T uesday morning dawned, finding Itzik sitting at the desk in his tzimmer unit. With five cups of coffee under his belt, his eyes were red and burning.

In 20 minutes, the minyan in Sapir would be starting Shacharis. It was the only local minyan that morning. Itzik forcibly tore himself away from thoughts of delicious sleep, picked up his tefillin bag, and stepped outside, making a mental shopping list of items he would pick up after davening as he fished for his car keys.

Jerusalem could forget about him until further notice, especially now that he’d discovered he could get Taster’s Choice coffee even here, in the southern Aravah. He didn’t need much else. A pot to cook in, some vegetables, a few snacks, and a couple of frozen items.

The frigid desert air came as a shock, and for a moment he considered turning back. Then he thought once more of the shul and continued putting one foot in front of the other, moving determinedly toward the parking area.

His shoes kicked against smooth pebbles all the way. There was something incongruous about that, but his tired brain couldn’t be bothered to figure out just what.

“Hey, there, shalom!” The voice, accompanied by the hum of an electric motor, came from behind him. It was Alon, the owner of the bed-and-breakfast, in an electric car. “You want a lift to the parking lot?” he offered. “A couple of tourists looking to be pampered asked me to bring them breakfast at sunrise. I’m just coming back from their tzimmer.”

“Sure, thanks,” said Itzik, sending a smooth, round pebble skipping with one last kick. And then he realized what was bothering him. “How did these river pebbles get here?” he asked. “We’re on a high cliff in the desert.”

“The same way these teeth got here, I guess,” said Alon, pointing to a string of sharks’ teeth, separated by wooden beads, hung as a decoration over the dashboard. “We find them all the time.”

Now Itzik was really curious. “So how did they get here?”

“Once, this whole area was covered with water,” said Alon. “And the land still thirsts for that water.”

“Oh, come on,” said Itzik, but his host stuck to his story. And the thousands of river pebbles scattered over their path confirmed it.

“My daughters made this,” Alon said, pointing again to the string of sharks’ teeth. “They found the teeth, and I got the string and beads for them in the city. They make these trinkets, and I sell them to souvenir shops.”

Itzik’s eyes were nearly shut, and Alon was quick to notice it. “You’re planning to drive now?” he asked. “You don’t look like you’re up to it. Why are you so tired — didn’t you sleep well? Is the bed in your tzimmer uncomfortable?”

“No, it’s fine. Very comfortable,” Itzik mumbled. “But I was up working all night.”

“Working on what?”

“Editing. I edit books on religious subjects. Last week—” He felt a sour taste rise in his throat at the memory of the arson in East Jerusalem and its aftermath. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 697)