All across the northern hemisphere would be the same bitter winter. The cold that killed them in Germany would kill us everywhere. But winter was months away and I was on deck in balmy spring weather, holding the green-painted rail of the ship, watching the coast of Palestine assemble itself out of the fragrant morning air and assume a definite shape and dimension.
In the Book of Lamentations I had once read these words: Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine. The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feast: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.
But all that was about to change. We were going to force an alteration in our own future. We were going to drive the strangers out, bury the blackened dead, destroy the immigration posts and forget our bitterness. There would be no more books of lamenting. Nothing like that was going to happen to us again. We had guns now, and underground armies, guerrilla fighters, hand grenades, nail bombs, a comprehensive knowledge of dynamite and TNT. We had spies in the enemies ranks and we knew what to do with collaborators.
I was a daughter of the new Zion and I felt the ship shudder as the gangplank crashed on to the dock. I put on my hat and white cotton gloves and, preparing my face, waited to go ashore at the beginning of the decline and fall of the British Empire.
Reprinted from When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant by permission of Dutton, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © Linda Grant, 2001. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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