On our kibbutz, Kibbutz Yekhat, there lived a man, Zvi Provizor, a short fifty-five-year-old bachelor who had a habit of blinking. He loved to transmit bad news: earthquakes, plane crashes, buildings collapsing on their occupants, fires, and floods. He read the papers and listened to all the news broadcasts early in the morning, so that he could catch us at the entrance to the dining hall and astound us with the story of two hundred and fifty coal miners hopelessly trapped somewhere in China or six hundred passengers drowned when a ferry capsized in a storm in the Caribbean. He also used to memorize obituaries. Always first to know which famous people had died, he would inform the entire kibbutz. One morning he stopped me on the path in front of the clinic.
“Ever hear of a writer named Wislavsky?”
“Sorry to hear it.”
“Writers die, too.”
And another time he caught me when I was working the dining-hall shift:
“I saw in the obituaries that your grandfather died.”
“And three years ago, your other grandfather died.”
“So this one was the last.”
Zvi Provizor was the kibbutz gardener. He would go out at five every morning, reposition the sprinklers, till the soil in the flower beds, plant and prune and water, mow lawns with the noisy mower, spray against aphids, and spread organic and chemical fertilizer. Attached to his belt was a small transistor radio that provided him with a constant infusion of disastrous news:
“Did you hear? A huge massacre in Angola.”
Or: “The Minister of Religious Affairs died. They just announced it ten minutes ago.”
The other kibbutz members avoided him. In the dining hall, they rarely joined him at his table. On summer evenings he would sit alone on the green bench at the foot of the large lawn in front of the dining hall and watch the children playing on the grass. The breeze billowed out his shirt, drying his sweat. A hot summer moon shone red as it rose above the tall cypress trees. One evening Zvi Provizor greeted a woman named Luna Blank who was sitting alone on an adjacent bench.
“Did you hear?” he said to her sadly. “In Spain an orphanage burned down and eighty orphans died of smoke inhalation.”
Luna, a forty-five-year-old widowed teacher, wiped the sweat from her brow with a handkerchief and said, “That’s horrible.”
“Only three survivors were rescued,” Zvi said, “and they’re in critical condition.”
We all respected his dedication to his work: never, in the twenty-two years that he’d lived on the kibbutz, had a single sick day been noted on his time sheet. Thanks to him, the kibbutz bloomed. Every unused strip of land was planted with seasonal flowers. Here and there he had put in rock gardens where he planted varieties of cactus. He had erected wooden trellises for grapevines. In front of the dining hall he installed a burbling fountain filled with goldfish and aquatic plants. He had a good aesthetic sense and everyone appreciated it.
But behind his back we called him the Angel of Death and gossiped about him: he didn’t have and had never had an interest in women, we would say. Or in men, for that matter. One young fellow, Roni Shindlin, did a marvelous imitation of Zvi that made us roar with laughter. In the afternoon, when the kibbutz members s
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