By David Hartley Mark
Beit Alpha, YisraelHehChadasha/NewIsrael, Charon IB, Nisan 4, 5813:
I wish we hadn’t come. We might still be living in Ashdod to this day—Savta tells Nirit and me all about the beautiful park with the roses and carnations that grew in the spring, and the way the songbirds would perch in the palm trees. Here, all we have is the Dome. Sure, there are trees, but they are all hydroponic, and if you want to go out for a shpatzir, as Uncle Moishe calls it, a stroll in the PlanetActual, you have to wear a DrySuit with oxygen and weighted boots. The solar wind blows dust all about, there is nothing to look at, and the sand sucks at your feet.
It’s just Pluto.
“It is what it is,” says Uncle Moishe, “What can you do? We’re lucky to be alive, Uri—‘Better a living dog than a dead lion,’ as the Rabbis of Blessed Memory tell us.”
I don’t know what that means. I have never seen a dog or a lion, only pictures.
Nothing has been the same on OldEarth since Year 2026, when Iran—where was that, exactly?—next door to Yisrael Ha-Ateekah, Ancient Israel, that is, Israel on OldEarth—got The Bomb, and some Meshugenah named Lieberman—was he the Prime Minister, or the Defense Minister, or both?—together with a fellow named Bennett—and blew it up over Teheran.
We were gone by then. We were safe. Some guy, a rich American named—Babelson? Shmadelson?—got us out, by building a spaceship big enough for most of his home town—Las Vegetables?—and all of us Israelis, too. We were lucky to make it.
Shmadelson didn’t; he and some other billionaire fellow named—Bump? Thrump?—tried to build a big dome in the desert, full of other rich people, alongside another dome built by Nazarenes called End-Timers, but, in the end, a horde of radioactive zombies broke into their domes and ate them all.
That’s what we heard, through the static, until Itzik the Inventor perfected the Radio Antenna, and got us a better signal. Cable, or something.
I wonder what OldEarth looks like now. Well, it doesn’t matter.
Here on NewIsrael, we have it all nicely divided up. The Haredim, the Ultra-Orthodox, are on the Right Side of the planet, the part that’s always in Sun; the Reform are next door. They meet and argue every Monday and Thursday. I don’t know why. And then, they go off and daven in their separate ways. If they need to make a minyan, they help each other out. It’s strange, but it works. The Mesoratiim, who used to be called Conservative, back when there was something to Conserve, live on the boundary-line between, and try to help both sides out, but no one listens to them.
Most of us are Chiloneeyim—Secular. We keep to ourselves, mostly, and build computer parts to add to the radio telescopes and computer search programs that the HiTechies are developing, with Itzik at the head. Abba goes to the weekly, sometimes nightly, meetings—he used to be on the Board of the IsraelAircraft-Space Authority back on OldEarth—but he really can’t talk about anything that goes on there. Big Secret Stuff. Deep Black, they call it.
I think that’s what got us into all that trouble the first time. Deep Black.
I love going to school. The only sad part is when the teacher dims the lights and plays hologram-videos from OldIsrael. She usually cries: her family did not come along on the AdelArk, and so was lost to the Iranian Bomb. In between her sobbing, she reads from a long scroll, which she calls the Torah. It’s all chipped, shredded, and losing parts and stitching.
She also adds a printed book she calls the Commentary Lau oo’Netanyahu, which was written by a former Chief Rabbi and Someone Else; something about Never Returning the Liberated Areas.
I don’t know what any of it means.
We supposedly have Chief Rabbis now, but no one listens to them. Except the Haredim. I don’t know their names.
Abba was very angry the other night. Apparently, a group of Haredi Settler Militia entered the Plutonian Zone, which is forbidden by Treaty, and took over a section of Contested Land. The Plutonian Natives were angry, and used their Ionization Rays to atomize one of the Settlers, some young Haredi hothead named Naftali Bennett IV. It took a lot of negotiations between us and the Plutonians to settle the matter peacefully, but the Militians are still there, living in a TempDome. The New New Israel Fund was very helpful, but there are still rumblings.
Two Weeks Later….
Abba came in from a secret meeting of the Star Telescope Committee; he was very excited and upset. Apparently, a SpaceArk called ABBAS III has landed in the Asmodeus Crater. It was a hard landing; three people were injured, and our EMTs flew out quickly in a pair of Mogen David AmbulanSkimmers. Luckily, no lives were lost.
There was even a baby born, a native Plutonian Humanoid. Most of our women were sterilized by their inhaling radioactivity, so this is an occasion for mazel tov. Rabbi Zar, our neighbor rabbi, seemed very happy; he was hunting for a bottle of Adom Atik Wine he had squirreled away with his sefarim, his holy books. I passed him in the dorm hall, whistling “The Glory of Israel will Never be Lost.”
“Were they Jews, Abba?” I asked. Nirit and I would be very happy to have new friends to play with, and it would be nice to have new students in school; perhaps one of the adults is a teacher.
“Um, not exactly, Eli,” he said, and I saw him catching a glance at Ima, who was slicing hydroponic tomatoes on the kitchen counter. She frowned and went on cutting.
Chop, chop, chop went the knife on the tomatoes.
“What sort of people are they?” I said, wondering why he was being so cagey. “Are they aliens, or humanoid?” We had gotten used to the Plutonians among us, and one or two were meeting with Rabbi Zar for conversion. They had gotten good at reading Hebrew; one was practicing to chant Torah. It was strange to hear a Plutonian accent singing from across the hall about escaping from Egypt, but the Rabbi explained to us that all of us, Humanoid and Plutonian, had stood at Mount Sinai, to receive the Torah.
They do have a bit of trouble wearing a kipah; the Plutonians don’t really have heads, just a sort of memory-stalk growing up from between their bodygel, and they plash along on suckers. It’s all because of millennia living underground in the DeepBlue Sea; they’re practically blind, but Itzik the Inventor made them DayVideo Goggles, so they can see us and read our materials.
Where and when was that, anyway?
“People we used to know on earth,” said Abba, “Cousins, really.”
“Cousins?” I said, eagerly, “You mean like Basha and Simcha, from Rishon Le-Tsiyon?”
“Then, who?” I asked, “Tell us, Abba!” Nirit was nodding her head fiercely.
We really could use new friends.
“They are called Palestinians,” he said.
That’s how it all began. Again.