Today we excerpt from the short story “The Plague” by Nurit Zarchi, translated by Yael Lotan, and found in the anthology Fifty Stories from Israel.
The story is set during the time of the 14th century great plague in Jerusalem, which killed a quarter of the city’s population. In this story, the monks who lived on the mountain, at a distance of an hour and a half outside of the city, would take turns, by drawing lots, to go into the city to help. The monk who was then sent to the city would return at night to sleep in an isolated hut in the monastery garden, so as not to infect his brethren. When he woke in the morning, he would ring a bell so that all would know that he was alive and ready to depart for the city. If the bell failed to ring, the monks would know that they would have to choose a new delegate.
The climax of this story occurs when Aaron, the foundling child, has drawn the lot to go into Jerusalem.
Nurit Zarchi, who often writes for children, set one of the conflicts in this story to be between protecting what you love and allowing your beloved child to risk danger and pain in order to grow.
Previous Episode on Nurit Zarchi:
Nurit Zarchi, “The Plague.” Translated by Yael Lotan. 50 Stories from Israel. Ed. Zisi Stavi. Yedioth Books. 2007.