K'tonton Goes Up To Jerusalem
By SADIE ROSIE WEILERSTEIN
K'tonton was in Israel. He had
just arrived and was standing
outside the airport. "Abraham may
have once stood on this very spot,"
K'tonton thought. "Or King David,
or Rabbi Akiba."
K'tonton wanted to see the
whole country. He looked for a car
to take him around. Then he saw
the perfect one. It was a very old
car. The fender, bent and battered,
almost reached the ground, so that
K'tonton could reach it and hoist
himself up. The dents in the metal
gave him a foothold. The upholstery
inside had torn places for his
fingers to dig into. Up the back of
the rear seat, K'tonton climbed. At
the top, quite close to the window,
was a perfect hole.
"I can hide in here and get a
good view at the same time,"
K'tonton thought, as he fitted
Mind you, K'tonton didn't need
to hide. Every Jew is welcome in
the State of Israel. But it seemed
easier to K'tonton to hide than to
explain how he had come to Israel.
The driver came up, threw a
to Tk et
number of packages into the trunk
of the car, then got in. The engine
coughed and chugged.
Zoom, rattle bang! The car
sped down the road, then lurched
around a corner. They were
climbing into the hills, in and out
along a corkscrew road. A signpost
caught K'tonton's eye.
K'tonton's heart leaped.
"We're going up to Jerusalem,"
it sang, "to Jerusalem, where the
Holy Temple stood.
"Only I'm not saying it ... I'm
The song in K'tonton's heart
rose up and up. He couldn't hold it
back. It burst from his lips, thin, and
sweet, and clear.
FRIDAY, MAY 10, 1991
The driver heard it and turned.
There on top of the rear seat, his
feet fitted snugly in a hole in the
upholstery, stood a tiny, thumb-sized
"Shalom!" said the driver,
looking interested but not surprised.
He was used to seeing all kinds of
Jews in Israel — blond Jews, black
Jews, giant Jews from Caucasus,
brown lean Yemenite Jews with side
curls, cave-dwelling Jews. This was
a thumb-sized Jew.
"Shalom!" he said again. "Why
do you sit there by yourself?" He
grinned down at K'tonton. "The
front seat upholstery also has good
Without slowing down, he
stretched out an arm to make a
bridge for K'tonton to cross over.
From the top of the front seat,
K'tonton looked into the man's face.
It was a pleasant face, browned by
the sun and weather, with a nice big
nose and blue eyes with wrinkles
under them. "For the smiles to run
down," K'tonton thought. The man's
shirt was open at the neck. A beret
was tipped back from his forehead.
"And where do you come
from?" he asked, one eye on
K'tonton, the other on the road,
which at that moment was making a
"I'm going up to Jerusalem,"
K'tonton said. He knew that this
wasn't an answer to the question,
but at the moment where he was
going seemed more important than
where he had come from.
The hills grew steeper and
more barren. Stones and boulders
covered them. Suddenly K'tonton
pointed excitedly. Men with pickaxes
were splitting huge rocks.
"The stones! Are they iron?"
K'tonton answered with a Bible
A land whose stones are iron
and out of whose hills you may
"I see you know your Bible,"
said the driver. "That makes you
half an Israeli already. The stones
you are talking about are down in
the Negev near King Solomon's
"Do you mean King Solomon
who built the Holy Temple?"
K'tonton's voice was filled with awe.
"The very one! They're digging
copper out of those old mines right
He was going to tell about the
discovery of the ancient mines, but
K'tonton's eyes were again on the
hills. The dead, gray stones were
gone. Grapevines rose in terraces.
Pine trees covered the hill tops.
Barns and neat red-roofed houses
hid among green orchards.
"Trees!" K'tonton said in
wonder. "Hills covered with trees!
Maybe those are the ones the coins
from my blue-and-white box paid for.
"What did you say your name
was?" he asked.
"I didn't say," K'tonton
answered. "It's Isaac Samuel ben
Baruch Reuben, for short K'tonton."
Then in the same breath "Are those
Jewish National Fund trees? Are
there any almond trees up there?
Do you think there might be one my
age, because ..."
The man's eyes were laughing.
"So your name is K'tonton. You ask
so many questions. I thought your
name was Question Mark."
He pointed to a grove of olive
trees ahead. Through the silvery
tops rose the towers of Jerusalem.
The car turned a corner.
"We're here, K'tonton," the
driver said. "Where do you want to
"I'll get off at ... at ..." he
"Because," the driver went on,
"if you haven't any special place to
go, you could come home with me."
He brought the car to a stop. "My
wife would enjoy a guest for
Passover. You are so good at asking
questions, you could ask the Mah
nishtanah." He meant the Four
Questions the youngest child of
the family asks on Passover eve.
"Don't you have a son to ask?"
K'tonton's eyes were filled with
"Oh, I have a son all right, a
fine, smart child," the driver assured
him. "But he can't manage the Mah
nishtanah by himself. He's only a
year and a half old."
"My father has one son, too."
K'tonton said gravely. "Me. I don't
know who will ask him the Mah
nishtanah this year."
Suddenly a tear slid down
K'tonton's cheek and caught in a
corner of his mouth. He sucked it in
That night K'tonton wrote to his
parents. He wrote about his flight
and everything that had happened
to him since he arrived in the Holy
Land. Their answer came before
Passover. "We are glad you have
found friends in Israel," the letter
said. "You may stay until we save
enough money for tickets. Then we
will come and join you."
Reprinted from The Best of K'tonton
by Sadie Rosie Weilerstein.
Illustrated by Marilyn Hirsch 1980.