פרטי היצירה

סוג היצירה תחום תחום משנה
שם ההוצאה שפה
סוג מהדורה טקסט חופשי   



גרסה מלאה לקריאה /הורדה

גרסה חלקית לקריאה /הורדה

ספר מודפס
דירוג מערכת: 
Night Vision

דירוג הגולשים
לא אהבתי

לא אהבתי
שם:  Night Vision
מחבר:  Zeev Bar Ilan

This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved @

"You ought to have a dream. If you never have a dream, how can you expect your dream will come true?" A song from the film "South Pacific"

Night vision

Chapter one

Benyamin Serrald woke up from his dream in a shock. All his body was covered with sweat. It was the nicest, most daring and most erotic wet dream he had ever dreamt. He lay back on his pillow and tried to recapture the threads of his dream, but the penetrating light of the rising sun through his window had chased away all his efforts to do so. But he remembered everything he had dreamed, every sweet detail of it. In his dream he was on his winter holiday vacation in the Swiss Alps, enjoying the beautiful winter panorama and the luxurious hotel accommodations. He relished the vivid and playful companionship of other young people. He liked the winter sport activities of skating, sleight riding, climbing snow-covered peaks of mountains with ropes and stakes. But above all he favored skiing. For all these activities there weren’t enough opportunities in Israel, with its warm climate. Only during rare winters, when the temperatures were favorably cold, he went with his friends to the mountainous region of Mount Hermon, where he could employ these sports on the shallow snows of the mountain.

However, in Switzerland and in other North European countries, the snow was abundant, covering deeply the surroundings. It was in those places where he could develop his natural talent of skiing and improving his achievements. He did it sometimes also in his dreams. But this was a different dream. He skidded down the precipitous slope of the snow covered mountain, when suddenly someone, clad in red ski suit passed him, so close he tumbled off to the ground. He rose and tried to chase after that slim figure down the slope, but it disappeared into a small wood of fir trees. As he searched the wood he heard a crying voice. When he got closer, he saw the person in red lying on the snow before a big tree, with which he apparently had collided. When he came closer to his utter surprise he had seen, the person was a woman. She cried out in agonizing pain, holding her foot. She appealed to him in English: "I think my ankle has been broken. Would you, please, help me". Benyamin knelt beside her and said, "I certainly will. I shall try to take off your shoe." He managed to remove her shoe very gently while she moaned. He touched her ankle and felt the beginning of swelling. "I think you need urgent medical care," he said "I shall try to contact the hotel." He pulled out his cell phone from his inner pocket and dialed. "Hello, this is Benyamin Serrald speaking. I’m one of your hotel guests. Another of your guests, a young woman, has broken her ankle while skiing. I’m beside her. She needs urgent treatment." "What’s her name and where's your location? they asked him. "What’s your name, please?" he asked the girl. "Ella, Ella Bernstein," she answered him faintly. He repeated her name on the phone and continued, "We are on the northern slope, some ten miles away from the hotel in a small wood. Please hurry, she’s in great pain. My phone number is 795438" "We’ll do our best to come to you as fast as possible," came the answer. "Thank you," said Benyamin and closed the phone.

"Well, well, well. You know, Miss Bernstein, you knocked me down when you flew down that damned slope," he told her, "and it was only a miracle that we both do not need medical care now. Why so much in hurry?" She apologized, "I’m so sorry. I lost control. The slope was so steep and I couldn’t slow down. Did I hurt you?" "No! But you scared me out of my wits. I’m all right. Now I am concerned about you." She still wore her snow glasses and Benyamin couldn’t see her eyes, but focused his attention on the beautiful hair under her red ski cap. "We certainly will have to wait for a while until the aid squad arrives. In the meantime, I think we ought to introduce ourselves to one another." He offered his hand to her "Benyamin Serrald from Israel." "From Israel?" she wondered. "Why are you here?" "Well, I like the winter, the snow, the mountains. I like this particular place as well, very much. I was born in Hungary. I arrived to Israel as a young man, but I remember the winter in my old country and I miss it a lot. And may ask you where are you from? Your accent indicates that you’re from Germany." "Not Germany," she protested. "I’m Austrian, from Vienna." "So a Viennese came here to the Swiss Alps to break her ankle?" "Please, don’t ridicule me, it’s quite enough, the pain in my leg." "Okay, then,’" he said, "in the meantime, until the medics arrive, you may tell me what you do in your civil life?" "Well," she said somewhat shyly, "I’m a ballet dancer." "Ah, I sincerely hope that your injury is not too severe and will not take long for you to recover." "I also hope so," she said. "And you, what do you do for a living?" "Well, I am an electric and sound technician, working in a big theater." "And you spend your holidays abroad?" she asked him "Sometimes, when I can afford it." "And where’s your English from, you speak very well?" she asked him. "Mainly from school, but I do practice the language whenever I can. Also in my profession English is a must, and you?" "With me is much the same. I travel a lot with my company of dancers abroad, and of course English is now an internationally accepted language that enables you to communicate everywhere, with almost every one."

They had a short pause in their conversation, and then he asked her, "May I see your leg once more, is it still hurting you?" "Less now." she said. He touched her ankle and tried to apply a gentle massage on it. "Better now?" "Yes, it’s better." "It’s cold here and you’re sitting on the snow without motion." He took off his woolen sweater and put it on her back. "You’re very nice to me," she said. "You’re welcome and I’m happy to help you." There was a ring on his cell phone and a voice said, "Mr. Serrald, we are on our way to pick you up by helicopter. Please come out of the wood to give us a signal." It took only a couple of minutes and the copter landed nearby. Two aids equipped with a stretcher and a doctor jumped out. They took Ella and her companion back to the hotel where she received instant medical care. Before the two separated Benyamin said to Ella "You’ll now be in good hands and I hope you’ll be dancing again soon. By the way, how long will you stay here?" "A couple of days I think, it depends what happens with my ankle." "I wish the best for you and hope to see you again, So long."


Two days after this incident, as a continuation of his dream, Benyamin entered the subtly lit hotel bar, and took his seat beside one of the many round tables. The pianist played merry tunes of Gershwin. A waiter arrived and he ordered a glass of whiskey on the rocks. His eyes fell on a company of young girls and boys who had been engaged in lively conversation. They spoke in German. After some minutes the pianist ended his piece and left the bar, seemingly for a break. Benyamin rose from his seat and went to sit at the piano. He began to play melancholic tunes of Chopin. Soon the merry chatter of the young in the corner of the room stopped and they came over around the pianist and listened heedfully to his play. As the music continued, they grew more and more enchanted by the dreamy music of Chopin and began to croon along with the melody. After a while, when Benyamin finished playing, they all burst into cheers and applauded him enthusiastically. One of the girls came to Benyamin and asked him "Don’t you recognize me?" "Well, well Ella. How are you? Is your leg all right?" "I went through examinations and my ankle was checked by X rays. Thank God, it has not been broken, only dislocated. I have to rest for a couple of days. It will be all right soon, the doctors said." "I’m happy to hear that," he said.
"Friends, let me introduce to you my rescuer Benyamin, he’s from Israel," she told her company "It turns out that he’s not only a life saver, but a talented musician as well." "Thank you," said Benyamin. "Can I invite you to my table?" "With pleasure." Ella said. They have been talking and exchanging experiences of their respective occupations. "A leg injury is quite serious for a ballet dancer. Could you continue dancing on your toes?" "I sincerely hope so," she said, bending down to grope her ankle. "What was your latest performance?" interested Benyamin "Coppelia of Delib, Do you like ballet?" "Enormously," Benyamin said. "Where do you live in Israel, do they perform ballet?" "We’ve many dance groups and our own national dance assembly called Inbal, but they mainly perform folk dances. They’re very good and authentic. In my opinion the classical ballet dancing is not yet developed in our country, but many foreign dance companies come to us to perform. Excuse me; I forgot to ask you, what do you drink?" "Only a cup of coffee, please" He called the waiter and ordered the drink "Do you travel a lot with your company?" asked Benyamin. "Oh yes, quite a lot. Just recently we visited London and Paris. Next year we plan to appear on the stages of Madrid, Rome and Budapest." "Budapest, you said. Then I’ll be the one who’ll buy the first ticket to your performance." "I’m flattered," she said. "You compliment me without even once seeing me dancing." "I look at your figure and your beautiful face and your lovely long hair and the rest is only a matter of imagination." "Thank you again," she said with a broad smile. "I think you could have an impression on our group pretty soon. We planned a little show here for the guests of the hotel for tomorrow, but of course I can’t take part in it with my aching ankle." "Anyway," Benyamin said "I certainly will attend the show, and if you’ll sit beside me with the spectators, I will come to my reward." The coffee was served and they kept on talking for a while. She asked particulars about his occupation and he told her willingly.


On the evening of the next day, sitting in the small theater of the hotel, waiting for the beginning of the show, Benyamin eagerly awaited her appearance. When she entered the theater he made a sign to her and she came to sit next to him. He said to her, "You can’t imagine how happy I am to be in your company." "I’m happy too," she said. The small orchestra of the hotel struck up the overture from Johann Strauss’ famous operetta "The Bat." When the curtain raised and the dancers appeared there was an overwhelmingly emotional reception to the group. Then the group performed scenes of various dances from the opera Carmen, The Swan Lake and from Sylvie. Benyamin put his arm around her shoulder and she didn’t resist. After the show they parted with a warm handshake, wishing each other good night.

The following evening, still in his dream, Benyamin sat alone in his hotel room, reading the local newspapers, when he heard a knock on his door. He rose to open it and saw Ella on the threshold of the door holding a book under her arm. "Pardon me," she said apologetically "I mistakenly knocked on your door instead of my girlfriend’s." "I think it was a good mistake, and by the way, while you’re here I invite you to see my apartment." She entered the room without hesitation. "Please take a seat and feel free and comfortable," said Benyamin. "It must be boring to have an apartment alone." she observed, "Not any more when you’re here." replied Benyamin, "So how did you like our dancing?" she asked. "If you did it so well on a small stage, I can imagine what you can do in a big theater." "You’re right, the dancers must keep in mind the dimensions of a small stage, not jumping over and ending up between the rows of the spectators." "How funny," said Benyamin. "By the way you can call me just Ben. It’s easier and friendlier. "Okay, then Ben. When do you have in mind to return to Israel?" "In a couple of days, it’d be nice if we could go skiing together." "I sincerely wish I could. You could teach me safe methods, am I right?" "Precisely, skiing is a wonderful sport, but it could be extremely dangerous if you don’t know the rules." "So I have to wait for your instructions until the next time we meet," she said. Benyamin rose from his seat and went to the bar and removed a bottle of fine liqueur of the shelf. He also took out two cups and filled them. "To your health," he said. They drank their cups enjoyably.
"Tell me," she said "where did you learn to play so superbly on the piano?" "Playing music is a family trait in our house. I’ve learned playing the piano from my childhood. Do you like the music of Chopin?" "I adore it," she said "Just before we came here I saw at the cinema the movie "THE PIANIST"’. I was thoroughly enchanted by the music, especially when that refugee played before that German officer who revealed his hiding place. The main actor had, unlike you, a typical Jewish face. It was a great movie with a magnificent play of the actors." "I myself saw this movie twice," said Ben.
"Tell me, Ella," he said as he took his seat beside her at the table. "I hate to discuss politics with such nice and beautiful girl like you, but it seems that I have no other choice." "What’s the matter, Ben, did somebody hurt your feelings?" "No. But you’ve introduced me to your friends as an Israeli. Did you discern anybody in your company had a say about this, or criticized you, or had a bad remark about it?" "For God’s sake no! We’re the second generation after the war and politics is a very rare object that comes up to discussion among us. Something is bothering you?" "No, I just wanted this thing to be cleared." "Honestly," she said, "you shouldn’t have any doubt or problem with this issue. I, at least, do not make any distinction between people according their ethnic origin. I judge them according their behavior. And you behave as a real gentleman.
He looked at her for a while, at her beautiful face and her wonderful and bountiful black hair, her long lashed, raven black eyes, and he desired to kiss her. "Now," said Ben, "you’ll certainly change your mind about mine gentleness, and maybe you’ll throw your book to my head. But I would like to invite you…" he made a pause "To get me into your bed…?" she asked, reading his mind surprisingly. "Noooo, I only would like to take a bath with you. There’s a wonderful bathroom over there, with an inviting big bubbling Jacuzzi tub, quite enough for two persons. So, what you say?" She looked at him quizzically "Well, it’s a most bolding and exceptional proposition I’ve ever had. However I accept it on one condition: I’ll get into that bath with you, but you promise me not to touch me." "It will take all my restraint to do so, but I promise I shall not touch you." "Then," she held up her hand to the direction of the bathroom "Go ahead."
Unsure of himself, he entered the bathroom, opened the tapes and put some scented foaming liquid soap into the water. Then he waited for her. She followed him, and immediately started to undress. Then both of them got into the foaming tub water. He looked at her for a while, hypnotized and enchanted by her full, bulging breasts, of her streamlined torso and her perfectly shaped legs. "Tell me, Miss, washing your hair is included in your condition…?" "Not necessarily," she replied laughingly. "He helped her to wash her hair. Then he asked her: "I wonder what made you agree to my bold proposition?" "It’s very simple;" came her answer "I presume you were most curious how I looked naked, and I was not less curious about your naked body." "As simple as that?" asked Ben. She made a sign of consent with her head. He did his best to subdue his inborn instinct and wanted so much to touch her breasts. He started to raise his hand to do so, but at that very moment his dream abruptly came to an end, and he woke up, instead of in a bath of scented, bubbling water, in a bath of sweat. It took some time till he realized that he was at his home, in his own bed, and he had been only dreaming. It was hard to dismiss such a wonderful dream. He didn’t want to, but daylight came to his window and forced him back to reality. He rose from his bed and went to wash himself in his bathroom, this time all alone…

Chapter two

The only person, to whom Benyamin confided his intimate problems and dared to tell about his wild dream, was his college and best friend, Joseph, with whom he had worked at the same theater. He told him about his dream at length. "I must find this girl somewhere," he concluded. His friend looked at him stunned and his reaction was disappointing and devastating. Joseph shook his head "They say, ‘A hungry horse dreams of oats’. Or in other words, there’s a very strikingly apropos proverb in Hebrew for a situation like this that says: ‘When a man’s prick gets erect, his wits fall to his butt.’ I always knew, my dearest friend, that you were a bit tra, la, la, la, with your head among the clouds, kind of moonstruck. I’m sure you’ve seen lately too many silly movies and have read fantasy novels. Tell me, how on earth you may possibly find somebody who existed only in your dream? She’s not a living thing, a person after whom you can search and eventually find. She’s only a phantom, an imagined spirit, however beautifully and sex-appealingly she appeared in your dream. And let’s say you’ll find a girl of her image. What will you possibly tell her? That you saw her in your dream? She’d, by right, think that your fuse went out. And if you’ll tell her that you had a common bath with her in a tub, I bet, she’ll call an ambulance..." "Besides," Joseph went on "Don’t we have enough fine and beautiful females here around. Do we have to chase dreams?"
"What can I say to you, my dear friend" Benyamin admitted, "It was only a dream. But a dream so vivid, so lifelike, that I’ve never dreamed before." "Listen," reacted Joseph, if you happen to read the great philosopher Sigmund Freud, he claims in one of his doctrines, that sometimes the visions we see in our dreams can be more tangible and lifelike than in real life. Soon you’ll forget it."


But he couldn’t forget it. In his dreams the image of Ella came up again and again, although not as intensively as in the first one. "You need a therapist," said Joseph. Go and turn to one before you go crazy." But instead of turning to a therapist Benyamin asked his management office in the theater to grant him three weeks of unpaid vacation from his work. He submitted as a reason his sudden need to meet a relative abroad. When it was granted, he went to a traveling agency and bought a ticket to Vienna, including hotel accommodation for three weeks. He made up his mind in that matter: ‘I must meet her again in real life, only God knows how and when’. He had a bold idea in his head: He would turn to the executive board of the Viennese Opera House and ask them for a job as stage technician and a coordinator of sounds and lights effects on the stage. He would say that he had previous experience in that field in Israel and to prove it, he would take with him documents attesting his knowledge in the profession. The chief executive of the Viennese opera house, Franz Berger, an aged man with a nice mustache, looked at him and at his papers with a doubtful and slightly amused expression in his face "Why have you specifically chosen us and why Vienna?" Benyamin was bewildered by the question. He hardly knew what to say to him. At last he ventured, "I love music, and I love ballet and the art of play. The fame of the Viennese State Opera is world-renowned in these fields. It would be a pleasure working with you. It would give me the best opportunity to further my knowledge in my profession." "How about your command in German? the executive asked him. English, I hear you speak very well." "Well, I studied German in high school in Hungary, where I was born. I do speak German, but of course not perfectly. I do need practice. But I maintain, since you work with lot of foreign actors and singers, you surely communicate with them in English, as it happens in Israel." "The truth is," the executive said "that we really are looking for a deputy for our stage manager in these days. Every important task bearer needs a deputy to fill his place in, in case of illness, vacation, or other cases. But all what I can say to you, that in any case we could hire you just for a trial period." "Thank you," Benyamin said, "I’ll do my best." "When you want to start?" he asked him "As soon as possible." Ben replied. "Where are you staying now?" "At the Bergstadt Hotel." "Then please leave your card here and your phone number." He gave to the executive both his cell phone number and his hotel’s numbers. "Thank you again and I’ll be waiting for your call," he said and left the building of the Opera in an exceptionally good mood.


The days passed, more then a week, but no call was received from the Opera executive. Benyamin began to lose his hope. He thought maybe the cause was connected with his being Jewish, or being an Israeli. Or maybe his credentials were not sufficient for them. He was on the brink of despair, when after some 10 days his phone rang and the chief executive of the Opera was on the line "I must excuse myself for not contacting you until now, because of some internal problems in our theater. We discussed your application and determined it to be positive and we shall be glad to work with you. However, since this job of stage director is rather complicated, both technically and personally, we’ll have to coordinate you with our permanent staff and try to meet the ends. Please come to us on Monday, on the 24th of March, at 5 o’ clock in the afternoon. Also a dispatch has been sent to your hotel address in this matter." "I sincerely thank you and I look forward to meeting you and your staff. I’ll be there on Monday, punctually at the time you requested and thank you again." Benyamin finished his conversation on the phone and his mood turned again for the better. "Never give up hope! Never" he repeated to himself.


Stage fright is a most unusual phenomenon among stage directors. However when Benyamin first entered into the immense auditorium of the Viennese State Opera house, the huge scale of the theater amazed him. But when he went up to the stage, together with a big entourage of directors, experts and stage workers, who had come to greet him and help to introduce him into the complexity of the heavy back stage props equipment, he became awestruck. The profession itself was familiar to him, but the dimension of the things took him aback. His future task would be to coordinate between the appearance of the actors on the stage, changing the setting, and alternating the scenery, the environment and the lighting and sound effects. All these he must learn in order to function in a relatively short time.
When the survey with the entourage ended, he was invited to the chief office borough for consultation. The chief was an elderly man in his sixties. He had been curious about the impression of his new candidate on the job had applied for. "Well, Benyamin, how does it look in your eyes?" "Telling the truth, it is more than I expected," said Ben "I certainly need some time to learn and get familiar with the different equipment, devices, and especially with the people who manipulate them. In short, I need some time to plunge into the job. But I feel it will be all right Sir." Berger put his hand on his shoulder "Nothing in the world comes easily, you got to give your guts to please the visitors of the theater. You’ll have to dedicate yourself entirely to fulfill this work successfully." And he added "Another important thing for your knowledge: Sometimes, twice, maybe three times a year, our theater, with all our staff, including the actors, dancers, orchestra, and occasionally the whole lot of stage setting, moves abroad, to perform our show in various cities in the world. You’ll have to move along with us to keep up all the functioning." "I know that Sir. That’ll be a great challenge for me." He wanted to say him that he had already heard about the theater’s future agenda for Madrid, Rome and Budapest, but preferred to keep his mouth shut…

Then Berger introduced him to his future boss Herr Schneider, the stage director. "I hope you will find understanding and a good cooperative spirit between you." Schneider and Benyamin shook hands warmly. "Now, talking about your wage, we can offer you an initial payment of 5000 $ monthly. Of course if you prove yourself in work there will be a way for further improvement in your payment. Herr Schneider will escort you now around the stage to give you further information about the various installations; how to manipulate the curtains, fittings, safety appliances, and the like. He will also introduce you to our working staff. Any questions" Berger asked the discomposed Benyamin. "Thank you, not for the time being," replied Ben.

When he got back to his hotel he was confused. Wasn’t it too much for him to undertake? Then he decided to call his friend Joseph in Hungary. "Where are you?" Joseph cried angrily on the phone. "I am in Vienna, in a hotel." "In Vienna???" he asked wondering "And may I ask you what hell are you doing there? Looking for your naked lady?" "No," answered Benyamin calmly "I applied for a job for a stage manager at the Wiener Opera House and they hired me for a trial period with a salary of 5000 $, which is more than twice my wage at home." "I think you’ve completely gone out of your mind. What’s the name of the hotel you’re staying in?" "Bergstadt Hotel. Wilhelm Strasse 159." "What's your phone number there?" "78538900 and the directory numbers of Austria and Vienna before that number." "Benyamin," he heard his friend imploring on the phone, "stay where you are. I’ll take the next flight to Vienna and come right to you. We must talk."

Benyamin put down the receiver, immersed in deep thought. On the one hand, he didn’t want to disappoint his best friend; on the other hand he was on his way to not only fulfill his dream, but also to open a promising carrier of advancement in his profession. However he has not been sure in either way. When Joseph arrived in the following evening Benyamin had seen his friend being tired and upset. "Before we talk I want to invite you to the hotel’s restaurant to eat something and rest a while." "I’m not particularly hungry now," said Joseph, "but let’s go to chew something." At the table Joseph began his speech in a very serious tone: "I’ve come here because I simply couldn’t discuss this matter over the phone. It beats me if I know what happened to you in these days. I heard and read a lot about people who had lost their heads because of frustrated love affairs, or because their sweethearts had betrayed them. In some extreme cases people even committed suicide. But I’ve never heard a case like yours, when a handsome young man, like you, gives up his job, goes abroad and offers himself to undertake a job which he’s not fit for, jeopardizing his former stable employment." Benyamin wanted to say something, but Joseph raised his hand "I’ve not finished yet." And he went on "I know, you’re a very serious, industrious and highly responsible fellow and you may succeed in your work here. But I still don’t exactly know your motives. What is your priority; to get a better paid job? to make a career? Or you want to find that girl for your prick...?" "I want all those things you mentioned," Ben said. "Now let’s put some sense into your wild ideas, shall we?" said Joseph. "Yes," Ben agreed. "Let’s maintain," Joseph went on "that you’ll succeed with your work, and you’ll also find here a woman who resembles your dream girl. Are you sure she’ll have the same qualities as the one in your dream? Maybe she’ll look nice and pretty and desirable on the outside, but inside she’ll be an anti-Semite, a klafte! Besides, as far as I know the Austrians are not precisely in favor of Jews and Israel. And with all due respect to you, would you marry an Austrian, gentile woman, who wouldn’t come and settle with you in Israel?" "Honestly," reacted Benyamin, "you put to me very serious questions for which I have not the proper answers, as yet. I must think about them. Maybe I shall decide when my trial period ends. Anyway, I’m most grateful to you for your concern. I wouldn’t give up your friendship for anything in the world." Joseph rose from the table saying, "Then, try to be honest at least with yourself, if not with me. Now I must go back home. I’ve work to do and a family to support." He said and left the restaurant.

Chapter three

During the following three weeks Benyamin dedicated himself thoroughly to his work. Although the knowledge he acquired in ten years’ practice in the craftsmanship of running theater performances in Israel was good, it was not sufficient for his new job that required the application of new methods and techniques. He tried to be pleasant and agreeable to everyone, even to those people who annoyed him, either because of the lack of communication of not knowing English enough, or because they saw him as a foreigner. He had the opportunity to see the many rehearsals and the hard work the producers, the actors, the dancers and the musicians in the huge orchestra had to invest in order to put across a good show. He put his attention especially to the rehearsals and the drills of the ballet dancers, trying to reveal the familiar face among them. He was quite exhausted when he returned from his work in the late hours of the night and he didn’t leave the hotel to go anywhere, except to buy an English-German dictionary and grammar book to study German.

As the days passed, he felt that his fears of inadequacy to fit into this big job were unjustified. With his appropriate and prepossessing manners he easily won the sympathy of his fellow managers. Seeing his endeavors of cooperation with other members of the staff, even the chief executive was satisfied with him. Benyamin waited with great expectation for the "big" day to come, when he would be due to hear from the boss about his decision to be permanently accepted onto the staff. On the day, when he was invited to the office of the chief, Franz Berger, he tried to hide his emotional tension. When the chief rose from behind his large table, burdened with three telephone sets, computers and piles of documents and in the presence of his secretary, he offered his hand to Benyamin, his heart pulsed hard. "Mine liebe Herr (My good sir)" he said "I’m happy to inform you that the general management of the Wiener Opera House has accepted your application to work with us as a stage coordinator director and to lengthen your trial period to one year. If after that year everything will go on smoothly and satisfactorily, as it has been until now, I think there will be no reason not to employ you as a permanent member of our staff."

After he received the good news from Franz Berger about his prolonged employment for a whole year, he had to make up his mind to resign from his former employer in Tel Aviv, the Habima Theater. Also he had to leave his old residence there. At the same time he had to think about renting a good apartment, somewhere in Vienna in a decent district. For all these arrangements he needed time. Therefore he asked Berger to allow him to have a fortnight’s leave from his work. Berger of course responded to his request positively and granted him the leave.
Returning to Tel Aviv, he could hardly face his former boss Mr. Sandor to put forward his resignation to him. He could only reason this step for his intense will to learn and to reach higher standards in his profession than he could achieve in his Theater. But he added that it wouldn’t mean a final break and he might return someday. It was still harder to face Joseph, his true friend who was not especially impressed by his success in Vienna and couldn’t see a rosy future in Binyamin’s senseless adventures there. However, he embraced his friend and said with teary eyes "I did my best to persuade you to give up your crazy ideas, but only the future will tell I was right." They parted with a warm handshake.
When he returned to Vienna, he instantly began searching for a new apartment. He perused the local paper’s ads and also turned to some real estate agents to this effect. It didn’t take more than a couple of days and he found by himself a comfortable, furnished apartment in a quiet suburb of the city, not far away from the Opera. There were some additional problems to solve, like lengthening his residence permit for a whole year in Austria, buying new clothes, fit for the Austrian climate. Finishing his preparations, he went back to work.


It was autumn, the beginning of the main theater season and he was so preoccupied by his work that in fact he had completely forgotten the main reason why he came to Vienna at all. Outside the trees in the many beautiful avenues of the city began to lose their leaves and the birds ceased their singing, sitting hunched up in their feathers on the bare, leafless branches. The parks were abandoned. ‘Never mind,’ he thought, I shall make up for all these in my next leave in winter, in a fancy sport hotel in Switzerland’. Sometimes, when his boss could spare him, he could watch the show from the auditorium, sitting in a comfortable velvety chair. In doing so he could enjoy many ballet shows, listen to the music played by one of the world’s most famous orchestras, see the acting and hear the singing of many world renowned opera singers. However, his private life was very confined. He had not gained any new friends. After some time living in Vienna he drew the conclusion that, although the Austrians and especially the Viennese were very cultured people, - - Vienna was abundant with theaters, concert halls, museums, libraries, culture centers, galleries. With plenty treasures of beauty; lovely green parks and flowering gardens, artistic fountains and statues, recreation facilities and the like, - - but the people of the city were not easy going and friendly types. For a foreigner like him it was a problem to socialize with them, and still more difficult to make friends among them.
Vienna, as any other modern western European city, had also her nightlife. Binyamin, a healthy and normal young man at his age, also had his sex problems. Having no wife he had to go to prostitutes, which were profusely found on the streets of the Austrian capital. But those streetwalkers were down at the heels and disgusting in their extravagant appearance and he found them repellent. They stood at the corners of the streets, leaning against the wall, smoking long, long cigarettes. Their faces were smeared heavily with a multitude of cheap make-ups. They called unmistakable signals to every male passing by. Benyamin looked at them and felt his guts were turning by their vulgarity. He also visited bars and nightclubs, hoping to find in them some girls to suit his taste, but there too he mostly found shabby, debauched females who’d do anything as long as you paid them well. Finally he saw in a sex magazine the heading ‘Call Girls’ with pictures attached to their numbers. He chose one of the beauties that appeared the best to him and called her number. She answered the call quickly and figured out the price for her services. She appeared at his doorstep in a short time, and after a brief ‘small talk’ she started to undress herself. They had sex, she got her money, and then she returned to where she had come from; to her underworld. Having had several times those call girls in his bed, he came to the conclusion that although his lust for sex had been satisfied, but each time his sex partners left, he felt a terrible void in his heart, and a strangling emptiness settled in his soul. He realized that one couldn't buy love for money. And he needed love, a true and a passionate love that would redeem him from his loneliness.


Benyamin was not a Jewish type. On the contrary, he had more Hungarian features. When he sat in a coffee house he was not eager to reveal his Jewish identity to anyone, nor was he in a hurry to tell that he was from Israel. In Tel Aviv he had been used to open relations with people. You can call anyone there haver (friend) without insulting him. You can engage in an amiable and convivial chat easily with most people after a short introduction. In Vienna it was different. To his mind the Austrians were coolly disposed, formal and reserved people. He could not change these facts; therefore he tried to find acquaintances among the foreigners he occasionally met. He hoped, however, that someday, somewhere he’d find his dream girl. Benyamin was a handsome lad, strongly built with bulging muscles, which he developed in many of his sport activities. He had a quiff, crested, dark blonde hair and had great difficulties keeping it orderly. He was almost six feet tall. Despite his manly appearance he found that he had not been attractive enough for the opposite sex.

Benyamin was born in Budapest in 1970 to a Jewish family. His father died of a heart attack when he was 10, and so did his mother, five years later, of cancer. As an orphan he was adopted into the care of the United Jewish Fund in Hungary and was raised by the orphaned children unit. He attended a Jewish school and the Fund financed his schooling up to his graduation. At the age of 20 he decided to immigrate to Israel. He had many difficulties in his new land, where everything was new to him: the language, the climate, the people, and the local customs. But slowly, with no other choice at hand, he got used to them, as all the newcomers to the country did. He also served in the Israeli Army, which is one of the main instruments and a ‘melting pot’ to make the people, who immigrated to the country from every corner of the world, into one nation, speaking one language.
Right after he finished his two and a half years military service he had begun to look for a suitable job. He had always liked the theater and life of the bohemians and tried to seek employment in Tel-Aviv’s main theater, the Habima. Since he had no previous experience working in a theater, he agreed to work there as a plain stage worker. He earned a very modest salary, which was hardly enough to support him. But he learned easily. He used his natural intelligence and he was quick and adept to comprehend things and methods used in his work. It didn’t take a long time until his employers appreciated his natural aptitude for the job, and gave to him more complicated tasks to fulfill. He succeeded in most everything and his way to a rapid advancement in the ranks of the theater’s management was paved. His salary improved substantially and he reached a higher living standard.
So it happened that he could afford the expenses to go abroad and make excursions in lovely, green sites in summer and exercise winter sports in winter. Once he spent his winter holiday in Switzerland in a luxurious hotel, situated in the high mountains, where a large group of foreign tourists came to take part in a ski contest. It was with this background he had dreamt his wonderful dream.


It was in the month of October when Berger informed him that the theater was due to visit Spain to perform there the opera ‘Faust’ of Gounod, in two of the main cities of Spain; Madrid and Barcelona. Benyamin was extremely pleased with the news, first because he felt that at least a small portion of his dream was going to be realized; and secondly, he loved the music of Gounod and the beautiful ballet scenes in the opera. But it happened that exactly when the company was about to leave Vienna, his boss, Herr Schneider, became ill with a high fever, so he couldn’t take part in the outing of the company. He stayed in Vienna and now all the burdens and responsibilities of running the show fell on the shoulders of Benyamin. He had to buck up and gather all his self confidence and to make the job all alone.

After the show in Madrid, all the theater’s staff, including the chief, Herr Berger, took their seats around a big table in the Opera house’s big buffet. They talked about the successes of the performance and especially they gave praises to Benyamin. "You’ve done swell," said Berger "and do receive our sincere appreciation," he said. "Look," said Benyamin bashfully "mine is an almost insignificant job. When the show ends and the curtains drop down, who’s going to harvest the applause of the public? ; the actors, the singers, and the dancers. Sometimes also the producer of the show and the conductor of the orchestra get up on the stage and have their share in the glory. But who gives a damn about the stage director? Even on the program card his name appears in small letters." "You shouldn’t be so modest," remarked Berger in an attempt to bolster Binyamin’s low self-esteem, "if the curtains do not rise in time, no one in the public will see anything of the performance." Benyamin tried to put an indulgent smile on his face. Berger went on, "Everyone’s effort in the show is greatly appreciated. You’ve got to understand that to put a show on the stage is teamwork. If one of the dancers would fail, it means a snag in the show. If one of the singers would sing off key, if one player in the orchestra would play out of tune, if part of the upper scenery would fall on the heads of the actors, if the sounds and the lights would not function properly, all these things would impair the final success of the performance. So I repeat and emphasize that everyone’s contribution is important, first of all yours, Ben." For the first time Berger used the abbreviation of his name, indicating fatherly trust in him. Benjamin was satisfied.

In Barcelona, when the show ended, Benyamin decided to pay a visit to a local nightclub that was famous for its authenticity in performing Spanish folk dances, tangos, whirling passé-doubles and vivacious flamenco dances. The sounds of thrumming guitars and clacking castanets worked up the mood in the atmosphere of the club. All that in addition to the delicious red wine from Malaga served by the beautiful waitresses with their long, curling, raven-black hair. One of them took a seat at Binyamin’s table and began to flirt with him. "I’m sure you’re a foreigner here" she started in broken but sweet English. "Where are you from?" "From Austria, but I am an Israeli." "Oh!" she said startled, "then what do you do in Austria?" "I came with an opera company to put on a show here in Barcelona." "Ah, gorgeous," she said, "Are you an actor, or something like that?" "Only a stage director" "Fine, fine and may I ask what’s your name?" "Benjamin," he answered her. "Well, Benyamin," she put her hand on his "Would you dance with me?" Benyamin hesitated. Should he enter into an adventure with this Spanish beauty, now when he’s abroad? Her sparkling black eyes lured him to agree and he couldn’t overcome his desire to hold her close to him. The orchestra struck up a sensual tango tune and they danced tightly embraced.
"I told you my name, Senorita, but you haven’t told me yours, as yet." "Sarita," she said with a bright smile. "I know a famous Spanish singer by name of Sarita Montiel. Do you know her?" "Not personally, but I love her songs. She must be old now." "Yes I think so. Tell me, Sarita, does the owner of this place agree to your flirting with the guests?" "This is part of our job," she replied confidentially. "And the other part…?" he asked her "It depends on you." "What do you mean?" asked Benjamin wondering "If you’re generous I may escort you to your quarter and we could have a good time together…" ‘Damn, damn, damn,’ he murmured inside, almost audibly, ‘why should I always pay condescendingly to have a woman to love me? Why, to the devil, they would not pay me once, for a change?’ ‘On the other hand,’ he thought, "After I shall marry, I could not change my partners in bed with such a frequency as I’m doing now, while I’m still a bachelor. After I’ll marry, I’ll have to be faithful to one woman only, to my wife. Until then I’d better use my time and enjoy life.’ He cuddled her up tightly to him and looked deeply into her eyes. "I told you I’m a stage director. In my theater every actor receives his, or her payment according the role he plays. If you’ll play well, you will be paid generously." he said in hope that she’ll spare a few coins in his purse…
They had a wonderful and a turbulent night together. She was a hot-blooded Spanish women and he enjoyed every minute with her. "Tell me ‘Carmenchita’, he asked her teasingly "What do you plan to do with your life. You’ll go from bed to bed till you get old?" "No, just until I’ll find someone good for me." "Am I good enough for you?" She looked at him, in puzzlement and then she said with a smile "You’re too good, but I’m sure you wouldn’t marry a prostitute, would you?" Benyamin shook his head "You’re damn right, I’d never do that." She let out a deep sigh "I’ve ruined my life." "Rubbish, you’re a beautiful girl, you can start a new life somewhere else, in another town, perhaps in another country, where no one will recognize you and you could marry a decent man and have a fair life and raise a family." "Maybe I’ll do that," she said humbly "but you know, I got used to easy money, it’s hard to work for pennies." "They say: Easy come, easy go," lectured Benyamin "I’ve never heard of a woman who’s gotten rich in your occupation. Change it while you can!" After a while he said to her "Sarita, you have to go now. Tomorrow we’ll have a busy day. We shall go to a sightseeing excursion around the town and maybe to the surroundings. So I say to you goodbye and thank you for the unforgettable night you granted me. And by the way, how much do I owe you?" She dressed and said "You’re a very kind man, a special one. You owe me nothing and I thank you for your advice." "Oh no! You did a great service to me and I can’t let you go unpaid." He reached for his purse and took out a hundred dollar bill. "It’s for the route fare." She took the bill and left his room.
The company enjoyed touring the Spanish countryside and they bought a handful of souvenirs, which were profusely offered everywhere they went. Right after they returned from the tour Benyamin called Joseph in Israel and told him about his latest adventure with the Spanish women. "You seem to fuck over the entire continent," his friend rebuked him angrily "you’ll pick up a nasty sex illness, perhaps AIDS." "Trust me, I always use preventive means and have frequent check-ups." "What can I say, God will save you there." "I have just one thing to tell you," Benyamin responded, "that in the course of a year, which is the period of my contract with the theater, if I shall not find the girl of my dream, I shall return to Israel. They raised my salary to 8000 $, and I have a pretty good savings account in the bank. I think it would be sufficient to start a new life in Israel, provided, of course, that Habima would take me back on my former job." "You son of a bitch!" exclaimed Joseph "now you’re talking. I've hoped that what your crazy mind missed, the time would fill in. Come home! The sooner, the better! And by the way," said Joseph "it’s a frequent mistake for young men to aspire marring a beautiful woman. And I say it’s the worst thing a man can do to himself. Why? Because sooner or later somebody will put an eye on her, another one will lay his hand on her, and another one will put his leg on her…so beware of beauties!"


The company soon returned to Vienna. They had on their agenda five choice performances in that season, each one more beautiful than the last: The Traviata of Verdi, Norma of Bellini, La Giaconda of Ponchielli, Samson and Delilah of Saint Saens and finally the Magic Flute of Mozart. Each of them needed thorough preparations and endless rehearsals to execute. Sometimes the ballerinas, the singers and members of the orchestra were scarcely able to hold on, because of their fatigue and the continuation of the rehearsals had to be postponed to the next day. Benyamin too got tired. His boss still in bed, he had to do the task by himself. This was hard to do, but they say: ‘The necessity breaks rules’. So he had to carry on, whatever the circumstances.
From time to time, when he was not on duty, he kept on looking at the ballet dancer girls, especially the new ones who had joined the group recently, but not one of them was like the girl in his dream. Even when he tried to talk to them, they responded coolly and nonchalantly in German. ‘Should this girl be precisely a ballet dancer?’ he asked himself many times. Are there any rules in dreams? ‘No,’ he answered himself, ‘but she should have the same qualities of beauty, of culture, of loving music and above all a free and a liberal mind. If she’ll ever cross my way, I’ll recognize her instantly.’ But he stayed adamant to his belief ‘she must exist here somewhere’. He watched women in the coffeehouses, on the promenades, in the restaurants where he had his meals. He even went to the Ministry of Interior, to the Department of Population Registration Office of Vienna, pretending to be looking for a distant relative, who went by the name of Ella Bernstein; he asked them to look up her name in their archives. There were at least a dozen similar names, but none of them fit his category. He had been left in despair.


Some days after, while walking in one of the main squares of Vienna, he saw a group of artists drawing sketches of people who wanted their portraits. He paused near one of the sketchers, a bearded, solemn looking elderly man, whom he had found the best of all. All around stood curious bystanders watching intently his drawing. When the artist finished his sketch, Benyamin turned to him saying "Please, I’d like to talk to you for a couple of minutes, if you can spare it." "Go ahead Sir," he said "what’s on your mind?" he asked him in German. "Well, I think, it’s a bit unusual request, and I don’t know if you ever did anything like it in your profession." The long-bearded artist, who had the aspect of a professional artist, looked at Ben quizzically. "Well, I don’t know, Sir, what you’re getting at." "I’ll tell you exactly, but maybe we can move from here and sit in a less noisy place?" The man signaled with his head his agreement. They sat in a nearby coffee bar and Benyamin asked him what he could order for him. "It doesn’t matter, anything." Ben ordered two cups of instant coffee and while they were being served Ben proceeded to tell his wish to him. "Look, some month ago I met a girl in my dream. She was as beautiful a woman as I’ve ever seen in my life. She was also cultured and talented. She was an Austrian girl from Vienna and worked as a ballet dancer in the Vienna Opera House. Recently I started working there as a stage director, but unfortunately I couldn’t find her anywhere, until this very day." The artist looked on Benyamin bewildered ‘A girl in your dream?’ he murmured to himself "And what on earth do you want of me?" "Well, I saw your skilled hand and I’m sure you can draw a sketch of her according to my description. You know, like in the Police Department, artists draw facial portraits of criminals according to the descriptions of eyewitnesses, but possibly you could do a better one." The man scratched his head "All right," he said "I shall try to do it, but how much do you have in mind to pay for it?" "I don’t know," said Benyamin "I’ve never ordered such a picture, but if it will be a good one, I shall be generous with you. By the way, what’s your name, Mister?" "Eric Wolfgang," the artist said. "Wolfgang? Like Amadeus Mozart?" He shook his head "I wish I had his talent, I could work in high places and draw the portraits of kings, ministers and famous actors." "Who knows? One day you will." said Benyamin. "When do you want me to start drawing your dream girl?" "As soon as possible." They drank their coffee and Benyamin took out a bill of 50 $ from his purse and gave it to Wolfgang. "That’s in advance for your work, see, I’m serious." The artist pocketed the bill and said to Ben. "Come here tomorrow, let’s say at 10 o’clock in the morning and we shall begin. Is that all right with you?" "It’d be perfect," answered Ben "because in the afternoon I’ll be terribly busy." They parted with a handshake.

On the next day, at ten o’clock sharp, Wolfgang came to the coffeehouse carrying a folding chair, a trestle-board and drawing instruments under his arm. Ben greeted him happily and offered him his hand. "I see you’re a man of your word. Come, let’s sit somewhere in a cozy place where we can work without disturbance." "Then let’s go to the Wilhelm Garden that’s only a short distance away from here." the artist said. They walked to the garden and found an empty bench and sat on it. In that early hour of morning there were still a few visitors around. Wolfgang opened his folding chair and sat comfortably on it. Then placed his trestle board before him and opened his drawing pad. Turning to Ben, who sat opposite to him on the bench he said "Before I start drawing, I’d like to hear from you a general description of the person you want me to draw; her features, her character, her appearance, and so on." "Well, let’s see," said Ben straining his memory to conjure up Ella's image in his mind. After a while he uttered in languishment "She’s tall, has a marvelously built body, full, bulging breasts. She has an oval face, elongated nose, rosy cheeks, and deep, black eyes, long brows, and a very intelligent countenance; little, heart shaped, sensual mouth and long, long, plentiful silky black hair, in short a gorgeous look." "What about her legs?" "Oh, her legs," sighed Ben "they are like the Venus of Milo. Do you know that famous statue of Michelangelo?" "Yes, Sir. I saw it in an exhibition." "How do you want her to appear on the picture, naked or clad?" "Clad, in white satin and tulle frock, with a blue straps for decoration." "All right," said Wolfgang "I’ll start drawing and if you’ll see I’m not going in the right direction, stop me. Okay?"

Chapter four

Slowly, slowly, line-by-line, stroke-by-stroke, the delicate figure of Ella appeared on the hard paper of Wolfgang’s pad. In the meantime some passersby in the garden stopped behind the artist and saw in astonishment that he was not drawing the person sitting before him, but a figure of a woman. Now and then Benyamin intervened and asked Wolfgang to modify some curves and particulars in his drawing. After half an hour, or so, the image of Ella came into view in its full splendor. Benyamin face was radiating with happiness. "I bless your hand," he said to Wolfgang "you’re really talented. I’ll recommend you before the art committee of the Opera. I think there’s a need for artist like you there." "Thank you Mister. Do you want this drawing as it is, in black, or shall I add colors?" "If it will not impair the quality of it, you certainly may add colors," said Benyamin. Wolfgang painted his drawing with light colors, which added considerably to the picture. Benyamin was so pleased that he embraced it to his heart "I thank you very much," he said and took out his purse and gave an additional 200$ bill to Wolfgang. "If this picture will lead eventually to finding this girl, I’ll double that sum," he said. "Now, excuse me for asking, the artist said, "but what are you going to do with that picture, hang it on the wall?" "I’ll do that later, but first I have in mind to turn to the newspapers and have this picture advertised with a grand prize of a 1000 $ reward to whomever leads me to find her. What you say?" "Big money," said Wolfgang scratching his neck "is it worth?" "If I shall find her it will be worth more, much more," stated Ben. "And if I may ask you," Wolfgang put to him "aren’t there beautiful women in Israel that you have to make such a big sacrifice for someone whom you only met in your dream?" "To my deepest sorrow I haven’t found anyone like her." Wolfgang shrugged his shoulders. "That’s your business, Sir." Benyamin thanked again the artist for his work and they parted cordially.

The picture of Ella was advertised, including the phone number of Benyamin and the offer of a 5000 $ award, in five local papers in Vienna. There were dozens of calls, which were recorded on his answering machine, but only a very few of them sounded serious enough. Some women suggested coming to him personally; others offered to send pictures of them. But there were some nasty calls, like the one in which a perverted blighter said, "I have a young sister, who’s very much like the picture in the paper. I can bring her to you and for 5000 $ you can screw her as much as you want." Or "I’m as pretty as she is. I don’t know who you are, but I’ll surely satisfy your lust more than anybody else." For those calls, which Benyamin considered serious, he dialed the numbers, and after some shorter, or longer conversation he fixed a date to meet them at a restaurant in one of Vienna’s back streets. Some of them were pretty women, but very far from the image of Ella. Benyamin kindly apologized and expressed his deep sorrow for their unlikeness. After further vain experiences in meeting with more women who didn’t match his expectations, he became again frustrated and despaired. A strange thought crossed his heart: that he would eventually remain with only Wolfgang’s beautiful portrait.


Benyamin sat in his room, looking longingly at the image of Ella in the portrait. Suddenly an idea struck his head: ‘If I shall have only a drawing of her, then why not an oil painting? It could be undoubtedly still more impressive and would last longer, albeit it would cost me much more. He again went to the square and looked for Wolfgang. He found the artist, as usual, busily working. They greeted each other with a warm handshake. "How do you do, Sir? Had you any successes in advertising the portrait?" "Unfortunately not," confessed Benjamin. "So what are you going to do?" "Not much, except that I thought about something. Have you any experience with oil painting?" The artist scratched his head. "In fact, not much. Sometimes I paint pictures at home for my own pleasure. What’s the problem?" "I have in mind to make her image on oil, can you paint one?" "What can I say to you, dear sir? I could try." "Then please try, and if you’ll be as successful with the painting as with your portrait, you’ll come to your reward. Here is some advance money for doing it." he said and handed over to the artist 500 $. "I need my portrait back for a couple of days," said Wolfgang. "Okay, I’ll bring it to you tomorrow." On the next day he brought the portrait back to Wolfgang and asked him "Could you do it as a life-sized painting" "I’ll do my best, Sir. I shall call you when it is ready."

He waited eagerly for the call of the artist, and after ten days, when his call still had not been received, he returned to the square looking for him. "Be patient, Sir," Wolfgang said, "I work on your painting every day, but it’s much more complicated to do that, than a portrait, especially when no living person stands before me. It’ll take sometime more." A week later, Wolfgang finally heralded the good news to come to his gallery to have a look at the painting. Benyamin took a taxicab and rushed to his workshop. When he saw the large painting he was stunned. "I can’t find words, Mein Herr," he said stammering, "You’re simply wasted drawing sketches in that square. Your place should be among the best artists of this country. Upon returning to the theater I shall immediately consult with the chief director of the Opera to give you there a permanent job as the sketcher and painter of the theater. Now about your marvelous creation, what can I say? , I greatly appreciate your work." He reached into his wallet and paid another 500 $ to the artist. "I think this picture needs a beautiful golden frame as well. Can you recommend a good frame workshop?" "Yes sir, I shall see that it will be framed. As for the price I still don’t know. It could be about 500-to 600 $. It depends on the frame." "Order the best and have also your portrait sketch framed." "Jahwohl, mein Herr" Wolfgang said "I shall call you when they will be ready. In another week the painting and the portrait were ready and Wolfgang asked Ben where to deliver them. He gave him the address of his apartment and the paintings arrived together with the artist. Ben asked his advice as to the best place for the oil painting to be hanged on the wall. Then again he thanked him for his efforts on his behalf and told him repeatedly that he would do his best to find employment for him in the theater. He paid all the accounts to Wolfgang and took a hearty farewell from him. Then he put the portrait in his archive.

After his work, Benyamin spent long hours looking covetously at the painting on the wall. He immersed himself in deep thoughts and murmured. ‘Give up, Ben, Give up. This crazy obsession leads you nowhere. Even the old artist, Wolfgang, thinks that you’re a kind of nut. You’re chasing a ghost and you’ve already wasted a month’s salary for this nonsense. Better think of living women, there’s no scarcity of them.’ But he decided that he would make a final try in the coming skiing season in Switzerland, exactly in that tourist hotel where his dream took place. In January he took a week’s leave and left for Switzerland. The winter resort place was teeming with hundreds of sport-loving tourists. He scrutinized the faces of all the young women among the guests, but none of them resembled his Ella. 'All right,' he said to himself 'That’s it'. I’ve finished with the dream and with Austria as well. I’ll return to Israel and what will happen, will happen. I am through with it! I must live in a real world. Joseph will die at laughing at me, but I deserve it. I hope I shall find my place back in my work and with my friends.'


Shortly after his return from Switzerland, Benyamin requested another leave from the Opera, under the pretext of visiting an old ailing relative of his in Israel. When the leave was granted he ordered the ticket from El Al to fly to Israel on the next day to Tel-Aviv. He also called his friend Joseph and told him about his arrival, tomorrow, approximately at half past ten in the morning. Joseph was more than surprised about the unexpected arrival of his good friend and came to the Ben-Gurion Airport with his wife, holding a large bouquet of flowers in his hand. When the two friends met they fell into each other’s arms. "Welcome home," Joseph said to Ben "Has any special event happened for your sudden visit?" Benyamin hesitated as what to say, and then he uttered, with his eyes cast down, "I have finished with Austria." "Did they fire you from your job in the Opera?" asked Joseph. Benyamin shook his head "On the contrary, lately they talked about my advancement and further improvement in my salary." "What then?" Joseph asked him curiously. "My quest of finding there my dream girl has turned out to be a total failure." Joseph put his hand on Ben’s shoulder. "You know, I had a gut feeling that it would end so. But, on the other hand I’m more than happy that in the long run you’ve come back to your senses." After a pause he asked him. "Have you in your mind to return to Habima?" "I doubt if they have a job for me, but I’ll certainly try."

When Benyamin reported to the office of Mr. Sandor, in the Habima Theater, his former boss greeted him with a warm handshake. "Welcome, welcome, what is a great stage director doing in our modest theater?" Sandor asked him humbly. "The great director is looking for a job." Benyamin said. Sandor looked at him questioningly. "You’ve quit your job in the Wiener Opera?" "No! Nothing of the sort. They’re very pleased with me and even offered me a raise in my wages." "What then?" Sandor asked, surprised. "Simple homesickness. Besides I couldn’t find there people I could socialize with, not friends, I mean real, true friends which I have in Israel. And above all I couldn’t find a girl there whom I would marry. Most of the time I felt there an outsider, But on the other hand I’ve greatly succeeded professionally." "I see the problem," said Sandor pondering "I understand you’d like to return to your former job with us." "I don’t know if you have a vacant job?" "Look, I’ll be honest with you," said Sandor "We’d be very pleased to take you back, especially a man with your fame and experience, but as you know there’s an economic recession in Israel these days and we must go on running the theater on a very restricted budget. So for the time being I can’t take you back. But I promise you, you’ll be the first to be employed when the economic circumstances improve." "I completely understand you," answered Benyamin. "Can you delay your resignation from the Wiener Opera for a while?" asked Sandor" "I can delay it as long as I want. The thing is that I’ve made up my mind to return to Israel, the sooner the better." "So, you heard me," said Sandor "I’ll do my best to take you back. Just be patient, it will be all right soon. By the way, can you tell me how much do you earn in a month in Vienna?" "About 8000 $." Sandor smirked. "It’s twice as much as my wage here. But regarding your salary and employment conditions we shall talk when the time comes. Please leave your address and phone number in Vienna with my secretary."

Expressing his intention to resign from his post in Vienna Opera was still more painful for him. The old chief, Berger, was shocked hearing the news. He grasped Binyamin’s hand and held it in his for a while and Benyamin saw tears in his eyes. "It was a difficult procedure to employ you in our theater, but it will be still harder to part from you. What happened, my dear man?" "Nothing that concerns you, the theater, or the people here. It’s purely personal. You see I came to Vienna to make progress in my profession, but also to find a wife. To my sorrow I couldn’t find one, nor could I find friends here. I mean real, true friends, with whom one can share his joys and sorrows. Besides I have also homesickness." "Well," said the old man, "your departure means a great loss not only for the Opera, but for me personally. We all will miss you a lot." "I’ll miss you too as well," replied Ben "just one more thing please; maybe you know that there’s an economic recession in Israel in these day. I talked to my former employer in the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv. He said that for the time being there’s no job for me available, but he gave his word to find one, as soon as possible. So until then can I hold on in my post?" "You certainly can. Maybe in the meantime you’ll change your mind and stay with us." "I thank you very much for your kindness" said Benyamin." "And I thank you for your honesty." The chief said. "Just one more thing, please," said Benyamin" "Some days ago as I was walking on the one of the squares of Vienna I saw a group of artists drawing sketches of people. I put my attention on one sketcher whom I found the best of them. His name is Eric Wolfgang. He’s also a painter. I think that he is an exceptionally talented artist and thought maybe the Opera would be benefited by employing an artist like him, for drawing sketches, or occasionally doing oil paintings of people, artists, singers, dancers, musicians who perform here. He could also make scenery and backdrops on the stage and the like. In my opinion he is a wasted talent. I promised him I would talk to you and favorably mention him. Here’s his address and phone number." "By all means, we shall think about him," reacted Berger. "I thank you for your concern."

The days passed by and Benyamin grew restless in his anticipation of Sandor’s call. But after some three months his letter arrived from Tel Aviv heralding him to can come and talk with him about a job the Theater had to offer him. He again took an airplane and flew back to Tel Aviv and reported to Sandor. "Look, my dear friend," he said "I did my best and turned to different Governmental Departments claiming that our theater is in urgent need of refreshing its staff and there’s now an exceptional opportunity to employ a talented stage director, an Israeli, who worked with us for ten years and went for a year’s advanced study in his profession to Vienna and he’s currently employed by the Wiener State Opera there. He’s a bargain, I told them."
"What can I say, I greatly appreciate your efforts. When can I start?" "It depends on you, my friend, but wait, we haven’t talked yet about your wages. We simply cannot pay you what you earn in Vienna. The most we can offer is 5000 $ a month. Does it satisfy you?" "In Vienna I earned more, much more. But on the other hand I squandered a lot of money on things, which I could easily dispense of. Besides, as a bachelor I ate in expensive restaurants and spent a lot of money there. I hope, that when I’ll be a married man, I can get along with a lesser income." "I hope so, and I’m sure in Vienna you paid much more for everything than here," said Sandor. "Well then, if you agree," he went on "you can start your job here whenever you’ll be ready." Thank you again Mr. Sandor. I’ll keep you informed."

Now he had to do the whole ceremony of repatriation again. Namely: To find a comfortable apartment to rent in Tel Aviv, to quit his job and apartment in Vienna, to arrange different things for his return to Israel. As a bachelor, he didn’t have to move heavy furniture and all his belongings could be packed into a few suitcases, except for the big oil painting of Wolfgang’s, for which he had to find special arrangement for shipping it to Tel Aviv. After all these tiring things had been done Benyamin gradually returned to his routine way of life which he left a year before in Tel Aviv. His work in the Habima Theater was incomparably easier than in Vienna, still an accountable job to fulfill. His former colleagues were happy for his comeback.

Chapter five

Some months after on a fine sunny day in spring, Benyamin left his home to wander the streets of Tel Aviv. Usually his morning hours were free. He took along his morning newspaper with him with the intention of reading it in the nearby park. He sat on an empty bench and started reading his paper. Shortly after, a young woman sat beside him holding a book. Benyamin looked at her, astonished. He couldn’t believe his eyes. After some hesitation he turned to her. "I beg your pardon. Your face seems to me so familiar. I’m sure we have met somewhere before, but I can’t remember where, or when." The woman shook her head. "I don’t think so, I’ve never met you before." "I swear, we’ve met somewhere, I even have a picture of you, or better to say a portrait." "A portrait of me?" she asked in disbelief. "How could this be possible when we have never met until now?" "Look, my name is Benyamin. I am a stage director and I do not have slightest intention of molesting you, or fooling you. I live not far from here. I would like to show you the portrait. Please don’t go away. I’ll be back in a short time. Promise not going away?" The woman looked at him flabbergasted. She said, wondering, "Well, I will wait for you-for a while."
He sprang from the place and began running like a madman. Although his residence was not far away, he hailed the first taxicab, telling the driver to wait for him till he returned. Finding the portrait, he told the driver to take him back to the park. To his house and back to the park took only twenty minutes, but he was left breathless, fearing that in the meantime the woman had disappeared. But she was still sitting on the bench, calmly reading her book. Seeing Benyamin holding the portrait under his arm, panting heavily, she observed, "I see, you’ve run. You shouldn’t have. I grew curious about the portrait you told me about. Well, let’s have a look." Benjamin opened the wrapping paper and handed the portrait over to her, then sat beside her on the bench.

"Oh," she put her hand on her chest and gasping in amazement. "Who is this beautiful woman?" "Well, it could be you," he said. "Me??? Sorry I can’t follow you, what do you mean? I’ve never posed for a portrait." "Neither did this woman." said Benyamin. "Now I’m totally confused, how did this portrait come into your possession?" "It’s a long story and I’m certainly willing to tell you, I just ask you please, to meet again in a quiet place, in a small coffee shop, for example." "In short, you want a date with me?" "Sort of," replied Benyamin, smiling. "All right," she said, "where do you want to meet me?" "Are you free tomorrow morning," he asked her "let’s say at ten o’clock? We shall meet here, and then find some place in the neighborhood." "That sounds fine to me. Okay," she said and gave him her hand. My name is Irena Galatov." "That sounds like a Russian name," he said. "Sure it is. Something wrong about it?" she asked a little defensively. "Well, no! Your Hebrew sounds perfect. Are you an immigrant to the country?" "I came to Israel as a little girl with my parents." "Amazing," Benyamin said, "by the way, do you work?" "Presently I’m unemployed. I used to work as draftswoman at a big building firm, but they fired me because of the shortage in orders." "What a pity, well then, see you tomorrow and I shall have still a greater surprise to show you, if you should be interested." She gave him back the portrait and said, "You seem to me an extraordinary person, and I’m looking forward to hearing your weird story." They parted with a warm handshake.


It could not be said that he slept much that night. He turned and tossed in his bed and regretted that he had not asked her for her address, or at least her phone number, but an inner voice in his heart told him she would come to meet him again. On the next morning he arrived at the garden half an hour earlier in his strong anticipation of meeting her again. Indeed, she came, right on time. She looked fresh, well groomed. Her hair-do seemed to him as if she’d just emerged from a beauty salon. She offered him her hand and said, "Shalom, Benyamin. Shall we go?"

They walked to a nearby coffeehouse and sat in the rear corner. Benyamin ordered two cups of coffee and cakes. She crossed her legs, took out a cigarette case from her handbag and lighted it. Benyamin apologized for not doing it for her "I’ve a bad habit," he said "I don’t smoke." She laughed wholeheartedly. "I wish I didn’t, but I got used to it during my service in the Army. Have you been in the Army too?" "Sure, I have," he said, "two and half years in the Golani unit." "And I served," she said, "as officer in the field engineering center." "Officer, you said, do you have a rank?" "Sure, second lieutenant." "Quite respectable," agreed Ben. "And you have a rank as well?" she asked with interest. "No, I’ve never aspired to a military career; I had other goals to achieve in my life." "Like what?" "Like to be a good professional in my work." "You said you were a stage director. You work in a theater?" "Yes indeed, in Habima." "It must be an interesting job." "It definitely is, but let’s talk about you and about your amazing resemblance to the girl in that portrait." "All right, I am all ears," she said expectantly. He began telling her the story about his dream, carefully evading the intimate parts. The more he told her, she found it more fantastic and mystifying.

"I was chasing a dream," he confessed, "compelling myself to believe in it. I didn’t want to listen to my friends' good advices who thought that I was a lunatic, pursuing a ghost. I looked for her everywhere in Europe and I was convinced that she must have existed somewhere. Just before I left Austria I saw in one of the main squares of Vienna a group of artists who were drawing sketches of people. I chose the best of them and gave him my special request to draw a sketch of a girl according to my description, without actually seeing her. Well, he agreed and this is how this portrait was created. Now," he went on "after searching so long after her, after going through soul tormenting vicissitudes, after growing depressed and frustrated, after squandering a fortune, You came across, here in Israel, in my own hometown, just a few blocks away from my house, and I find you so like her, so pretty, so nice. My God, what funny tricks my fate plays with me."

She listened to him dumbfounded. "An unbelievable story," she said shaking her head "I doubt if I am so beautiful as that girl on your portrait." "You’ll believe me when you’ll see an oil painting of her." "An oil painting…?" she asked, wonderingly. "Sure, it is in my house, hanging on the wall. It is from the same artist who drew the portrait you saw yesterday. Would you like to see it?" "Certainly I would, but don’t you think it’s too soon for a decent girl like me to go to a man’s house? Although I trust you, I hardly know you. It’s only yesterday that we met for the first time. Perhaps later. We shall meet again and again and we shall know each other better." "You’re absolutely right, I’m just too enthusiastic about you, and you are my dream come true." He paused. "You know what? Do you like theater?" "Yes," she nodded. "Sure." "Then may I invite you to see our latest performance, 'The Taming of the Shrew'." "Of Shakespeare?" she asked. "Precisely," he said, surprised. "Well then, would you please give me your phone number so I can call and tell you on what day and when exactly the show will start. I think I shall have no difficulties getting tickets." She wrote her number on a piece of paper and he copied it on his cell phone’s memory. "But before we part I have a special request of you: please don’t tell anybody, not even your parents, the story of that portrait, they might think I am a lunatic. If at all, tell them that you met me at a party." "Trust me, I know how to handle this thing," she said confidently.

He called her the next day and told her about the precise date and time of the performance in Hamiba. "I’ll be waiting for you at the entrance." On the day of the show she arrived at the theater dressed beautifully in an elegant, dark blue evening frock and with a becoming handbag. Her long black hair was arranged wave upon wave, with a large hairpin securing the elaborate structure. She behaved like a lady of high society, accustomed to frequent visits to theatres and balls. They sat in their theater armchairs and she seemed very enchanted by the play and when the curtains fell down she lively applauded the actors. Now and then Benyamin tried to put his arm around her shoulder, and she didn’t object. After attending the theater show they had frequent rendezvous and Benyamin took her to cinemas, concerts and dance-clubs. They seemed to enjoy very much each other’s company.

One day Benyamin met his friend Joseph in the buffet of the theater. "I want to talk to you," he said. "There’s a rumor going around here, a rumor that in the meantime has been substantiated, that you’ve got a girlfriend and everybody knows about it, except me, your best friend. What can you say about it?" "That’s right," Benyamin admitted, "and I didn’t want to tell you until I was sure that my affair with her is serious." "Well, who is she?" Joseph asked him. "I met her incidentally in a park and I found her astonishingly like the girl in my dream." "Whoa, whoa," exclaimed Joseph astounded, "and how are things going on with her?" "Very well, she’s beautiful, smart, and an able girl, daughter of Russian immigrants, and she speaks a fluent Hebrew. Her age is about 24. We’ve dated several times and we’re happy together." "Gorgeous," said Joseph and gave his hand to Benyamin. "Congratulations. I wish you the best luck and I’m looking forward to getting to know her." "Of course, I’ll introduce her to you in due time," he said.


"I told my parents about you," said Irena "They’d like to meet you. Can I fix a date with them?" "Why not, I’d love to," Benyamin replied. "All right," she said, "I shall make an arrangement that will be convenient to everybody and I shall inform you."
The family meeting took place on Sabbath at noon. Irena’s parents had prepared for the meeting carefully. They lived in one of the new suburbs of Tel Aviv in a modern, four-room apartment. Nikolai, Irena's father, worked as a chief mechanic, operating a huge press machine at one of Israel’s largest newspapers, ‘Maariv’. Her mother, Elena, owned a beauty salon. ‘Hence, why Irena’s hair is always well kept,’ thought Benyamin. Both of her parents were in their fifties. They had succeeded in leaving Russia in the 80s when there was, for a very short period of time, a tiny aperture in the ‘Iron Curtain’, for the Jews to escape from Russia. Also Irena’s little sister; aged 14, sat at the table.

Irena presented Benyamin to her family as her newly acquired friend met at a party of colleagues. Irena’s mother invited him to sit and have dinner with them and there was a cordial atmosphere in which Benyamin told the family about his past and about his current work. They found him a very agreeable and sociable fellow, with good table manners. After a delicious meal, the family retired to the living room and while her parents continued talking with Benyamin, Irena sat down at a big piano by the window and began to play. Soon the room echoed with the familiar and lugubrious tunes of Chopin. Irena played enchantingly, emotionally. Suddenly Binyamin’s eyes blurred and tears washed down his face. He excused himself and took out a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe off his tears. Everybody asked what had happened to him. "Nothing," he said, "just Irena’s playing brought back memories from the past." Irena stopped her playing and came to him. "What memories?" she asked. "I’ll tell you about them some other time. You pretty much surprised me. You’ve not told me were so good at playing the piano." "Well," she said, "I still haven’t told you a lot of things. Everything comes with time." "Could you please play more?" asked Benyamin. "Certainly, with pleasure," she said and returned to the piano. She began to play a section from Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata'.

Benyamin remarked to her parents, "I see you gave an excellent education to your daughters, does Irena’s sister also play the piano?" "She does as well, but she started learning not so long ago," said Elena. "And you, Elena can also play the piano?" "Yes, she does," replied Irena suddenly, stopping her playing. "Mother, play us something," she begged her "you can play Mozart so superbly." She hauled her mother almost forcefully to the piano. Elena sat bashfully at the piano and tried to concentrate. Then she began to play and everybody in the room became spell bound. Benyamin eyes filled up again with tears. Again Irena asked him, "Why do you cry Benyamin?" "I am crying with happiness," he confessed. "You’re just a wonderful and a cultured family I haven’t met a better one." "Do you like so much music?" asked Irena’s father. "Yes, I do. Not only music but ballet, opera, dancing, fine literature, poetry and of course, theater, which is my profession." "So, you’re in the right place," observed Irena, "all of us are keen lovers of the arts. It is a family trait with us." "We’d like Irena to become a piano teacher," said Elena.

They went on talking and chatting for a good while, and then Benyamin rose and looking at his watch, he said, "Sorry, I have to go now. I have an appointment to meet somebody from the theater in connection with our future performances. So, I say that I’m more than pleased to meet you. I hope I shall see you again soon." "Right," said Elena, "come to us whenever you please."

Benyamin was as happy, as he had never been before. He waited eagerly for his next date with Irena. When she came he told her of his utter delight with her family. "They’re such nice and amiable folks and it was easy for me to find a common language with them." "They said similar things about you. They said that you’re a very sympathetic and bright fellow." "Well then, I have heard everybody’s opinion of me, except yours." They were sitting in an elegant confectionary shop on Ben Yehuda Street, eating cakes and ice cream. "You’ll hear mine, but first I’d like to see that oil painting you talked about so passionately, I’m dying of curiosity."

"You…Are you serious? Do you think the time has arrived that you will come to my house?" She made a sign of consent with her head. "Yes, I will," she said. "When? Now?" he asked her. "Why not?" "Okay, finish your cake and cream and off we go." "Shall we take a cab, or walk? It’s not far from here." "Then walk," she said. They walked hand in hand, whistling, till they reached the house. His apartment was on the third floor and they took the elevator. They entered and Benyamin opened the room where the painting was hanging on the wall and switched on the light. She stood before the large painting for a long while, contemplating the picture in devoted silence. Finally she said "This is the most beautiful image of a woman I’ve ever seen. She’s so gentle, so inspiringly delicate, and her smile is reminiscent of Mona Lisa. You said I’ve reminded you of her. Do you really think I am so beautiful?" "Yes, you are. Yes, you are," he repeated emphatically. "Look, this is a work of art, and the artist painted this picture according to the details I described to him. But this girl in the picture existed only in my dream. You are a living thing, somebody whom I can touch; whom I can feel in my arms, and somebody I can kiss." He cuddled her up and kissed her passionately on her mouth.
She said nothing but moved away from him to the rear corner of the room, took off her clothing and came back and stood in the front of him naked. "Oh no!" he uttered shocked "I didn’t call you here for having sex with you." "It’s not only you who had dreams," she said "I had my own dreams as well. Hold me please, hold me tight." She aroused in him an overpowering desire and they embraced fiercely. Then he took her to his bed and they enjoyed a sweeping act of sex. When they finished she asked him. "One thing you forgot to tell me: Why did you cry when I played Chopin?" "Yes, you’re right. I did forget to tell you. Well, when I was telling you the story of my dream, I omitted, not intentionally, the part when I came into the bar of that tourist hotel in Switzerland, and played on the piano ballads of Chopin. In real life I can’t play the piano, but I adore Chopin and your playing reminded me of my dream, the dream that’s now coming true." She kissed him again. "You’re so sentimental. I love you! I love you!" she exclaimed. She rose from the bed and began dancing around the room, naked and rejoicing. Then she came back to him and declared again, "I love you. Do you love me too?" "With all my heart," he affirmed.

Some weeks later when they met again in his house she surprised Benyamin by saying, "I think the time has arrived for us to discuss marriage." "We can talk," he said, "but it must wait for some time." "Why?" she asked. "Well, for two reasons: First of all I live in a rented residence and it costs me a fortune. I want to buy a house for us. I have some savings, but it’s hardly sufficient for that." "We could receive government loans from the Ministry of Housing as a young couple," she explained. "Also, my parents may help us in this regard. And what’s the second reason?" "The second is that a wedding is a costly ceremony. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances to invite, my bosses and colleagues from the theater. Also, my former chief Mr. Berger from Vienna and of course the artist Wolfgang who drew that painting. I maintain you also have many guests and friends to come for the wedding party: Natasha, Sergey, Galina, Ilich, Ivanova, Boris, Katja, Pieter, Anna, Vladimir…" "You know, you’re teasing me," she said "most of my friends are Israelis. How do you know all these Russian names?" "From the theater, and I also have a lot of friends of Russian origin." "All right," she said, appeased, "I just wanted to tell you that to arrange a wedding party in these days can be a lucrative business. For example, a friend of mine got married; they made a big, big party, inviting some 500 guests. But they received so many presents, so much cash money, that they could cover all of their expenses and there was enough money left for taking a beautiful honeymoon voyage as well." "I see," he said, "that you’re not only a pretty lady, but also quite practical," he said "That's right," she agreed.

They sat for a while in companionable silence, and then she said resolutely "I also want to raise a family. Do you like children?" "Very much." he said. "How many children do you think we shall have in our family?" "At least enough to form a football team." She again protested, "You just keep on teasing me." He rose and held her tightly in his arms and kissed her. "Hold your horses, my dear, you’re rushing ahead too fast. We have hardly known each other a month, we are not married yet and you’re already making far-reaching plans. Take it easy, everything will come in due time." "That’s because I love you so much," she said. "Do you know that tea song from an old movie of Doris Day?" he asked her and put a record on the stereo set. "Listen"

Oh honey, picture me, upon your knee
With tea for two and two for a tea
Just me for you and you for me, alone
Nobody is near us, to see us or hear us
No friends, or relations, on weekend vacation
We won’t have to known dear,
We own a telephone, dear.
Day will break and I’m going to wake
And start to bake a sugar cake
For you to take for all the boys to see, darling
We will raise a family, a boy for you and a girl for me
Can’t you see how happy we shall be? 
And they lived happily ever after
This is all folks
                      The End

                             Dear readers
      The beautiful woman on the cover is not the mysterious Ella Bernstein from my book, but a portrait of Mme RIMSKY KORSAKOVA. This marvelous painting is not the work of ERIC WOLFGANG, the Viennese sketcher from the book, but the creation of the painter FRANZ XAVER WINTERHOUSE, who drew this picture in the year of 1864. I was searching thoroughly the pages of the Internet editions, looking for a painting of a woman who would match the image of ELLA BERNSTEIN in my book, until I finally have found this one in the OLGA’S GALLERY SECTION. I became fascinated by this painting and I think that many of my contemporary fellowmen would fall in love with this woman at first sight, if they met her. But unfortunately, this lovely lady lived in the eighteenth century and only this painting has preserved her extraordinary beauty.
Zeev Bar Ilan


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