Lag BaOmer fell on Sunday that year, so it was self-evident
that the party would be on motzaei Shabbat. We prepared
excitedly for an enjoyable evening around the bonfire for which
we worked industriously to gather as much wood as possible. A
number of girls volunteered to bring potatoes, others organized
coffee, while a larger group undertook the project of pitot and
felafel. We even arranged for background music, it seemed that
everything should have gone beautifully. Even Anat promised to
take part in the festivities. Recently it had been her custom to
travel home every Friday and stay there until after Shabbat, but
on this, the Shabbat before Lag BaOmer, she made a special
exception and stayed at the dorm. Her decision was made easier
by the fact that her father's condition was stable, no change being
anticipated in the near future. Her mother encouraged her to stay
at school. She too had sensed the change which had taken place
in her daughter in recent months, and which had become more
pronounced in the past weeks, and she understood that the more
Anat could be with friends her own age, the more her mood
Right after Shabbat was over, I started making preparations
for the party. No sooner had I begun, than Anat knocked on the
door. I have a number of living memories of Anat which have
stayed clear in my mind and which occasionally appear before
my eyes as if they were happening now. One of these is that
of Anat standing at the door of my house, her face extremely
pale, her long blond braids hanging over her shoulders, her
eyes large and green and her lips trembling. On her shoulder
she carried a not very large travel bag.
"I came to say good-bye," she said. "I'm going home."
"Home!" At first I didn't understand. "But there's a party!"
"My father's not feeling well. His condition has worsened.
My mother phoned five minutes ago."
When I looked at her face again, I knew I was going to
give up the party tonight and go with Anat. Even if she refused.
But she didn't object when I offered to accompany her. She didn't
ask me to reconsider, didn't mention the party, it seemed to me
that she had even been waiting for and expecting my offer, and
felt glad and relieved to acccept it.
My mother gave her a quick glance and without wasting
words confirmed my decision. She hurried us so that we
would not miss the bus. Promising to phone home later that
night. I quickly packed the things I would need, and we left.
I forgot completely that this evening there was supposed to be a
happy class party.
Anat's house was all lit up, and there was a feeling of alert
movement inside. As we went up the steps, Anat gripped my
shoulder tightly, almost crushing it. It was actually painful, but I
didn't notice the pain. "I'm afraid," she whispered in a shaking
voice. "Tammi, I'm afraid."
"Calm down," I tried with all my strength to reassure her,
though I myself was trembling all over. "Everything's alright."
"Do you promise me?" she hung onto my words like a
drowning man grasping at a straw. I knew that if I promised,
she would feel calmer. And in spite of the fact that I wasn't at
all sure, I said heatedly: "I promise! Yes, I promise... probably
his condition is somewhat worse," I was cautious, "but not
completely!" I knew what she feared.
I held her hand between my two palms and looked straight
into her eyes. Only when I felt her hand lose its tenseness and
become limp in mine did I release her, and we opened the
door, which was not locked, and went in. Anat threw down her
travel bag immediately at the entrance and ran towards the stairs
that led to her father's room. I ran after her.
I stood off at a little distance when we met her mother, who
was sitting in the room next to that of Anat's father. Ignoring the
many people in the room, Anat ran to her mother.
I managed to understand a little from the rush of words
in English. Anat's mother said that they had passed a very
difficult Shabbat, during which her father had again lost
consciousness, just as I began to feel that the rest of the
conversation was getting away from me, I felt a hand on my
shoulder. I spun around quickly to find myself facing Anat's
Aunt Hadassah. Only then did I notice that Anat's grandfather
and grandmother, as well as a number of aunts and uncles, were
in the room. I recognized all of them from pictures Anat had
shown me except for Hadassah, whom I knew personally.
"What's the matter, why is everyone here?" the words
slipped out of my mouth. I already was beginning to doubt
the promise I had given to Anat just a moment before, at the
"It's good that you came with Anat," Hadassah replied,
not answering my question. Her eyes were red and swollen from
crying. "She'll need you..."
I looked at her in wonder, as if not believing. My eyes
opened wide in dread of the words I feared she was about to say
"What... what happened?" I repeated my question. I couldn't
make my lips form the terrible question I really meant to ask.
"Why is everyone here?"
"On Shabbat morning Eli's condition became worse..."
Thank G-d, she had not said what I most feared. "My parents
were here for a visit. Recently they've come often to visit my
brother, who openly showed his joy at seeing them. Eli's fever
was a little higher than usual, but other than that he felt excellent
considering his condition, of course. They conversed as usual.
My father even read him from the Midrash on this week's
Torah portion..." As she talked, Hadassah pulled me to one
side, seating me almost forcibly at a distant end of the sofa,
and continuing her story. "Suddenly Eli's face became very
red, and he breathed heavily. My parents and Jenny panicked.
My brother complained of terrible pain in his head... and after a
short time lost consciousness. A doctor was immediately rushed
to the house, and is still with him. In the afternoon he regained
consciousness, but he is still very weak..." She hesitated a moment,
then said: "The doctor suspects a stroke."
My eyes widened in steadily growing dread. Despite my
young age, I knew the significance of that last sentence.
"But how did all this begin?" I asked in a turmoil. "You
said that he felt normal, that his mood was excellent!"
Hadassah looked at me for a moment in thoughtful silence.
"It seems that his condition worsened because of an argument
which began with an apparently harmless question that my mother
asked... that's what seemed to come out when we went back over
the events that led up to Elitzur's turn for the worse. Strange as it
may seem..." She stopped herself in mid-sentence, and her face
became pained and disturbed. Something clicked in my mind
and made my heart pound harder and faster. I guessed what it
was that seemed strange to Anat's aunt, and I felt an enormous
pain that threatened to tear apart my heart. After a short pause,
Hadassah continued, all the while watching my facial expression.
"My mother asked: 'How is Anat? Lately she's been coming
home every Shabbat...' Jenny hurried to answer: 'On motzaei
Shabbat they have a party, so she stayed in Jerusalem.' Suddenly
my brother Elitzur turned to my father and told him:
"Father, I want to talk to you about something... in
connection with Anat." My father nodded and waited, but to
his surprise Eli asked everyone present to leave the room so that
he could speak with his father in private. At that point. Jenny
objected. She asked him to postpone the conversation to another
time, since it was forbidden for Eli to get excited. Eli refused,
saying that he felt his days were numbered, and only when he
had spoken about what was bothering him would he feel that he
could... die... in peace."
Hadassah took her handkerchief and wiped the tears that
flooded her eyes. "Forgive me," she asked, "I can't stop myself..."
I didn't answer. A more important problem than Hadassah's
tears was bothering me. Anat was right! There was some kind
of secret connected with her, her father wanted to reveal it,
but her mother was preventing him. Hadassah had dispelled any
shadow of a doubt that I might have had on that subject. And
that secret was so important to her father that it had caused
his condition to worsen...
"You understand," Hadassah concluded after recovering
somewhat, "Anat's mother refused to go out and leave Eli alone
with my father. Eli became very excited, insisting that he had to
speak with his father that very moment! Suddenly his face became
very red, as if flooded with blood. His eyes bulged, and they too
became red it's shocking to hear my mother's description. Eli
shouted that his head felt heavy and hurt very much and
immediately lost consciousness..."
She fell silent, and so did I. True, I knew a little more than
she did, but that little bit wasn't enough to help.
"What do you say?" she asked, giving me a searching,
probing glance. "Certainly it hasn't escaped you what caused the
change in Eli's condition."
"Yes," I said slowly, trying to impose order on my thoughts,
which were racing madly in all directions.
"Anat," she said simply. "I'm not blaming her, G-d forbid,
but it's a fact that as soon as her name was mentioned, everything
else quickly began to happen."
"Yes," I repeated. My eyes were fixed, with stubborn
concentration, on some undefined point on the floor. But
Hadassah wasn't going to let me alone. She continued: "Do
you know something, Tammi? After all, you're her best friend..."
"Yes," I mumbled again.
"What do you mean, 'yes!' " She put her hand under my
chin and raised my head to face her. "Tell me, do you know
I gently freed my face from her grasp and whispered a little
"What do you know? Say it! Maybe Eli can be saved!"
"What I know is not enough to help," I said decisively.
"I'm sorry, but I can't tell. Anat trusted me and told only me,
and I mustn't betray her faith in me. I'm sorry..." I mumbled
apologetically. "If I knew that I could help in some way by
telling you everything I know, I would tell you, believe me,
even if Anat would not forgive me for the rest of her life."
Hadassah wanted to say something, but was prevented by a
scream from someone whose voice I didn't know. Everyone in the
room turned towards the voice. It was Anat. I hadn't recognized
her voice because she was screaming hysterically.
"Father! I want to see Father, I want to go in!" She
sat on a sofa at the other end of the room, with the whole
family clustered around her. Her mother had her arm around
her shoulders, her grandmother held her hand, another relative
stroked her hair... Anat was making desperate efforts to get away
from them, trying to get up from the sofa where she was forcibly
"You're lying to me!" she burst out crying bitterly. "If you
won't let me see Father, it's a sign that he's already not alive!"
No amount of explanation would help, Anat went on
insisting, while I stood off at a distance, not knowing what to
"The girl has lost control of herself. She can't be allowed to
see her father!" Anat's mother explained aloud in a voice full of
despair. "He only regained consciousness a short while ago, and
hasn't yet recovered his strength. When he sees her he's liable to
become excited again, and then who knows what could happen..."
Anat was hysterical, with no control over her thoughts or
actions. She refused to listen to reason. She twisted and struggled,
trying to break free and run to her father...
The door to the next room opened. The doctor came out and
walked towards the knot of people.
"Quiet," he commanded. "What's going on here? Mr. Zahavi
The good aunts somewhat relaxed their grasp on Anat. Her
mother raised her hands in a gesture of helplessness, everyone's
gaze turned towards the doctor and Anat took advantage
of the opportunity. With a swift pounce she crossed the room,
slipped quickly past the doctor and reached the doorway of her
father's room. She made one more leap and was kneeling
beside his bed. I think that her heart-rending cry could be heard
up and down the whole block: "Father! Thank G-d... Father!" I
was the first one in the whole room to reach the doorway after
her. I heard her next words, which were spoken more quietly,
in a tear-drenched, trembling voice: "None of them would let me
come to you. Father...! was so afraid!"
Her father gave her a long, long glance, very full of love
and pain. "My Anat..." he murmured. "Anat... oh!" He sighed
in a way that froze the blood in my veins. But to my surprise,
it didn't seem that his condition was adversely affected to
any significant extent. After a moment of silence he turned to
his daughter and said: "Anat, is your grandfather here, nearby?
I suppose he is. Please tell him that I want him to come
in. I must speak with him!" Anat stood up from her kneeling
position, ready immediately to obey her father's request. "Anat,"
his voice halted her. "After your grandfather goes out... and
after... after I'm no longer among the living... and your grandfather
explains to you everything I'm about to reveal to him..." Anat
froze in her place. I could tell from her face that, had it not
been for the fact that she was standing in front of her sick father,
she would have burst into heartbreaking sobs, terrible shrieks.
The only thing stopping her was fear of harming her father.
"Please don't judge me harshly, my Anat... even if I deserve it."
He went on in a weak voice: "And in case I don't talk with
you again, I'm asking you now... please forgive me, Anat... forgive
I didn't know whether Anat would be able to contain herself.
Apparently the doctor thought as I did, for he went up to Anat,
took hold of her shoulder gently but firmly, and took her out
of the room. I moved aside for him, as did all the relatives
who had crowded around the door of the room.
"Mr. Gold," the doctor said to Anat's grandfather, "Your
son wishes to speak with you. Try to make sure he doesn't get
Anat's mother made as if to object, opening her mouth
to say something, but the doctor spoke before she could. "I
know what you want to say, Mrs. Zahavi. You must realize that
by preventing him from unburdening himself, you are causing
him much more severe damage."
Anat's mother pressed her lips together and accepted
the doctor's words. But her face still held an expression of
unwillingness, of apprehension, and I would even say, of dread.
Anat's grandfather went into the sick man's room and
closed the door after him. Even the doctor remained outside.
We waited in great suspense for the conclusion of the mysterious
conversation. It was Elitzur's request for this meeting that had
set off all the troubles of the past few hours.
With cautious, almost imperceptible movements, I went
closer to Anat. She had sat down in a chair, leaning on a
table and burying her face in her arms. Her shoulders shook
with stifled crying. The kind uncles and aunts, as well as
her mother and grandmother, tried to approach her. Almost
violently, she rejected everyone's attempts. I decided to try my
luck. For a few seconds I stood beside her without moving, she
didn't give any sign of being aware of my presence. I put my
trembling hand on her shoulder and whispered near her ear.
"Anat..." She didn't answer, but also didn't push me away. I
remained standing there for a short time, perhaps five minutes
the longest five minutes I had ever known. Anat didn't react
to me at all. I would have thought that she had fallen asleep
or, worst of all, fainted, had it not been for the unceasing
shaking of her shoulders.
I took a chair and sat down. What should I say to her now?
"Anat," I whispered, "Now you'll find out, at last, what
you've been wanting for so long to know..."
She raised her head a little and looked in my direction. "Yes."
I was shocked by the deadness of her tone. "Now my father is
telling my grandfather... the great secret. And afterwards... who
knows what will happen after that?"
"It will be fine, Anat," I recited the rhetorical phrase. "Don't
"I'm not worried, I'm frightened. A dreadful feeling of fear,
like nothing I've ever known."
Anat's mother noticed that we were conversing, and
apparently concluded that her daughter had somewhat recovered.
She came over to us and stood on the other side of Anat. I
looked at her. Her face was a little pale, her eyes damp, but she
wore a determined expression. She spoke to Anat in English, and
although I understood the words, I couldn't fathom what she
"My Annie," she said, using Anat's other name, her voice
trembling slightly. "There's just one thing I want to say to you.
No matter what happens in the near or distant future, what certain
people will say to you, what they will ask of you, remember one
thing: I'm your mother, you are my daughter. My Annie... when
all of them, all those you trusted so much and loved... yes, loved
even more than you loved your mother, when all of them turn
their backs on you, remember that I, your mother, am with you,
always standing by your side, wanting only what is good for
"What are you talking about. Mother?" Anat's desire to
understand overcame even her fear.
The door of the sick man's room opened and Anat's
grandfather emerged, stumbling shakily. His appearance was
terrible, his face was grey I wondered how it could have
changed color in so short a time, he had been in the room a
little over half an hour. He stared uncomprehendingly at the
people in the room, as if he had never seen them before. It
was clear to me that if he had not been holding onto the
sides of the door, he would have collapsed where he stood. His
hands, which gripped the doorway, looked as if they were in
"Someone must go to him!" that was the first thought
that came into my mind when I saw how he looked. Once again
the doctor saved the situation. He took the old man's arm,
led him to a chair, and helped him sit down. Jenny's tongue,
which momentarily had been as if paralyzed, broke free and she
"Eli! Has something happened to Eli? You're so pale,
The old man, exerting himself, managed to produce a forced
smile, which looked more like the spasmodic movement of
someone in terrible pain. At first it was hard for him to speak; he
opened his mouth several times without being able to produce a
sound. When he regained his voice, he said:
"Forgive me... I just had a dizzy spell... Eli's perfectly fine
at the moment... he didn't get more excited than is permitted... I
haven't rested since this morning, you understand, I'm sure," he
tried to apologize, "I'm not young anymore. I've been through
some hard hours today... and it's already very late..." He looked at
his watch, as if to prove what he was saying. All of us, following
his example, looked at our watches. It was one o'clock in the
My poor mother! I had promised I would phone her this
evening, and she must have been worrying so much... no doubt
she was sitting up waiting for my call.
The doctor, who had had time to go into the sick man's
room and come out again, addressed everyone present in a firm
voice: "Ladies and gentlemen, I suggest that you all go to sleep.
Mr. Zahavi is now trying to fall asleep, and I'm sure that
none of you wants to disturb his rest. There are two young
girls here, I don't understand why they are up at this late
hour." He looked at us sternly, then turned to Anat's mother.
"Mrs. Zahavi, you can also go to sleep. Don't worry, I'm
telephoning immediately for a nurse who will be here in a
few minutes and will sit at the patient's bedside throughout
the night. I will sleep in this room, on one of the sofas I
hope you have no objection and I'll be ready to get up
at once if the nurse calls me. In five minutes I want this
room to be empty!" he concluded in an authoritative tone.
Submissively, everyone followed his instructions. Jenny
directed her husband's family to a number of nearby rooms
there was no lack of them in this enormous house where
they could pass the night. At this hour, and under the present
circumstances, none of them intended to go home. I, of course,
prepared to sleep in Anat's room. Before we entered the room,
Anat went to say good-night to her aunts and uncles. When
she turned to her grandfather and told him, "Good night,
Grandfather," and he wished her the same for some reason
it seemed to me that his voice contained a special softness.
Yet the look he gave his granddaughter seemed to me extremely
I remembered that I had to phone my mother, and did so
despite the late hour. As I had expected, she had been sitting up
by the telephone. She couldn't conceal her relief at hearing my
voice and her fear of what she might hear. In short sentences
I told her what had happened, reassuring her that she needn't
worry, and that it seemed I would be coming home tomorrow,
when I could tell her everything in more detail.
By quarter till two we were in bed, very tired, but still far
"I don't believe that my grandfather had a dizzy spell,"
Anat whispered in a tired voice. "I'm sure he heard something
terribleabout me. Oh! I can't stand it any longer. I try to
strengthen myself, try to feel indifferent... tell myself I don't care
what will happen or what has happened... and yet, all the same..."
She was silent for a long time. When she continued, her tone had
changed. "Am I ever going to find out the great secret? My father
said I'm afraid to repeat the words..." Her voice trembled.
"...that my grandfather would tell me... when he would no longer
be... you know what I mean, I can't utter those horrible words... so
maybe I'll never know what it's all about?" she said hopefully.
"Or maybe only after many years, because my father is going
to get well, and live to a good old age!" For the sake of her
father's health and well-being, she was willing to forgo ever
knowing the great secret.
Encouraged by her own words, she became a little calmer.
Our long hours of wakefulness forcefully demanded their due
and received it, in the form of sleep that overpowered us.
The great secret became known to Anat sooner than she had
expected, for the next morning her father did not open his eyes.
He had passed away in his sleep.
It wasn't Anat's grandfather who revealed the secret to her,
her mother hastened to do so. Apparently she thought that this
would somehow ease her daughter's suffering.
The days which followed were beyond my strength to
describe. They were very difficult for Anat and for me as
well. The death of her father was a shock for everyone, but
Anat suffered the heaviest blow of all. Just at this time, after
a long-standing dream had been fulfilled, a dream that she never
could have believed would actually come true, and her father had
done teshuvah just at this time, he was taken from her.
Before they told her the terrible news, they had to give
her an injection of tranquilizer. But even after the tranquilizer,
it was impossible to be near her. She screamed and shrieked,
threw herself around wildly, and left us all helpless, at a loss
what to do for her. I thought of her gloomy prophecy, when
she had expressed her fear of having a nervous breakdown... I
understood that it had now come true. All I could do was hope
that she would pull out of it quickly. Any more practical form
of aid was beyond my capability. Anat didn't let anyone approach
her, not even me or her mother. If someone tried to come close
to her, she broke into heart-rending shrieks. When the person
moved away, she would calm down to some degree, but then her
screams turned into fierce sobbing that awakened pity.
That was her condition when I left her house late in the
morning of that same grim day. I was following the advice of her
cousin Batyah, who had arrived at the house as soon as she heard
the terrible news.
"When Anat's condition improves, I'll phone you and let
you know you can come," she said in a sad voice. "I know
you and your friends will want to do the mitzvah of comforting
I nodded assent. With an effort I managed to say Shalom to
Batyah, took my bag, and left the house. I didn't say good-bye to
Anat, that would have been impossible. That's how I went, head
down and eyes streaming tears, not caring that the people on the
street stopped and stared at me in wonder. Nor did I answer
when a very nice older woman stopped and asked in a voice that
inspired trust: "What's wrong, girl? Why are you crying?" I only
wiped my tears, which just continued flowing all the harder, and
quickened my pace. I felt very miserable, and knew that Anat was
much more miserable than me. I have no idea how I found the
central bus station without getting lost, for I simply walked,
paying no attention to where my legs were taking me.
When my friends heard of the tragedy that had befallen
Anat, their shock was total. Girls sobbed aloud unabashedly,
others just stood there with a desolate expression, faces pale and
hearts pounding... the mechanechet too was shocked, though she
tried to maintain her calm and to strengthen us.
"As Jews, it is forbidden for us to let ourselves fall into
despair," she said with measured words, trying to cover the
trembling in her own voice. "Of course we all share in Anat's grief.
She is our classmate and friend, and as I think I can say without
the least fear of offending any of you, she is the most outstanding
girl in our class... a noble girl, with traits and principles that
can serve as an example even to those older than her... I'm sure
I don't have to elaborate on her high character, all of you
have come to know her well during this year that she has
studied in our class. No doubt you have realized the many things
she has accomplished for the class, and that her influence on
your behavior has been greater than words can describe. Perhaps
just because of her greatness, she has been given this enormous
trial..." Here she could no longer keep her voice from trembling.
The silence in the class was tangible, all of us were riveted to our
"It's not in vain," she continued, "that our Sages tell us, 'A
trial is only sent to one capable of withstanding it.' I understand
that Anat's condition is very difficult" in this brief sentence the
mechanechet summarized for the rest of the class what I had told
only her, I had described to her how Anat appeared when I had
left her house that morning. I had also told her that Batyah had
phoned in the evening to say that since Anat's condition had not
yet improved, there was no point in visitors coming. I didn't
want to tell the other girls. I didn't think it was right for me to
let them invade Anat's privacy. Perhaps she was not interested
in having them know about the serious crisis that had overtaken
her? I knew that Anat admired and trusted the mechanechet. To
her I could tell these things, she would understand, and would
find the right way to explain to the girls that it was not a good
idea to visit Anat at this time.
"I'm reminded of a story I heard when I went to visit one
of my friends during her seven-day mourning period for her
relative," the mechanechet continued. We all listened intently.
"One of the women who had also come to comfort my friend said
the following: 'It is said of the Holy One, Blessed is He, that He
'decrees and keeps.' What great praise is this for the Master
of the universe? He is omnipotent, obviously, when He decrees
something. He keeps His decree. Any decent person tries to keep
his promises... all the more so, the Creator of the world!
'"A rabbi I'm sorry I've forgotten his name explained
this by means of a story. A certain Chassid was visiting his Rebbe
when he received a telegram stating that his father had quite
suddenly passed away. In his great grief, the Chassid fainted.
They tried all kinds of ways to revive him, but nothing helped.
They poured water on him, called a physician but he remained
stretched out on the ground, unconscious. It appeared to everyone
that he was no longer alive. Immediately, several Chassidim
rushed into the Rebbe's room to tell him what had happened.
Without hesitation, the rebbe left his room, went to the man
who lay on the ground, looked at him for a short moment
and then bent over and whispered in his ear: "The telegram isn't
true. Your father didn't die, your father is alive!" That very
moment, the Chassid opened his eyes and stood up. Within a
few short minutes the postman returned with another telegram,
which stated that the first message had been a mistake, and the
man's father was alive and well...
" 'What's this, Rebbe?' the Chassidim asked, 'a demonstration
of prophetic powers?'
'Certainly not,' the Rebbe replied. 'It's very simple. It is
said of the Holy One, Blessed is He, that 'He decrees and
keeps.' The meaning is, that when Hashem, Blessed be He,
passes a decree upon a person. He at the same time 'keeps' him
gives him strength to live with the decree and to keep going
despite the blow, no matter how severe it may be. When I saw
the Chassid stretched out in deep unconsciousness, on the verge
of breathing his last at any moment, I understood that he was
incapable of withstanding that decree, and therefore the news
couldn't be true.' "
We had all been affected by the story. The mechanechet went
on and I felt that her words were especially directed towards
me "Even if it seems to us that it is hard for Anat to
cope with the tragedy that has happened, even if at the moment
the burden has crushed her we know and trust that along
with the decree, the Holy One, Blessed is He, has given her
sufficient power to bear it. And with Hashem's help, she will
overcome and emerge from the experience tempered by her
suffering and much stronger than before."
The mechanechet's consoling words greatly strengthened us.
Sensing this, she continued in a firmer voice: "As for going to see
Anat, I imagine that all of you want to visit her, but as far as
I understand, visits at this time would only make things harder
for her. We will have to be patient and wait a few days, and
in the meantime I will find out more about her situation. We
can hope that she'll feel better soon, and that her circumstances
will allow her to see friends..."
On the evening of the second day of Anat's shiva, seven-
day mourning period, Batyah phoned me to say that there had
been some improvement in Anat's condition. She was no longer
hysterical, and also was not crying as she had been during
the past two days. From that point of view she had calmed
down, but it seemed that a strange indifference had overcome
her. She didn't take an interest in anything, didn't speak with
anyone except her mother and was capable of sitting from
morning till evening in the same place, staring dully into space...
"She was so worried about having a nervous breakdown..."
I murmured in dread, forgetting that Batyah wouldn't know what
I was talking about, after all, she hadn't been in on Anat's secret.
And in fact, Batyah didn't grasp my remark.
"What do you mean, she was worried?" she asked quickly.
"It's a long story," I said, realizing I had made a slip of the
tongue. "I'll tell you another time if Anat agrees, of course."
"Alright," she conceded to me. She had too many other
things on her mind to start arguing with me. "What I wanted
to tell you is that we thought my mother and I that
you might very well be able to pull her out of the stupor
she's sunk into. After all, you're her best friend, as far as we
know, she's very fond of you. It's likely that you could help
"I'll do anything in my power for Anat's sake!" I declared
with feeling. "Do you want me to come there now, right away?"
"It's not a good idea," she suggested, "it's already nighttime.
Better wait until tomorrow even tomorrow morning. Can you
"I can! I'm sure the mechanechet will let me!" I had no
doubt about that. "Tomorrow morning I'll be at Anat's!"
Early the next morning I left my house for the central bus
station. All my thoughts were of Anat. I thought her name,
pronounced it mentally, whispered it... I anticipated seeing her,
looked forward to conversing with her, very much hoping that
it would be in my power to help her, in return for all that she
had done for me.
As soon as I entered the room where she sat without shoes,
on a mattress on the floor, in accordance with the customs of
mourning, I realized that all my hopes had been in vain. Anat
greeted me with a dull, glassy stare. For a moment I even
doubted whether she knew who I was. I sat down, every muscle
contracted, feeling that the blood had left my face. On other
mattresses in the same room sat Anat's mother, grandmother,
and three of her father's sisters. Anat sat off to one side, at a
distance from them, as if deliberately cut off from them.
I waited for some time. I knew that the custom was not to
begin speaking until the mourner spoke first. But how long could
one wait! No one in the room volunteered to utter a word.
Finally I understood that Batyah had not exaggerated. I could sit
and wait until tomorrow morning, and Anat would not open her
mouth. I took the initiative and said:
"Anat, all the girls of the class send you their regards."
Her silence continued, she didn't even glance at me, as if I
had been speaking to someone else.
I tried another tack. "The literature teacher gave back the
tests. You got a hundred." She showed no interest at all. Her
gaze remained fixed on the wall above me.
I gathered all my remaining courage and tried to say in a
normal tone of voice: "The math teacher had a baby boy."
Anat didn't react. I felt helpless. Anat was like a block of
ice. The two of us sank into a disturbing silence. No one in
the room made a sound. Each one was withdrawn into herself.
Every once in a while someone moved, adjusting her place on
the mattress, changing to a more comfortable position. Anat's
grandmother, whose eyes streamed with tears, wiped her face
with a handkerchief. But those were the only signs of life in the
room. My mouth was dry, not from talking, but from tension
as I confronted their deep, unbearable sorrow. Hadassah rescued
"You must be thirsty, Tammi," she said to me suddenly.
Her eyes, like everyone else's, were red and swollen. "You've
been here quite a long time, and haven't drunk anything yet, you
came a long way, go into the kitchen and drink something."
Anat's mother nodded her head in agreement.
I jumped at the suggestion, which had come just in time.
When I came back to the room, I felt much better. This time I
chose a chair closer to Anat's place. I waited two minutes, then
cleared my throat and began speaking, letting my glance meet
that of everyone present in turn, but deliberately skipping Anat,
though noting her reaction out of the corner of my eye.
"The mechanechet told us something very beautiful..." And I
repeated what she had said about "He decrees and keeps." In one
of my side glances at Anat I noticed that she had turned her
head slightly towards me. My heart filled with an indescribable
satisfaction. I went on relating the idea with more enthusiasm,
and when I stole a glance at Anat it seemed to me that a
spark kindled in her eyes and was immediately extinguished.
My gaiety turned to serenity, to real joy... I had succeeded in
arousing Anat from her frozenness, if only for a fraction of
a second. I tried my strength at other stories that came into
my mind at the moment, but to my sorrow the spark didn't
appear again, it had been momentary and had disappeared
immediately. Anat's look remained numb, she refused to accept
the flash that could ignite a spark of life.
In the following days the mechanechet permitted us to visit
Anat, in groups of three or four girls. All who returned from
visiting her were shocked and desolated by sorrow and pain.
They did not recognize this other Anat, who did not react to
their coming, and did not grant any of them even one small,
friendly word... Anat had cut herself off from everything around
her, living in her own private world.
Every day that week I went to visit her, despite the fact that
there was no change in her behavior towards me. I would sit
down, speaking or remaining silent, looking at her or ignoring
her. My heart was breaking inside me, "Anat, Anat!" I cried to
her soundlessly, wordlessly. "Anat, be strong! Anat..." But my
silent cry went unanswered.
On the last day of the shiva I didn't go to visit her. The
next day, too, I did not make contact, thinking that it would be
better to give Anat another day to recover. It took all my
strength to restrain myself and not telephone or go to visit her.
Deep in my heart I was hoping that she would be the one to
initiate contact. But I knew that this hope was futile.
After letting two days pass, I phoned her, dialing her number
with trembling hands. Would Anat agree to come to the phone?
Would she want to speak with me, or was she still holding onto
her silence? The telephone rang at her end, but no one picked
up the receiver. I let it ring ten times, then hung up. After
five minutes I tried again, but again there was no answer. At
first I became a little panicky, but then I reassured myself.
Perhaps Anat and her mother had gone out? It certainly was
not impossible. And perhaps, possibly Anat's mother had gone
to work that too was possible! And Anat, who for obvious
reasons didn't want to stay home alone, would have gone to
visit her grandmother, or her aunt... Yes, that was definitely
reasonable! I decided to phone Batyah's house first. I knew that
family, more or less. In any case, my acquaintance with them was
stronger than with her grandmother.
Hadassah answered the phone, and I told her who I was.
"I tried to phone Anat's house," I explained, "but they
didn't answer. I thought Anat might be at your house."
"No," Hadassah replied, speaking slowly and very hesitantly.
"Anat is not at our house."
"Perhaps you know where she is, or when she'll be home?"
"Anat is not in the country."
"What!" Her words hit me like a bolt of lightning.
"Yes, exactly. Anat and her mother have left the country."
"When? Why?" My heart refused to believe it. I thought that
my ears were deceiving me, that I was hallucinating.
"Yesterday morning. I also didn't know they were planning
to leave. No one in the family knew. Jenny phoned from the
airport to tell us that in fifteen minutes they were getting
on a plane to the United States. She left a lawyer in charge
of the house."
"But why did they do that?" I stamped my foot in anger
and tears burst from my eyes. Would I really never see Anat
again? "Why? And without telling anyone... I don't understand!
Anat couldn't at least phone me?"
There was a long silence at the other end, and then: "I also
didn't understand... until I heard what my father had to tell... the
story that Elitzur, of blessed memory, told him on the last night
of his life..."
So the great secret had finally been revealed! My heart froze
within me. "What did he say?" I asked in a voice not my own.
Hadassah sighed. "I can't tell you over the phone... We're all
still emotionally affected by the tragedy. But in any case there's
no need to tell you. Yesterday morning I found a letter in my
box. It had no stamp, and on one side was written: "Please give
to Tammi Har-El. Thank you." On the other side was one word,
I imagine that Anat went to the trouble to put the
letter in my box before she left... apparently she didn't have time
to mail it. No doubt in her letter you'll find the answers to
I was silent. Anat had written me a letter! If only Hadassah
could send it to me right now, through the telephone...
"As soon as I saw the letter," Hadassah continued, "I
dropped everything I was doing and ran to the post office. I
mailed it express, and registered. You should get it today."
"Thank you very much!" I said. They sounded like simple
words, but they contained limitless gratitude. I was extremely
excited. I almost hung up, but Hadassah stopped me. "Just a
moment, Tammi. We must stay in touch with each other. There
are a number of things we don't know, and we're interested to
hear them from you. Batyah said that you know something..."
"Not right now, Hadassah," I requested. "Another time.
We'll certainly keep in touch... thanks for everything... see you
later." And without waiting for a reply, I hung up. I know it
was impolite of me, but I was impatient. I hope that's sufficient
excuse for my behavior.