The cruelty of deep love
Ben-Gurion wrote to Paula: ?If I had stayed with you now, I would not be worthy of your bearing a child of mine, and our whole life would be ordinary and trivial and tepid − and that is not the kind of life I want to live with you.?
1. On a television program devoted to the poet Rachel, the historian Muki Tzur related that Kibbutz Degania had a rule: When a member went on holiday, all the others lined up in a row and he would kiss them good-bye, one by one, before departing. My grandmother, Aviva, had a stock joke with which she often regaled me: "Do you know why Ben-Gurion took Paula with him on every trip? So he wouldn't have to kiss her twice - once when he left and once when he came back." In the last decade of my grandmother's life, when I was no longer living in the kibbutz, I kissed her when I came to visit and I kissed her when I left.
2. In a bookstore I came across a volume entitled "The Fifty Most Beautiful Love Letters of All Time," which contains a letter written by David Ben-Gurion to Paula on June 4, 1918, while he was serving in the British Army's Jewish Battalion. In the letter, only part of which is quoted here, he responds to her contention that if he loved her more he would not have volunteered for the army and left her behind. "I know what a price in terms of youth and happiness you are paying for the sake of my ideal," he wrote. "It is a high price, terribly high, and I do not know whether I can repay you properly, but this is the cruelty of deep love. If I had stayed with you now, I would not be worthy of your bearing a child of mine, and our whole life would be ordinary and trivial and tepid - and that is not the kind of life I want to live with you. Not with such tawdriness, such nullity, such pettiness."
This is the logic of the selfish lover, and I recognize it, because I was once loved by a person whose thinking was similar but whose deeds were meager.
3. I have received love letters and written a few, too. Some time ago, I found in a book a very old missive, written in English, preserved in its original envelope. It was sent to me from Denver. The writer, a former NBA player, made me spectacular offers. I acceded to some of them, and we ended up living together for three years. I re-read the letter: "Tali, I dreamed about you last night and started to worry about you. Do me a favor - the gas pipe in the apartment is out of order. Close it for good, so nothing will happen to you." I have received more elegant love letters, but none so sincere in its concern for me since then. Like the purloined letter in the Poe story, which because it was hidden in the most obvious place was invisible to everyone, I have been looking for that letter since I put it down and cannot find it.