Eliyahu's Secret - Jameel
This post concludes Round 1 of Storytellers. We will be starting Round 2 in a week or so. Of course, I have only 2 volunteers so far (and, shock of shocks, one of them is Scraps) because everything here has been just pulling teeth from you (lazy) people. Please, anyone interested in submitting a work of fiction - JUST DO IT. Don't be shy. Seriously. Just write it. It's even *gasp* fun.
Ok, enough ranting. Enjoy the show:
There wasn't a single kid in Jerusaelm's Mea-Shearim neighborhood who didn't know the legend.
It was a rite of passage.
At the age of 9 or 10, you found out. Late at night, in the darkness of your room, your older brother or sister used their most adult, most serious-sounding voice possible, to pass on the story of the underground secret…that lay deep beneath the Jerusalem shtetl of Mea Shearim.
Mea-Shearim's location wasn't a coincidence -- the students of the Vilna Gaon who founded the neighborhood in 1897 understood the significance of where they were building. They too knew the story which reverberated throughout the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. Even though the legend was almost common knowledge among the tightly-knit Jewish community -- it was kept to themselves and they never discussed with outsiders. Even the old-time Christians and Arabs living in the old city, who thought they knew what their Jewish neighbors discussed deep in the dark of night...had no clue.
It was a baking hot, Jerusalem summer afternoon, and Eliyahu wiped the sweat off his forehead as he walked to the local makolet to buy groceries for his family. With 13 brothers and sisters, it seemed that someone was always paying a visit to the small family-run grocery to buy the household basics; bread, flour, eggs, sugar, oil, diapers, and Materna infant formula. More often than not, Eliyahu was the one chosen for the job. Still, it was better than taking out the garbage, cleaning up the house…or changing diapers…and walking to the makolet was always a better option than household chores in his cramped apartment.
Yet even in the summertime's sharav; the late afternoon's hot sun rays bouncing off the yellowed limestone walls of Mea Shearim did little to curb Eliyahu's enthusiasm and jittery excitement in his walk. He was almost skipping…for late last night, his older brother had told him…the legend.
Could it really be true, he wondered. Could such a fantastic story of historic proportions really exist underneath the cobblestones and shtetl of his neighborhood? He shook his head as if to clear his mind; it couldn't possibly be real. It must be "just a story"…for if it were really true, the implications were staggering.
As he entered the local grocery, Zundel the eldertly makolet owner greeted Eliyahu with his customary, "Shulem Aliechem" -- and right away noticed the gleam in his young friend's eyes.
"Ah…was someone up late last night, perhaps reviewing his summertime studies?", Zundel playfully asked.
Quickly trying to put on a solemn face, Eliyahu carefully replied, "No, everything's fine…I didn't go to bed that late at all…" But before he could control himself, he blurted out what was preoccupying him, "Zundel, the legend can't possibly be real…of what's underneath Mea Shearim…can it, can it?"
As Eliyahu continued with a string of questions, they faded away from Zundel's ears, as he was transported back in time, back through the decades to when he had first heard the story. He was only a youngster of 8 when the legend was told to him…on the 3rd night of sukkot in 1953. He would never forget the date…how could he? He was so enthralled by the legend that he too, needed to find out more. He wondered if every youngster in Mea Shearim harbored the same feelings when they found out… "They must" he decided…you couldn't hear the story and remain apathetic. The mystery…the very possibility of the legend as a reality, ignited the imagination of his soul…
"Zundel, Zundel, do you hear ANYHING I'm saying to you?" Eliyahu's words brought Zundel out of his daydream.
"Eliyahu, my young friend", Zundel replied, "Not only am I convinced the story is true, but I have a feeling that very soon, maybe even in the coming weeks, events will be put into place that will show the world that the legend is true."
If hearing the story last night thrilled Eliyahu; Zundel's dramatic pronouncement positively gave him goosebumps!
Knowing that his mother was waiting for him, Eliyahu gathered up the groceries as Zundel wrote down the amount of the purchases on the family's index card. In this makolet, no one paid cash for groceries on the spot; everything was on credit, and Zundel would get paid at the end of the month or the following one.
Quickly walking past the posters plastered on the walls of his neighborhood, Eliyahu ignored the pashkevilim and their messages of gloom and doom for those who relied on certain rabbis and not the pashkevil-approved ones. He even ignored Elka, the fair-haired girl who was walking on the other side of the street. While relationships of any sort between boys and girls was unthinkable in his neighborhood, he had run into Elka a few times lately when dropping off envelopes from his father to Elka's father. Their fathers both raised money for the same yeshiva…and he and Elka had shyly exchanged a few words over the summer. Had they lived in a different neighborhood in Jerusalem, their friendship may have bloomed, but not now, not here, and definitely not today. Eliyahu had much more important things on his mind.
Pretending to be overly helpful, so as not to get scolded for being late, Eliyahu quickly and quietly unpacked the groceries, and then went off to his bedroom room to ponder his next steps. Though everyone he knew believed the legend in their heart of hearts, no one actually knew where the entrance was; almost every kid in Mea Shearim had tried to find the secret entrance at some point in time over the past hundred years…so why should he be any different? Yet even with his doubts, something stirred inside him that gave him hope that he would be the one to prove the legend…
The evening sun majestically cast its final rays on the walls of the old city. A refreshing breeze from the east, from the mountains of Jordan started to cool the city. Lying on the top bunk bed in his room, Eliyahu drifted off to sleep as his thoughts of exciting secrets beneath his home merged with dreams of the approaching Jewish redemption. Would he hear the majestic shofar blasts that heralded the coming of the Mashiach?
Not the shofar sounds of wailing and sadness which bring one's heart to return to G-d during Rosh HaShana…this shofar sound would be completely different. The baritone, deep and powerful shofar calls would resonate around the globe, announcing to the world that the Jewish world would finally have a leader…to unify them, leading them in defending themselves from their many enemies, and to answer crucial questions that fracture and radicalize the Jewish world today.
It was already dark out, when the noise came.
Author's note: Unsure which story line to continue with, I decided to tentatively end the story here… I could just make this the end of part one if there's enough interest, and continue again in a future installment. The choice is yours!