While deciding where I should go, I sorely missed having the counsel of Mr. Gruzenberg, my former lawyer. I knew he would be the best one to advise me, for with his experience, he would know what I ought to do and what I should avoid. I felt certain that this man who had been ready to sacrifice everything to save me from prison, would also be willing to help me in any way he could.
Mr. Gruzenberg, however, was out of the country, recuperating from the ordeal of the trial, which had taken a terrible toll on his health. While he was abroad, I had received a letter from him in which he asked what I was doing. He had expressed surprise that I was still in Kiev.
“I have suffered much less than you,” he had written, “and yet I feel completely exhausted. You, Mr. Beilis, have suffered much more for even longer, so you must surely be experiencing disturbing repercussions. Why don’t you go away somewhere for a rest? I understand your situation quite well. The same thing happened with some of my other clients. After it is all over, people forget about you. I cannot conceive of your remaining in Kiev in such an insecure predicament. Why isn’t anyone doing something to help you?”
I heard people discussing my future, but nothing practical seemed to result. I had nothing more tangible than words. Finally, the committee came to an agreement, and it was decided that I ought to be sent to Palestine. Mr. Marshak and Dr. Bikhoffsky were opposed to this plan and had wanted me to settle elsewhere. In the end, Rabbi Aaronson prevailed. Palestine it would be.
Then the committee asked what occupation I would like to choose for myself.
“We’ll give you the means to take up whatever new endeavor you would like,” they had proffered. “Do not consider it a gift. It is the least we can do for you.”
I couldn’t decide upon anything specific. They needed an answer that was concrete and definitive, and I was not able to make such a choice.
“Gentlemen, I cannot make a decision right now,” I finally explained to them. “I think it would be better for you to make up my mind for me. I wouldn’t be averse to having a little house that would bring in enough income to provide me with a modest means of support. It would also be nice if there were a little land connected to the house. I very much like to farm and always wanted to live on the land.”
“In that case,” concluded Mr. Marshak, “there is no better place than Palestine. We’ll take care of everything.”
The plan was for me to first go to Trieste and rest for a month. From there, I would leave for Palestine. I began preparing myself to leave Russia, Holy Russia.
I must confess that it was not easy. There were many people in Russia such as the Black Hundreds who were eager to shed Jewish blood, but on the other hand, there were also many wonderful Russians. Even many Russian prisoners, supposedly depraved criminals, had wept with me in jail. There were countless Russian children who had not slept nights and prayed to God for my release. And what about the Russian intelligentsia? From the beginning, they had taken up my cause, often risking their personal and professional safety on my behalf. How great was the jubilation of these people when their efforts helped bring about my vindication! It was not only the heartwarming visits from hundreds of Christians that made me realize this, but also all the letters and notes that continued to flow in from all over the country.
It would be hard to leave these people, but it was going to be even more difficult to part with my native land, the land where I had been born and raised, where I had lived my life, in anguish and joy.
My departure was to be kept a secret. No one, not even my relatives, were to know. We had to take these various precautions because my life was still in danger. The day I went to the Governor’s palace to get my passport, as soon as I joined the line of about seventy people ahead of me, I was immediately recognized. The person at the head of the line let me have his place, and I went straight into the Governor’s office, where I was well received. A chair was brought in and my passport was readied in moments. I was courteously escorted to the cab and bidden a hearty good-bye.
A few days after my visit to the passport office, there were big headlines in the newspapers broadcasting my imminent departure. We had thought that we had been so careful keeping the details of my move secret, but obviously, we had not. We hadn’t wanted my enemies to even know that I was leaving, but since the actual day and time of my secret departure was still undisclosed, I felt relatively safe. We selected a day when the crowds would be busy with their vodka. I left in December of 1913.
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