(This story can stand alone, but is also a sequel to my previous entry 'Memoirs of the Underground')
Itzak stepped off the long, cavernous escalator of the underground railway and met his son and his family who were waiting for them. Together they set off for Circular Quay to board the ferry across Sydney Harbour to Manly Beach.
The day was perfect with barely a breeze. The sea was flat calm. As Itzak boarded the vessel that he expected to be small with some seats inside, he was surprised to find something as large as a small cruise ship, with several levels and hundreds of passenger seats, inside and out. He chose to go inside while his son Arcady, his wife Lena and their daughter Sonia stayed outside to watch the shoreline of this glorious harbour, that changed moment by moment from historic government buildings to small islands with fortresses, to small beaches, wharves, restaurants and nature reserves.
Itzak found a window seat and was absorbed by the many luxurious homes and large white yachts moored in different spots along the harbour. Sitting there, he felt a peace that he had rarely felt.
His Messianic Rabbi (a Christian Jewish pastor) mentioned at a recent meeting that Isaiah prophesied that when the Messiah comes, every valley would be lifted up, every mountain levelled and all that was rough would be made smooth. Itzak now felt some of that levelling in his turbulent heart since he had begun to believe in Messiah.
This trip was certainly different from how he felt the last time he was on a boat forty years ago. He was then an officer who had been demoted to a junior rank since his brother left the Soviet Union for Israel. He was required to live in Odessa and the navy restricted him to service on the fleet that patrolled the Black Sea.
He remembered how unpleasant and tense that last sea journey for. The weather was unseasonably stormy, with huge waves tossing their ship furiously. His relationship with the ship's commissar was extremely strained. Itzak felt that he was constantly being watched. He knew that the commissar was always asking others about him. That made any friendships on the boat difficult. He was tense and lonely.
'Do you have a ticket, Sir?'
Itzak was startled out of his reverie. A ticket? He had a party ticket once. Did he need a ticket here? He gave a short sigh and the smile of the ticket collector reassured him of where he was - or was not.
"Oh, of course", he replied. And he took out his wallet, showed his pensioner pass and asked the young girl for a concession ticket, offering her the right change. She handed him a ticket and he looked at it.
'Senk you', he said. Like many Russian migrants he could not pronounce 'th' properly, and was very self conscious about it, but courtesy obliged.
He looked at the ticket and was amused that all that was on the ticket, apart from the date and some small print, was a very benign, non- totalitarian Transport Authority logo. He looked out the window and he could see Sonia standing on the deck. He caught her attention and she smiled and waved furiously at him.
The ferry berthed and they exited the terminal. It was the brightest of days, lit by the Australian sun. Before him, through the Manly Corso (a mall with outside cafes and shops leading to the beach) the clear blue sky formed a curtain backdrop on a stage whose apron was a glistening ocean. Myriads of shining diamonds were dancing upon the water.
Sonia jumped up to him. "Papa has bought us all one of the special Danish ice-creams they have here".
Itzak wondered if they would be as nice as the ones he remembered at the seaside in Odessa. He licked it. It was. Even better. The rum and raisin given to him was the best ice-cream he had tasted. He wondered if anyone thought of doing a vodka and red currant ice-cream for the nostalgic Russians.
He thought of how here everything tasted good, looked good and smelt good. Especially the sea. Especially the peace....Messiah's peace.
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