The kite arrived on Shabbat: the Israeli hosts forgave the Americans this indiscretion and put the kite high on a shelf, out of their excited children’s reach. Wistfully the children tore their gaze away and followed the adults through the tiny apartment to a long table adorned with coffee and cake. A piano stood nearby, but today it would remain unplayed.
The adults settled themselves into chairs for a long afternoon of reacquaintance, but the children stayed on their feet and darted in and out of the dining room, stopping only for a bite of cake and a quick ear to the conversation. “The kite,” Mother said, “has made them impatient.” She smiled and offered her husband another piece of cake.
Normally the children observed the Sabbath quietly reading, perhaps in their room by themselves. But stopping the world today was beyond their ease and all afternoon they thought of nothing but the kite its shiny yellow body and bright red tail. The colors swirled in their heads and they could taste the sensation of flying.
The five adults drank coffee and talked of the Torah. Father expansive, gesticulating, laughing: his eyes shone as he related his pilgrimage to a country far from his birth. The Americans were fascinated, yet somehow uncomfortable. They sat questioning quietly, politely, straining to ignore the gnawing desire to feel smoke in their lungs. And Mother, proud and serene, pouring the coffee while quieting her children who still dreamed of shiny yellow body and bright red tail.
Finally, as it has happened for centuries, the hot summer sun made way for the crisp mountain air. And dusk slowly descended. Father excused himself and went to the synagogue to pray. Mother excused herself and went to the kitchen to prepare the light milk dinner. The American guests stretched, secretly fingered their cigarettes and sighed deeply. It was hard to refrain but the end was in sight.
During the stillness of dusk the four children grouped themselves in the cluttered hallway. Shiny yellow body-bright red tail high above their heads on the shelf. Mother quickly walking through their space, bringing plates of food to the table, bringing back empty cake plates, smiling as she whispers “patience” to them.
The Americans left by the table forgot their habit for a moment and fell hushed in the dusk. Jerusalem, city of stone, lay before them and dreams of a time immemorial came alive. Thoughts of Father somewhere praying, Mother laying the table with food reactivated their emotional clock. Conflict (time or timeless?) nudged through their souls and they tried to articulate to Mother, but lacking the language their tongues grew as still as the stones of the city.
And then Father was back, seated at the table, calling for his brood to come break bread. Salting and passing the crusts to his family and friends, he harmonized into the ritual and dinner began to a flurry of cheese and fruit and yogurt and questions and the story of Rebecca, and all the time the children looked to the heavens and dreamed of the kite.
Prayers sung, candles lighted, wine poured and passed around as the feet of the children tapped expectantly, and the hands of the Americans tapped nervously and the Father sang joyfully and reigned over chaos with a peace supreme. So clear, so directed, so full of love was Father that all the voices joined in and in that moment of beauty appeared the first star.
“The kite, the kite,” the children whispered, but Mother hushed them and rejoined her husband in holy song. “The kite,” the children repeated as the candle extinguished and the scent of clove passed from hand to hand. “THE KITE,” they yelped into the crisp summer night, and the third star appeared.
Father nodded “yes, yes” and smiled, sad that Shabbat had ended but pleased to see the life abound in his seed.
The Americans followed the children to the shelf in the hallway and brought out the kite. Shiny yellow with bright red tail, bought as an afterthought between toothpaste and freeze dried coffee, the language barrier was broken and the two worlds embraced.
“To the roof!” Father summoned and took a flashlite from the kitchen drawer. “To the roof,” the children echoed, and squeals of delight tripped in the dark upwards to the sky.
But the kite would not fly. There was no moon that night and the breeze was subdued. The youngest American took the kite and held it over the edge of the roof. “Fly,” she whispered, but the kite dangled and fell heavy against the Jerusalem stone.
Father put his arms around his ebullient brood. “Hush,” he soothed. “There is no wind and it is too dark to see. The kite will fly when it is ready. We shall go to bed and wait until it is right with the world.”
The procession walked slowly down from the roof and the Americans said goodnight at the door. “Shabbat Shalom,” the halls echoed, and the Americans walked into Motze Shabbat with a cigarette in each of their hands.
The children went to school early the next morning and Father went back to composing in the den. Lost in concerto, he didn’t notice the wind rising until it tickled his navel. “The kite,” he whispered, and retrieved shiny yellow with bright red tail. “The kite.”
All afternoon Father flew the kite and as it sometimes can happen, the kite flew Father. The bright red tail flickered in the wind and the shiny yellow body danced to its limits. Music came to Father. Each sweep, each dive were notes in the Eastern scale and the straining at limits became a western leitmotif. The clouds joined in, the music became the rhythm section and the noise of the city became the orchestral hall. All afternoon Father composed and danced. All afternoon the kite soared and laughed. Across a field the duo sailed, across a street to the honking of horns. They knew they were meant for each other and Father stopped a beat and thanked the Americans for bringing him the kite “My kite,” he chortled and felt good.
The children never flew that kite themselves. Father explained seriously that flying took supreme control, strong bodies and great maturity. The children nodded and looked solemn and Father went on.
“I shall fly that kite for you,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “And through the kite’s dance and my guidance and will, perhaps you too can hear the music that comes when all things are right.” Father gave a hug to all of his children and tossed the kite to the elements. Bright red tail and shiny yellow body danced and laughed and the children saw.