Frieda Goldberg and four-year-old Josh had been slaves in New Jersey, where her ex-husband lived, but G-d took them out from there with a mighty hand. With her lump sum settlement she bought a cramped trailer and the promise of a house in time for Passover.. Frieda drank her coffee and listened to the steady bang-bang outside; loving how her new, unfinished cottage, or rather the plastic partitions that blocked her view of the construction work, sparkled in the sun.
The Arabs’ boss, Itzik the contractor, rumbled onto the site in a crane and deposited a hundred cinder blocks on the new, unfinished roof. He stopped in Frieda’s trailer for a glass of water and said, “On my honor, giveret, your house will definitely be finished before Pesach.”
Still, during a bomb scare, a rainstorm, or a building freeze, the Arabs didn’t work and construction cranked down to a stop. On those days Frieda’s Yemenite neighbors sat outside their houses. Their children took up sticks and plastic tricycles against imaginary mazikim.
One day, two weeks before Passover, Itzik’s Arabs worked with intensity. Frieda kneaded dough. Normally she wouldn’t, so close to Pesach, but Itzik had said the new place would be finished any day: a new, clean cottage for Pesach. Through the window she saw Josh jacking up someone’s toy tractor. He was cold; his unbuttoned cardigan flapped in the wind.
Rain fell in thick drops on the window. The Arab electrician spread out a plastic sheet like a tent, where he lit a small fire for coffee.
Lightning flashed at the end of the street, revealing six rows of rusted stilts that apparently had supported projects from the first Temple era, and would probably continue to support all kinds of structures until Moshiach came, unless they all collapsed first from terrorism, lack of funds, or too little faith. These stilts in fact held up her new house, her life investment, on a foundation of rocks and half-rotted planks.
Frieda’s roof, with the hundred cinder blocks piled on top, wobbled in the wind. This scared her. The Arab drank his coffee and left his bag behind. That too scared her.
Kids played with a garden hose, filling empty coca-cola bottles with water, in crashing vicinity of the cinder blocks. Besides, the Arab’s bag, black and dirty, bulged with odd-shaped angular objects. The rain fell in sheets.
Hands full of dough, Frieda pushed the door with her elbow, stepped outside, and yelled, in English, “Get away! See those cinder blocks!” and “hey! What’s in that bag?”
Nobody took notice. Frustrated, she yelled, “Hey! Hey!”
The women turned. Frieda pointed to the cinder blocks on the roof. No reaction. She pointed to the ground and said, “Boom!” at the exact coordinated moment when thunder struck.
Frieda’s neighbors looked at the roof and then the bag. One dragged her son home. Josh went on playing. Frieda dashed after him, and then she stopped short. The boy’s clothes, ears and hair would glob together from the doughy condition of her hands. Before Passover she would have to wash everything, and they didn’t have a machine; it was still on the boat.
Home in the trailer, she scrubbed her hands, swished Josh in and out of the shower, and into pajamas. She grabbed the phone, and suddenly woke up to the naked truth that she had nobody to call here.
In New Jersey, fraud investigators would storm in right away with the fire chief, the building inspector, and the bomb squad.
She knocked on Itzik’s door.
Itzik’s wife poured her a cup of black coffee. “Drink,” she urged.
Itzik sat down and shut his eyes. “I hear you,” he said, though Frieda had said nothing. “Don’t worry; I’ll keep an eye on the house. I can’t take down the cinder blocks; the workers went home. And yes, a police dog could sniff out the bag, but in real life the police don’t come to the territories. Anyway, if the bag explodes, dust will fly; that’s all. And the truth is,” he continued softly, “there’s a mazik in that house; but don’t worry; I’m going to kill it.”
Frieda returned to her trailer. The furniture shipment arrived and sat in the rain, outside her trailer, and then, for the first Pesach in her life, Frieda Goldberg actually tasted freedom and faith.