabbos guest at this point?”

“Me?” Mira smiled and sighed at the same time. “I’ll have to deal with my past issues with her somehow; we’ll find a way b’ezras Hashem. But Noa sounds very sincere. She told me that she totally cut off ties with her grandfather, and paid a heavy price for it, and that she wants to start a new life now.”

***

They emerged from the assistant principal’s office just as the bell rang. Doors opened, and girls began to stream out. Chaiky glanced at Rachel, wearing a light blue shirt and navy skirt, even though she was not yet officially accepted as a student, and thought about how she looked just like one of the girls.

They made their way to the entrance of the building in silence, clearly aware of the girls observing them with curiosity. Some girls nodded politely at them.

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Night Flower – Chapter 61

February 25, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 61 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

For the fifth time, Pavel passed by the opening between the glass partitions and rubbed his chin. Josef Podernik had been sitting at his desk for more than half an hour already, in the same position. He was providing no entertainment or anything of interest for Pavel.

Josef was indeed sitting, wrapped in his thoughts, and he knew that something here was not right. Every mystery has two ends that eventually tie in to one another, while here, there were two seemingly separate issues. Yesterday once again, the hearing regarding Struk had ended with nothing. The Jew was being presented as having been tricked, while on the other hand, there were remarkable pieces of evidence linking him to the Mafia—pieces of evidence which he did not deny. Rather, he disputed their significance.
The problem was that it was impossible to prove that he wasn’t right, because not one piece of evidence that they had was one hundred percent airtight. It had taken a long time for him to figure out the real objectives of the regular informer, Ilya Antonovich. He was ostensibly a Mafia personality, but being that his brother, a journalist, had been struck down by the Mafia, he sought revenge and had became an informer on them. He’d been summoned to the CKP twice for a conversation; they’d spoken openly, and Podernik had questioned him, promising him maximum immunity. The man refused to testify at the trial, of course, but here, he’d said everything.
Josef suddenly shook himself out of his thoughts and then languidly pulled over the pages on which he’d taken notes during their conversation. Why was all the evidence that Ilya had found against the Mafia relating to the Jew Struk? Was it only because he hated Jews? Why wasn’t he able to do a complete job, once he was doing the job already? And where was the correspondence between Struk and Rosenberg that he had talked about so much? Of course, he had logically explained that this was all very risky business for him, and even what he had extracted had been at great effort. That was all true and clear and understandable.
And yet, why was it that Antonovich had failed to produce the juiciest pieces of evidence that Josef so badly needed?

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Night Flower – Chapter 60

February 18, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 60 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Motza’ei Shabbos was short, as they always are in the summer. And as much as they tried to hurry, Chaiky only arrived in Bnei Brak at 10:30, while Rachel continued on with the two older children to Yokne’am.

Chaiky got out of the taxi that her father had paid for (“It’s out of the question for you to schlep Yisrael Meri on another bus; take a taxi!”), and climbed up the stairs to an old building, holding Yisrael Meir in her arms, and not knowing what to expect.

Racheli, the woman of the house, was a warm, energetic person who ushered her into the living room. Only one light was on, and there were two little girls seated on the couch, one at each side. Adi Milner, Noa’s friend, turned out to be a rather shy, pleasant ba’alas teshuvah. She couldn’t help much by way of information, because she simply had none. “I also hardly know Noa,” she said, a bit anxiously, “but she has a good heart—I know that much.” She handed Chaiky an opaque bag. “These are her things: the notebook, the computer, and the note on which I wrote down the code.” She hesitated for a fraction of a second. “And by the way, if you have any contact with her, tell her that I took it very much to heart that she didn’t call me to reassure me that she was fine. Doesn’t she care about how worried I was?”

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Night Flower – Chapter 59

February 11, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 59 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“I guess I should start at the beginning,” Noa said.

She took a deep breath. “My mother was Jewish. My parents were killed in an accident when I was six months old, and I grew up with my father’s sister and her husband. When they moved to Israel, I came with them. I really believed them when they told me, back when I was in eighth grade, that I was not Jewish, and that’s why I totally cut off ties with your parents. And then eventually I ended up where I ultimately ended up…”

Chaiky frowned into the phone as she waited for Noa to continue her explanation.

“Less than a year ago,” Noa went on, “I got a job working in the computer department at the Culture and Community Foundation. I have a good head—you’ll forgive me for saying so—and over the years my grandfather liked to share with me some details about his business. And because I’m not holding back anything from you now, I’ll tell you that yes, I knew that most of his ‘business’ was not quite legal.”

Chaiky sat down absentmindedly on the chair that she hadn’t even noticed Rachel bringing over, still clutching an onion in one hand. Rachel took the knife away from her without Chaiky realizing, and in its place she placed a plate with a piece of cake, but Chaiky didn’t notice that either.

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