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Short Stories

CIRCUMCISION

an historical fiction by Michael Picardie.

According to my mother my circumcision was performed by a "mole".

I must have been 7 in 1943 when we had this discussion. This operation occurs when the male child is 8 days old. Nowadays an anaesthetic jell is applied. This medication is absorbed into the child's body so that the little boy is asleep when the surgery occurs.

On August 21st 1936, 8 days after my birthday this holy rite was performed on my body in my grandparents' house in Berea not far from Johannesburg's city centre - Jo'burg - South Africa's answer to Babylon - in terms of its pagan ethos, its materialism, its worship of the gods of success and money, and post-apartheid, its sheer criminality.

The most my mother would say about medication 7 years later after my "brit milah" the covenant of circumcision was that I was given a wad of cotton wool soaked in sweet red sanctification wine to suck during the ceremony. In other words like millions of Jewish circumcisees I was drunk 8 days after the trauma of birth being drastically injured genitally "into the covenant of Abraham" which means obeying the law of God" said my father: "believing in the one and only un-graven image of God, [who is addressed as "Elohim" - gods - all condensed into the one YHVH,] not worshipping other gods, respecting one's parents, keeping the sabbath day, not murdering, stealing, bearing false witness, or committing adultery." He had studied anthropology and Freud before he went to university after the war and understood the mechanisms of the unconscious mind like "condensation" - all gods subsumed and transcended by YHVH Adonai...

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THE GOLEM IN THE VELD

by Michael Picardie.

Now this policeman was harassing us in our own synagogue. He noted the registration numbers of all the guests outside in the car park off Louis Botha Avenue. He went into what we called the sanctuary and sat at the back with a borrowed skull-cap on.Scarlet.

Captain Van Wyk made notes as the officiating Rabbi Blumberg spoke about what progressive Jews like us could do now that the Afrikaner Nationalists had come to power after the whites- only election of 1948. A synagogue warden came up to the plain-clothes detective and asked him to stop. He said he was a police-officer and was investigating a charge of treason. He showed his police ID card. The warden was shocked and whispered this information to the rabbi during his address. Blumberg acknowledged this with a smile and a wave of his hand as if it didn't matter. "Above all", he said in the midst of his discourse: "We must show that we are not going to be intimidated".

By the time I was 13 I knew from what my parents told me, from what had already emerged at the Nuremberg trials and the books and articles that followed, that millions had died in a war against the vilest racism the world had ever seen - in Europe. The killing of civilians was mercilessly industrialised in the death-camps....

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DEATH IN SINAI, LIFE IN YEZ'RE'EL

A fiction based on an historical fact by Michael Picardie.

Sipho Ngubane and his wife Bongile Ngakane wanted us to go to Israel together. We were all going to Oxford on scholarships and a Christian charity would pay for the two Africans to stay for a year to help teach Christian Arabs English on our way to England. In 1958 I was a 22 year old Jew interested in Zionism. I would be working for Kol Israel, actually its overseas service - Kol Zion Lagolah broadcasting the Israeli/Zionist news to South Africa every evening in English.

Sipho, Bongile and I were contemporaries at Witwatersrand University from 1954-1957. Before the Afrikaner Nationalist government banned Africans from what would become a "white" university. I have never thought of myself as a white Ashkenazi European. In origin I am an eastern European Jew with some Tatar and Slav genetic characteristics. Tatars and Slavs either intermarried with the Jews in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland over 800 years, or raped Jewish women who, according to Jewish religious law, conveyed theirs, the mothers', not child's father's religion to the descendent. Besides there must have been illicit affairs short of rape.....

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THE NAMING OF JUDITH

A fiction by Michael Picardie.

Once Eve - Chavvah - was eminent. That's why she got a job at Hadassa Hospital in West Jerusalem. In 1946 when she was 26. Head of clinical psychology. Specialist in post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now it was 1957. Why was she now a kibbutz Hebrew teacher? She was 37 - an interesting age, not young, not old. I was 21......

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A BLACK RABBI IN JO'BURG

A story by Michael Picardie.

My mother was once a cleaning lady. Before I could walk I clung to her back wrapped in a blanket tied around her waist and throat - yes - even in London whence we fled because the Special Branch were tormenting her and my father. I was an only child, and we were relative nobodies in the ANC.

Thabo Mbeki was the crown prince, ready and waiting to step into the next generation of leaders once Mandela, Thabo's father Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and the others were be released from Robben Island. The on-going negotiations with De Klerk's government were concluded and a new democratic constitution written.......

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PLATO'S CAVE

A fiction by Michael Picardie.

I was 15 in the summer of 1941 on the day the Germans invaded eastern Poland and Lithuania.

My maternal grandfather, Rabbi Philip Oshry, carrying a hunting rifle, took me and my friend Estrella from my aunt Faith Rosen's house - for our own good - to a cave in the Belarus forest which was to be our refuge during the war........

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THE KALAHARI HEIDEGGER

A fiction by Michael Picardie.

Agriculture is now a motorized food industry, the same thing in its essence as the production of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps, the same thing as blockades and the reduction of countries to famine, the same thing as the manufacture of hydrogen bombs.

I said that in Bremen in 1949. People were shocked. I had put abattoirs in the same category as gas-chambers. But we, all homo sapiens, are animals, although with consciousness which can alienate us from the fullness of Being or fulfil Being.......

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LEAP OF FAITH

A fiction by Michael Picardie.

I am on the way home to our redbrick Edwardian flat above the chichi shops just across the road from the train station. Very late on a Saturday night - been out with my old class-mates from the Mendelson College in north London.

Bloke with a Makarov pistol - by the look of it - is apparently waiting for me outside Hampstead Heath Overground Station. He's just checking it, thinking nobody's around except me, the target........

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THE TRACTATUS OF MORDECHAI PEKARSKY

A fiction by Michael Picardie.

It was the summer of 1939. They had somewhere to take refuge, a safe place which would be a shelter for them. Mordechai, who was 9 years old, wondered if God was really out there in the world. Could God be in the same world as Hitler and Stalin? If He was anywhere He was in a person's "heart". To him "heart" meant not only the thing he could feel in his chest, pumping the blood round his body, keeping him alive... It had something to do with spirit... or soul... His father told him the ancient Greek for soul was psyche the same word as for butterfly... Which metamorphosed from a chrysalis.......

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THE BUSHMAN'S STORY

A fiction by Michael Picardie.

I was found on the doorstep of a doctors' surgery in a cardboard box wrapped in a jackal kaross in August 1946. It was a dog, the household dog, an intrepid guard dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback called Sheba, still nursing her puppies who discovered me in my humble improvised cradle. Apparently she, Sheba took a fancy to me. .......

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I

A fiction by Michael Picardie.

According to archaeological findings the San or "Bushmen"" of the Cape Colony are homo sapiens who are thought to have originated about 200,000 years ago and migrated to Southern Africa from the Rift Valley between about 75,000 to 45,000 years ago.....

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