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ANDREW ELIOT’S DIARY. Ted called me today with the incredible news that he and Sara are splitting.
August 6, 1970
Ted called me today with the incredible news that he and Sara are splitting.
God, there’s no future for matrimony if those two can’t make it together, He didn’t offer any details on the phone, but I suppose I’ll hear the blow-by-blow when he comes up here next weekend. (I had to invite the poor guy. He sounded so lonely.)
Ted has no idea what anguish he’s in for. Divorce is bad under any circumstances. Although they say it’s worst for the kids, I personally feel that it’s the fathers who suffer most.
In addition to my weekend rights — which are pretty useless now that both of them are at boarding school — I only really get to spend time with my son and daughter during the summer months.
And parenthood, I’ve discovered, is simply not a part-time job. It’s more like being a trapeze artist. Once you let go of the swing, you fall and there’s no way you can get back up.
I spend the winter months trying to plan each summer day so it will be interesting for Andy and Lizzie. I map out excursions we can take — like trips to Canada — and contact other parents in the area whose kids we can have over. But at best I become a head counselor with the purely honorific title, “Dad.”
Young as he is, Andy already says his generation’s disgusted with our involvement in Vietnam. And for some reason he seems to blame it on me. You’d think I was personally dropping napalm on innocent civilians.
“The guys at school all say it’s Wall Street’s war,” he says. As if I were Wall Street, instead of just a minor bank official.
I try to make him understand that I’m on his side. That I’d actually helped organize an important antiwar march. All he replies is, “That’s a lot of crap.”
When I tell him not to use that sort of language, he retorts that since I do, I’m a hypocrite like my whole generation (now I’m a whole generation!).
I think deep down he misses me and is just playing macho to pretend he doesn’t really need a father.
I try my best to pierce the armor of his hostility, but one summer month in Maine is simply not enough. I can’t convince him that I care.
Lizzie is also a problem. She mopes a lot, disappears for walks and won’t let me come along. Now and then I try to chat with her, but she resents me too. At least her reasons are more personal and less political than Andy’s.
“If you really loved us, you and Mom wouldn’t have busted up. I hate my boarding school. It’s kind of like an orphanage with fancy uniforms. I don’t think more than five girls in my class still have both parents.”
After several talks like this, I fought like hell to get Faith to allow me to have custody of Lizzie so she could have some semblance of a home and go to day school.
But Faith being Faith she still won’t relent. I can’t see why she’s so hostile. After all, she’s engaged to marry some tycoon from San Francisco (good luck to the poor bastard).
In my longing to get the kids back, I’ve thought of getting married again. But I haven’t met anyone who makes me confident enough to risk a second plunge.
Ted told me on the phone that though it hurt, he imagined it was for the best. He doesn’t know how wrong he is.
It’s not just that he’s lost a wife. And not just that he’s lost his son — which I can promise is for sure.
He’s lost the only thing that gives some sense to all the other things we do in life.
It was late January 1973. George Keller stood on the steps outside the Georgetown Law Center.
At the stroke of noon, students began to pour out of the building. Among them was Catherine Fitzgerald, whom he diffidently approached.
“Goodbye, George,” she answered, turning away.
“Wait, please. Can’t we just talk for a few minutes?”
“I’m not in the mood for even sixty seconds of prevarication, Dr. Keller.”
She started to walk off briskly.
He hurried to catch up with her.
“Please, Cathy,” he said urgently. “If America and North Vietnam can make peace, why can’t we?”
She whirled and demanded, “George, now that you and Henry have your cease-fire, you’re international heroes. Why bother with the one person in the world who still thinks you’re a worm?”
“Precisely because you’re the only person who matters to me.
“Do you really expect me to believe that bullshit?”
“I would hope you would at least give me a chance to convince you. I mean, you’re practically a lawyer. Even criminals are entitled to speak in their own defense. Will you have coffee with me?”
She sighed. “All right, but just one cup.”
“How did you know where to find me?” she asked. “Are you bugging my phone?”
He shook his head in consternation. “Give me a break, Cathy. I asked one of your old friends at NSC.”
“If they were friends of mine they should also have told you I didn’t want to see you.”
Like his diplomatic mentor, George was an indefatigable negotiator.
“Look, Cathy.” He began a new tack. “I know I’ve been callous. Dishonest, even. But I’ve learned my lesson, really I have. All these lonely months I’ve done nothing but castigate myself for not trusting you.”
“To be honest,” she replied, in a tone that was for the first time not hostile, “you barely even trust yourself. That’s your problem, George.”
“Aren’t you willing to believe a person can change in three years?”
“I’d have to see it to believe it,” she replied.
“Will you at least let me try to show you?” he pleaded.
She drained her coffee quickly and stood up. “Listen, I’ve got some important exams to study for. If you’re really serious, call me early next month and I can meet you without worrying about torts and contracts.”
“Fair enough,” he replied. “Can I walk you to the library?”
“I think it would be better if you didn’t. You and Henry are still pretty much persona non grata on campus.”
They began to see each other again. First at weekly intervals — both of them guarding their emotions. But gradually, Cathy had to acknowledge to herself that George was making a genuine effort to right the wrongs of their earlier relationship.
For the first time, he spoke openly about his childhood. About what it meant to leave a country that he loved. About arriving in a strange new land without a relative or friend, barely able to say ten words in the language. About his desperate yearning to fit in . It was, however, a selective disclosure. For he only briefly mentioned that he had “a pretty poor” relationship with his father. And did not mention Aniko at all.
To make her understand his instinctive caution when dealing with others, he told of his first, bewildering days in America, Of being in constant fear. And his still latent paranoia that there were spies everywhere.
In short, he told the truth — if not the whole truth. And his partial candor enabled Cathy to let herself care once more.
“Who’s your best friend, George?” she asked as they were taking a Sunday-afternoon stroll.
“I don’t know,” he replied offhandedly. “I guess I’ve never had one really.”
“Not even as a child?”
“No, I was always a lone wolf. I’m just not gregarious.”
She paused and then said gently, “You know, it’s a paradox. We’ve been lovers for a long time now but we’re not friends yet. At least, you don’t regard me as one.”
“Of course, I do,” he protested.
“You’d make a lousy witness, Dr. Keller. You’ve just changed your testimony under my cross-examination. You started out by saying you didn’t have a best friend.”
“What am I?” he asked good-humoredly. “A guinea pig for your courtroom technique?”
“No, George, you’re my friend. And I want to be yours.”
“Cathy, you’re the most wonderful girl I’ve ever met. I just can’t fathom why you care so much for an iceberg like me.
“To begin with, you’ve got an electrifying mind. You also happen to be a very attractive man. And, most of all, you bring out something in me that wants to make you happy.”
He stopped walking and put his arms around her. “Cathy,” he said affectionately, “I love you.”
“No,” she whispered. “You don’t yet. But you will.”
Cathy graduated from law school that June and passed the Maryland Bar exam, which would enable her to practice in Washington, D.C., six months thereafter. Despite lucrative and interesting offers ranging from government work to private industry (women professionals were very much in demand in 1973), she chose to join the consumer advocates colloquially known as Nader’s Raiders.
“Why do you want to work with such a cockeyed organization?” George asked in a tone midway between amusement and amazement. “I mean, you could so easily get a job in the Attorney General’s office.”
“Look, George,” she explained, “despite being Washington born and bred, I’m still an optimist. But I’m not crazy enough anymore to think I can improve things on a global scale. My quixotic days ended when I left NSC. At least with Ralph’s group we can do some tangible good, and sometimes I can actually see the faces of the people I help.”
“It’s amazing,” he said with affectionate admiration, “you’re the most idealistic person I’ve ever met.”
“Well, you’re the most pragmatic.”
“That’s what makes us a good match. We’re like Jack Sprat.”
“Except that they were married,” she replied.
“No comment.” He smiled.
“You don’t have to,” she answered knowingly. “One morning you’re going to wake up, realize what an asset I’d be for your career, and ask me.”
“Is that how you think I base all my decisions?”
“Yes. And that’s probably the only thing that would keep you from asking me.”
“The fact that I actually know what makes you tick.”
Success illumined Danny Rossi like a halo. He was rich and famous. His life overflowed with praise, his den with trophies — and his bed with beauties. He had everything a man could want.
Except a marriage.
One evening in the early spring of 1973 when his chauffeur met him at the airport, Danny urged him to drive as quickly as he could to Bryn Mawr. He rushed into the house to announce his latest coup: he had been offered the directorship of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In fact, the orchestra wanted him so badly that they had agreed to his keeping the Philadelphia job as well. He would be a transcontinental conductor.
“That’s super, Daddy,” Sylvie cried. “Does it mean we’ll be moving out to California?”
“Well, it might be good to get away from the snow and ice. But we’ll really have to let your mom decide.”
He looked at Maria. She was stone-faced. And said nothing.
“Hey, what’s the matter, darling?” he asked at dinner, when the kids were gone.
“Danny,” she said slowly, “we’ve got to talk.”
“You mean about California?”
“No. About ‘Miss Rona.’ ”
“Please, Danny, don’t play the ingenue. Her column is syndicated even in a hick town like Philadelphia.”
“Well, what slimy rumor is she spreading now?”
“Oh, nothing scandalous,” Maria replied sarcastically. “Just a little tidbit about a ‘famous composer-pianist whispering sweet nothings to Raquel Welch at a Malibu restaurant.’ ”
“Do you really believe that kind of crap?”
“The only thing I’m not sure of is whether that item came from her press agent or yours.”
“Wait a minute —”
“No, maestro,” she retorted. “This time you listen. All these years I’ve tried to look the other way because I felt it was somehow my fault, I mean that you have to have your little affairs because I was inexperienced and couldn’t satisfy you. But why do you have to do it so damn publicly ? You’ve already proved your manhood to the whole world — why haven’t you proved it to yourself?”
There was a pause. Then Danny asked calmly, “What suddenly brought this on?”
“It’s not sudden. I’ve just finally reached the end of my very long rope.”
“Maria, we’ve been through this before. I’ve never claimed to be a Boy Scout. But I still think I’m a good husband. I mean, I take care of you and the kids, don’t I?”
“Every way but emotionally. Your, daughters are starved for attention, which I can only assume you haven’t noticed. And I dread the moment they first see your name in a gossip column.”
Danny had two concerts to conduct the next day, so he tried to mollify her. “Darling, you know there’s only one person in the world I really love, don’t you?”
“Of course,” she retorted. “Yourself.” And then added wearily, “Look, I simply can’t take it anymore.”
There was another pause. “Are you asking for a divorce?”
She grew angry again. “That’s what any woman in her right mind would want, isn’t it? But we’re Catholic — at least I still am. And besides, it would devastate the girls.”
“So where does that leave us?”
“In separate bedrooms,” she replied.
He looked at her incredulously. “You can’t be serious. You don’t mean that our sex life is over?”
“With each other, anyway.”
Her innuendo threw Danny off balance. “Do you mean you intend to have affairs?”
“Can you give me one good reason why I shouldn’t?”
He was about to say, You’re a wife and mother. But then, he was a husband and father. Still, he was furious. “Maria, you can’t do this to me. You can’t.”
“Danny, whether I can or I can’t is not for you to judge. And whether I do or I don’t is not for you to know.”
By the spring of 1972, Jason Gilbert had taken part in so many operations of Sayaret Matkal that Zvi insisted he take a sabbatical to “relearn what normal life is all about.”
He went back to the kibbutz and finally began to get close to his two sons, Joshua, now five, and three-year-old Ben.
He discovered that he could derive joy from family life and even from tinkering in the garage.
“What are you doing to that truck, Daddy? Is it very broken?”
Jason looked up from under the hood to greet his firstborn. “It isn’t really broken at all, Josh. I’m doing what in America is called ‘souping it up.’ ”
The little boy laughed. “That sounds so funny-feeding soup to a machine.”
“No, chabibi . It’s just a way of saying ‘make it go faster.’ Want a lesson?”
Jason lifted the boy high into the air and held him over the exposed entrails of the vehicle. “See that? It’s what’s known as a carburetor — m’ayed . It mixes the air and the gas.…”
For the next three afternoons, Jason lovingly introduced his elder son to the arcana of automotive engineering.
As he joked to Eva, “He’ll be the youngest hot-rodder in the Galilee.”
Since his own childhood instruction had been by an array of professionals, Jason took particular pleasure in being his sons’ tutor for everything.
With josh as his “assistant professor,” he taught the younger one how to swim in the communal pool.
“Keep kicking, Ben, you’re doing great. Pretty soon you’ll be a regular fish.”
“I’m not a fish, Daddy, I’m a little boy.”
Eva sat in the shade of a nearby tree, smiling with satisfaction, praying that this idyllic summer would never end.
Sometimes she would cook a simple dinner for the two of them in their bungalow. And they would share some of the red wine from the lot Yossi had obtained in a trade for oranges with a nearby moshav . Marriage and motherhood had wrought a profound change in Eva. She was more relaxed than she had ever been in her life. She smiled. She even dared to feel happy.
In mid-July Isaac Stern, the violinist, came up to Vered Ha-Gaul and gave a concert in the dining hail. He also left several of his latest LPs for the kibbutz library.
When Eva borrowed one of them to play on their hi-fi, Jason noticed that the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto had been recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Daniel Rossi.
This evoked a torrent of reminiscences about the college days.
Eva reached over and took his hand. “Are you feeling slightly homesick, my love?”
“Yeah, now and then,” he confessed. “For stupid things like the World Series, the Super Bowl — even the Harvard-Yale game. I’m going to take you to one of those someday, Eva. It would be a nice change — it’s a fight to the death where nobody dies.”
“When shall we go? I can pack in fifteen minutes.”
“When there’s peace,” he replied. “Then I’ll take all four of us over to visit Harvard —”
“And Disneyland, I hope.”
“Naturally. We’ll hit all the cultural high spots.” And he repeated his proviso, “When there’s peace.”
“I think we’ll be too old to travel by then, Jason.”
“You’re a pessimist, darling.”
“No, I’m a realist. That’s why I want you to give me at least a tentative date.”
“Okay, okay. I’m First Marshal of The Class. I’ll have to go to my Twenty-fifth Reunion.”
“When is that?”
“Oh, just eleven years.”
“Good.” She smiled. Her lack of irony surprised him.
“You mean you don’t mind waiting that long?”
“No. It’s perfect. That’s exactly one year before Josh goes into the army.”
“You’ve thought that far ahead?”
She nodded. “Every Israeli mother works that out the day her son is born. Ben has another fourteen years.”
They were both silent for a moment, trying to assimilate the awesome significance of knowing exactly when their little children would have to go to war.
Jason then rose and took her gently in his arms.
“Darling, when I finally go back to the Sayaret , remember this conversation. I want our boys to be able to play with tennis rackets, not rifles.”
“I’d like my husband to do that, too.”
Since Zvi had not given him a deadline, Jason planned on staying away from active duty for six months. But this halcyon period lasted less than ninety days.
On the morning of September 5, 1972, eight Black September terrorists broke into the quarters of the Israeli team in the Olympic village in Munich, killing two athletes and holding nine others hostage.
After the first sketchy announcement on the radio, Jason was already racing back to the unit. He knew it was a crisis that needed the Sayaret ’s expertise.
A group was gradually assembled and prepared to fly out. But Moshe Dayan’s request to allow the Israeli commandos to rescue their countrymen was refused by the German authorities. The Bereitschaftspolizei could — and would — handle this crisis themselves.
When the news came that the German rescue assault had failed and all Israeli hostages had been killed, the entire Sayaret was filled with despair and rage.
Only Zvi’s supreme self-control enabled him to speak calmly. “We will find out which terrorists planned this. And we will exact revenge on every last one of them.”
To which Jason responded simply, “I’m coming back to work.”
It did not take long for the Intelligence Service to discover the identities of those who had organized the Munich Massacre. One of the chief engineers had been Abu Youssef, El-Fatah’s chief intelligence officer and Yasser Arafat’s closest deputy. The Secret Service had even located the apartment in Beirut from which he was currently operating.
Zvi and his fellow officers began to map out a plan to get him. The unit would also take advantage of its brief presence in the Lebanese capital to settle some other scores against the terrorists who had killed so many Israeli citizens.
On the night of April 10, Jason was one of several dozen men who boarded a patrol boat that sped up the Mediterranean coast and dropped anchor off the shore of Beirut. They were dressed as typical tourists on a night out in the “Riviera” of the Middle East.
They climbed into rubber dinghies and headed quietly toward a darkened beach club where the Secret Service had left rented cars for them. Then they set off to their assigned destinations.
Jason began to drive toward Rue Khaled Ben Al Walid. He parked near the building which photographs had identified as Abu Youssefs residence.
Five of them got out of the car and walked inside. The apartment was on the third floor, defended by two armed men whom Jason and Uri, another commando, planned to dispatch before they could make any noise.
They weren’t fast enough. One of the guards managed to get off a shot before hitting the ground. By the time the commandos had smashed through the entrance, the terrorist leader had barricaded himself in the bedroom.
Jason and the others splintered the door with a hail of machine-gun fire. When they stepped inside, they found that their bullets had killed Abu Youssef — and fatally wounded his wife.
Jason had barely reacted to this sight when Uri called out, “Police cars coming.”
“All right,” he replied, quickly rifling the terrorist chiefs desk and grabbing what documents he could. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
As they sprinted down the stairs, an old woman stuck her head out of an apartment door. A startled commando fired and she crumpled to the ground.
Out in the street, they tossed hand grenades to distract the arriving gendarmes, leapt into their car, and sped toward the seafront.
The other men were already back at the beach. When they caught sight of Jason’s group they waved, ran toward the water’s edge, and clambered into the rubber boats. Jason and his men quickly followed and began rowing furiously out to sea.
A few hours later they were back at the Sayaret headquarters in the heart of Israel.
One of the other squad leaders was reporting that he had blown up part of the terrorists’ headquarters and shot several defenders in the process. A second unit had hit other PLO buildings, including a bomb-making workshop.
But it was the results of Jason’s assignment that most concerned Zvi.
“Well, saba ,” he asked anxiously, “how did you do?
Jason replied slowly and deliberately, “We killed the guy who planned the Munich Massacre.”
“But we also killed a few innocent people.”
He then fell silent.
“Saba , we are in a war. When the air force bombs a military target, even if they score a direct hit, it’s inevitable that civilians are affected.”
“Yeah, but the bombers are thousands of feet up in the clouds. They don’t have to see any faces.”
Zvi grabbed him by the shoulders and said firmly, “Listen to me. You’re a soldier defending your country. These men killed Israelis and were planning to kill more. You probably saved hundreds of lives. Maybe thousands. You should be proud.”
Jason merely shook his head, walked out of the building, climbed into his car, and drove north to the kibbutz.
It was early morning when he arrived, and the children were on their way to the schoolhouse. His young sons saw him and rushed to embrace him.
As he held them tightly and kissed them, he thought, You two are the only justification for going on in this killing business. Maybe when you grow up, the world will have finally come to its senses.
Two weeks later, Zvi called Jason into his office. He was relaxed and smiling.
“I’ve got an operation I think you’ll actually enjoy.”
“I doubt it,” Jason replied sarcastically.
“No, really. This should appeal to the Harvard man in you. It involves going to America. Our government is concerned with Israel’s deteriorating image, especially among the young people — the so-called New Left. We need a few eloquent spokesmen to tour campuses and maybe even speak to Jewish groups to bolster morale,”
“I’m not much of an orator,” Jason replied.
“But you still have a lovely American accent. That would help. Also, I remember when we first met you used to have a certain charm.”
“ ‘Used to’ is right.”
“Anyway, you can take Eva to Jerusalem with you for the week the Foreign Office needs to brief you. Look at it’s a holiday, saba . Maybe a little vacation with your wife will help you find some of that long-lost charm.”
As they walked the streets of Jerusalem, Eva recalled that when Jason had first come to Israel, they had been able to visit only half of it.
“That’s something you could mention in your talks,” she suggested. “When Jordan held the Old City, they not only kept the Jews from their holy places, they actually used our synagogues as stables. The world has got to give us credit for ensuring freedom of religion here.”
“Eva, the world doesn’t give us credit for anything.”
“Well, I feel proud anyway,” she insisted.
“Good.” He smiled. “Then maybe you can go and give my speeches for me.
Jason arrived in New York at the end of May. It was the first time in nearly ten years that he had set foot on American soil. And it felt good. At least some of it, anyway. He was in the land of his birth, a place he had missed desperately at times. But it was also the home of his parents, who were now a mere ten-cent phone call away.
He had spent his last few days with Eva agonizing over what to do about them, and had reached no satisfactory conclusion. She felt he should drive out to Long Island and see them. So much more could be accomplished in a face-to-face confrontation. They could look into his eyes and perceive his commitment. That could change everything.
But it was easier for her to say than for him to do. He knew he had caused his parents heartache. And whatever the rights or wrongs of his actions, he still felt guilty.
Yet, one thing Eva told him gnawed at his consciousness: “You’ll never make peace with yourself until you make peace with them. One way or another, you have to free yourself or you’ll never grow up.”
“But I’m nearly forty years old,” he had protested.
“All the more reason for you to become a full-fledged adult,” she had replied.
Still, Jason sat in his hotel room that afternoon unable to pick up the phone. Instead, he put on his newly acquired summer-weight suit and went out for a walk. He told himself that he was ambling up Fifth Avenue merely to stare in shop windows at all the luxuries no Israeli could afford. Yet, when he reached Forty-fourth Street, he knew that what had drawn him there was the Harvard Club.
He hadn’t paid his dues for years, but he talked his way in by fabricating the excuse that he would be meeting Andrew Eliot upstairs in the gym.
He took the elevator to the fifth floor and checked the squash-reservations book for that afternoon. Sure enough, at 5:00 P.M. there was a court assigned to “A. Eliot ’58.” He glanced at his watch — only twenty minutes to wait.
Andrew could not believe his eyes. He was ecstatic.
“My God, Gilbert. You haven’t changed at all. I mean, the rest of us are losing hair and growing paunches and you look like a goddamn freshman. What’s your secret?”
“Try active duty in the army for ten years, Eliot.”
“No, thanks. I’d rather be safe and fat. Want to play a little squash? You can have my court and my opponent, who’s just an overweight stockbroker.”
“Thanks. I’d love to — if you can get me some gear.”
“No sweat, old buddy,” Andrew replied jauntily. “Then can we have dinner afterward?”
“Doesn’t your wife expect you home?” Jason inquired.
“Not exactly. But that’s another story.”
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