The Unanswered Cry
By: Mrs. Nechama Kramer
This is Anat's letter, which I received early that same
afternoon. I won't attempt to add my own commentary, nor to
describe what I went through when I read it.
[ chapter 10 ] [ table of contents ] [ Glossary ]
I'm writing to you in the early hours of the morning, after
a sleepless night. This morning, at the end of our shiva, when we
returned from visiting my dear father's grave, my mother informed
me that she wanted to tell me the great secret herself, and not to
wait for my grandfather. After I heard her out and knew everything,
I went through a great turmoil of emotions. I wasn't quick to
recover from it. But now that I've reached my decision about what
I must do, my first act is to sit down and write to you.
First of all, please forgive me for my behavior towards you
during the past few days. I was horrible, I know. I felt it — but I
couldn't act any differently. No one could understand what I've gone
through — and am still going through — but among all those who
can't understand, you, perhaps, can understand a little more. You
don't know — may you never know — how it is to live with the
feeling that you are the one who killed your father... and that's
exactly how I feel! A secret pursued him, disturbed and tormented
him, and that is what snipped the thread of his life.
And I didn't yet know what the secret was. Only on the
last day of the shiva, after we had ended the restrictions of the
seven days, and everyone had gone back to their own homes,
did my mother call me to speak with her. Weeping, begging me to
understand her and my father and forgive them despite the pain
and suffering they had caused me — more in the future than
in the past — she began her story. She explained to me repeatedly
that they had not meant any harm, had done everything with good
intentions... but all that does not change the reality.
I can't write you one short sentence, I must tell everything
from the beginning. You'll understand. What amazes me is how
I took it all with self-control, relatively speaking, and managed
easily to overcome my feelings. The suffering of the last few days
has left me apathetic — but not in the ordinary sense of the word.
I feel that something inside me has been disconnected, maybe the
power that produces emotions... something is passing over me, like
a giant wave breaking and engulfing me... and I don't yet know
how to save myself and escape from it.
This is the whole story:
I've told you before that when my father first began working
for the Israel Defense Department, he was sent to the United
States, and there he met my mother. I didn't tell you any more
details, because I didn't know any. But today I know — sit down,
Tammi, I don't want you to faint in the middle of this letter. I'm
not standing next to you, and can't hold you up.
My father was a young man of twenty-five, friendly, lovable,
and attractive. Very soon after his arrival in America he met
my mother, a twenty-four-year-old divorcee with a daughter aged
five. My mother had married at a very young age, when she was
hardly more than a girl, and the marriage hadn't worked out.
She left her husband, taking with her their little girl — Maggie,
as you know, who was then about three — and was quite satisfied
with her quiet life, until she met my father. It wasn't long until they
decided to marry. But at that point they encountered an unexpected
problem. After they had already made up their minds to share their
future together, my father became aware that my mother, in fact,
was not Jewish. She was a Christian. He asked her to convert.
From his point of view, since he had long since abandoned the
ways of his fathers, this was purely a formality. My mother, on
the other hand, didn't look at it that way at all. She was satisfied
with her religion, and Judaism didn't interest her. My father didn't
push the matter, and they were married in a civil ceremony.
A year later I was born — their sweet little Anna. Or, as
my father liked to call me, by my Hebrew name, "Anat." Do you
understand what is going on here, Tammi? I hope you haven't
fainted, that you haven't gone into shock. And if you have, please
regain consciousness and return to me. I'm continuing.
My father wanted very much to come back to Israel, but was
afraid to bring with him his Christian wife. Although he was far
from being an observant Jew, that step gave him pause. He knew
it would be hard for his wife to become an Israeli citizen, for
she wasn't Jewish. He again tried persuading her to convert, and
in the end my mother gave in. But before she took this fateful
step, she wanted to find out what Judaism is. Together with
my father she went to a rabbi, who explained to her that in
order to become a good Jewish woman she would have to accept
upon herself, sincerely and whole-heartedly, the yoke of Torah and
mitzvot. When my mother heard the series of duties she would
be obligated to undertake as a Jewish woman, she announced
in no uncertain terms that she was not willing to convert! My
father explained to her that she could simply give an outward
show of converting, and once she received the signed certificate
that she was really Jewish, she could forget the whole thing. But
it didn't help, my mother refused. She was a sincere, truthful
woman, and was not willing to perform such an act of deception.
Lacking any alternative, they continued living in the United States.
My mother's study of computer science gave them an excellent
excuse, and my father's office agreed to extend his assignment in
America. But deep in his heart my father missed Eretz Israel, which
he loved very much, and which was far from him and, under the
circumstances, altogether beyond reach.
In this way five years passed. I was four at the time, and of
course remember nothing. But my mother told me the following
One day my father came home with face aglow. "Mazal tov,
Jenny!" he cried joyfully, "you're problem is solved!"
"What problem?" my mother wondered.
"You can convert without any difficulty."
"But I'm not interested in converting!" my mother declared.
"That's an old argument, which we've discussed a great deal
already. I thought the subject had been dropped a long time ago."
"You don't understand. Jenny," my father explained. "At that
time, you refused to convert because you didn't want to accept upon
yourself the yoke of the mitzvot. But now there's a wonderful
opportunity for you to convert without obligating yourself to observe
the mitzvot of the old-fashioned kind of Judaism..."
My mother looked at him incredulously, but willing to listen.
This wasn't what she had understood from the rabbi they had gone
to before. My father explained:
"Until now, if you had wanted to convert, you would have been
forced to do so in only one way: through the Orthodox Rabbis, who
would have piled up immeasurable, endless difficulties in your way.
Otherwise, the State of Israel would not have officially recognized
your conversion. The criteria of the Interior Ministry until now were
— and note that I said 'were' — that a Jew is one who 'was born
to a Jewish mother or was converted in accordance with halachah.'
And of course there's only one halachah — that of the Orthodox
Rabbis. This morning I heard news that surprised me and made me
happy at the same time: The Supreme Court of Israel nullified
the criteria of the Interior Ministry! The religious party rose up
in protest, and came to a firm decision that the guidelines must
be anchored in legislation, so that the Supreme court would not
have the power to nullify them. This demand of the religious party
was accepted, but the new law that was put before the Knesset
contained an alteration that was not acceptable to the religious
party. The altered law now reads: 'A Jew is one who was born to a
Jewish mother or who was converted' — and the law in its altered
form was passed!"
My mother was confused. "I don't understand. The situation
remains unchanged. I would still have to undergo that strange,
primitive ritual of conversion..."
"Absolutely not!" my father laughed. "Take note. One phrase
was left out of the new law: The phrase 'in accordance with
halachah' doesn't appear. What that means is that you don't have
to go to an Orthodox Rabbi to convert. I just happen to know
a Rabbi, a very nice young man, friendly and open-minded,
who will be willing to help us. He serves as the Rabbi of a
Reform congregation, and I'm sure he'll be willing to convert
you without putting obstacles in the way, and without superfluous
rigmarole. You won't have to obligate yourself to observe Torah and
mitzvot. Of course, we'll have to pay some money, but that's not so
terrible. It only amounts to five hundred dollars, and it will open up
for our whole family the gates of Eretz Israel."
All this was hard for my mother to believe. "How can such
a thing be possible?" she asked. "One rabbi converts one way,
and another converts some other way — to become a member of
the same religion! Are you sure that if we go through the rabbi you
mentioned I'll also be Jewish?"
"Without any doubt!" my father declared confidently. "Do you
accept the fact that the government of Israel is the decisive authority
in matters relating to the Jewish people? Yes. So listen to what
the minister of justice said." My father took a folded newspaper
clipping from his pocket and read to my mother the words of
the minister of justice of the State of Israel. The year was 5730
(1970). I may not be quoting the exact words, but the content is
"The amendment to the law is different from the criteria
that have been in effect until now. The old criteria contained the
phrase, 'in accordance with halachah,' and that phrase has now been
removed. The meaning is very clear and simple. There are many
Jewish congregations. The Reform and Conservative congregations
also perform conversions. The amendment to the law serves to make
clear that anyone who comes with a certificate of conversion from
any Jewish congegration, as long as he is not a member of some
other religion, will be accepted as a Jew..."
"And now," my father announced with the joy of victory,
"you're coming with me to Rabbi Michael Ulman, and he will
explain to us what you have to do to become Jewish."
My mother had no reason to refuse. My father's proof, though
it sounded strange, convinced her. As a non-Jew, she had no idea of
the permanent disagreement between Torah-observant Judaism and
the non-observant governing authorities of the State of Israel. She
didn't know that the existence of the Jewish people is based on the
foundation of Torah and halachah, from which the non-observant
government of the State of Israel had cut itself off. For her,
the government of the State of Israel was the only authority in
Jewish matters, just as, for example, in American matters the
only authority with the power to make binding decisions is the
The rabbi was very friendly, and agreed to convert my mother
"Usually," he told her, "I give every candidate for conversion
a book which spells out the basic principles of Judaism. He must
read and study it, and I verify the conversion only after the
candidate has taken a short test on the contents — a test which is
not difficult to pass. In your case, the process will be simpler,"
he smiled at my mother. "Your husband is a born Jew, and the
very fact that you married him already makes you half Jewish.
Hence we can skip the requirement to study the book." He
filled out the necessary details on the "certificate of conversion,"
told my mother "Mazal tov," took the money, and handed over the
piece of paper... and then he noticed me, the little girl, who at that
moment had decided to climb up onto my mother's lap.
"A cute little girl," he said, pinching my cheek. "Your daughter,
I assume?" My parents confirmed his assumption.
"Well," he said, clearing his throat a little, "since the little girl
was born before you. Jenny, received your certificate of conversion,
she is not considered Jewish according to the laws of the State of
This difficulty, too, was overcome with surprising rapidity. On
that very same occasion I too received a "certificate of conversion"
similar to my mother's — excuse me, not completely similar,
for mine the rabbi took only two hundred fifty dollars — and
I instantaneously became Jewish...
Now the way was open for my father to return to Eretz
Israel. His wife and daughter were completely Jewish, and he was
tranquil and at ease. However, just as an extra precaution he took
an additional step. With my mother and me — and of course,
with our "certificates of conversion" — he went to the Israeli
consulate in his area. He presented the certificates and requested to
register his wife and daughter, who had converted, as candidates for
immigration to Israel, since the family now intended to move there.
The paperwork was accomplished without undue delay, and, based
on our certificates, we were registered as Jewish. At this point
my father took the liberty of tearing up the "certificates of
conversion," which had successfully served their purpose and were
now unnecessary. Within a short time we all came to Eretz Israel,
full-fledged Jews to all intents and purposes.
After some time passed my mother became more or less
involved in the internal goings-on of the State of Israel. Only
then did she realize that there was a long-standing disagreement
on the question of "Who is a Jew." Suddenly it became clear
to her that the matter was not as easy and simple as it had
been explained to her at first. She understood that in Israel
there was a faction of no small size — in fact, even very large
— which opposed accepting her type of convert into the Jewish
people. Not being stupid, she also realized that their position
— that of the opponents — was in the right. But by then it was
too late for her to back out.
My mother realized that we had no choice but to keep up
the pretence. We couldn't tell anyone the truth about ourselves.
Even from me, who had a vital stake in the matter, she concealed
the truth. My mother didn't want to create a situation that would
lead me into a crisis when I got older. She also didn't want
to cause my father pain. But even aside from these considerations,
in fact, now that it had already happened — and especially since
it was not her fault — the whole matter was not that important
to her. After all, she had never understood what the Jewish people
is, or why it is special and different from the other nations.
From her viewpoint, it was no great tragedy if two Christian
women had converted, and their conversion was not acceptable to
certain elements within the Jewish people. What did it matter if
they continued living in the country of the Jews, and continued
the outward appearance of being Jewish?
Now do you understand, Tammi, why at the beginning my
parents tried to prevent me from doing teshuvah? They knew that
"doing teshuvah" didn't exactly fit the kind of conversion I had
undergone. It seemed ridiculous to them that their daughter, who
in fact was not Jewish, should "do teshuvah" and live according
to the Torah. So many questions have been cleared up for me
now! My mother's mysterious statements, which she repeated
so often... 'You'll yet see, Anat,' she would say to me, 'that one
of these days you'll give it all up. Understand that all this is
not relevant to you... it's a superfluous burden, unnecessary...'
And why did they object so stubbornly to Maggie's coming?
Because Maggie, my mother's daughter, was never Jewish! And I
worried about her so much... I recall now the day I sat in your room
and explained to Chagit how proud she should be that she was
Jewish — can you believe it? I, who myself have never belonged
to the Jewish people...
My poor, miserable father! Who could imagine the suffering
he must have gone through after he did teshuvah and realized what
had taken place... Of course his heart was torn to shreds whenever
he looked at me... his non-Jewish daughter! Now I understand the
meaning of his strange glances, his heart-rending sighs... and he
loved me so much! My poor father!
In my imagination I can see you now, Tammi. You must
feel terrible... I'm already getting over it myself. My feelings have
become blunted during these past days, I don't know what's
happened to me... Today my mother and I are leaving Israel.
We'll live in my parents old apartment, in New York State.
(I'm purposely not giving you my address.) That's a house that
has no memories of us — I was so little when I left it!
So it won't be hard for me to live there... I'll finally be able to
meet my big sister.
At night, after my mother told me her story, I thought for a long
time about everything that has happened to me in my life, and
especially during the past year. I recalled how my father did
teshuvah, his non-Jewish friend said to him: "G-d made me non-
Jewish, and apparently that's what I'm supposed to be. That's
my function in life, and I have to fulfill it..."
I'm going to try to live according to that theory. The truth is, I
don't know anything about my mother's religion — and mine
— Christianity. And a thought occurred to me: Perhaps after
all Christianity, and not the Jewish religion, is the true religion?
It's impossible to know without trying it. And I intend to try.
Shalom to you, my dear Tammi. I don't know if we'll ever
see each other again. Give my regards to my friends in the
class, and tell them for me that I enjoyed the year with them
Anat — P.S. And this is very important:
It would be a very good idea to read this letter to the girls of
the class, and even to publicize it. Who knows, perhaps it might
save others from a fate similar to mine?
Even if Anat hadn't suggested it, I would have had to
share the contents of her letter with someone. The first to
read it — after me, of course — was my mother. Her eyes
filled with tears. She was stunned, shocked, pained.
"To do such things to an innocent girl — it's terrible! Its a
"Mother," I reminded her gently, "Anat's father is already
not among the living."
"You're right, Tammi," my mother sighed. "Undoubtedly
he atoned for his sin when, just before his death, he revealed
the secret and thus prevented a great tragedy. Just picture to
yourself what would have happened if Anat had gone on living
under the assumption that she was Jewish! She would have
married a Jew and would have had good, cute sons who would
have been educated in yeshivot, and nice daughters who would
have gone to your school, perhaps... and they too would have
married, becoming mixed into the Jewish people and flooding
it with non-Jews. Who knows how many non-Jews are living
today as Jews, in Eretz Israel too, but mainly in the Diaspora
— and all this because of perverse stubbornness, not to add one
phrase to the Knesset's Law of Return: '...in accordance with
My father reacted in a similar way, and so did everyone
to whom — after first erasing the lines referring to Chagit
— I showed the letter. The next day, I gave Anat's letter to
the mechanechet. She looked first at the envelope, then at me,
and said, "During the break I'll look at it."
At the lesson following the main break, the
mechanechet entered the class with a serious expression on her
face. She indicated to us to sit down, and then announced:
"Don't take out any books. We will not have the Ketuvim lesson
today." In reply to the questioning looks — I was the only one
who wasn't surprised, I knew what was about to take place — the
mechanechet continued: "I want to read you a letter which in fact
is a shocking document. It's a letter that our friend Anat wrote
to Tammi. There's no need for explanations, the letter speaks for
Slowly, clearly, expressively, she began to read. The tragic
story unfolded in front of our eyes as if it were happening at
that moment — in front of my eyes, too, even though I had read
the letter dozens of times.
Afterwards, we discussed it. We talked about the grave
problem that had arisen due to the law which had already been
in effect for ten years in the State of Israel, which permitted
non-Jews to enter, as it were, into the Jewish people. For most of
us, the subject was completely unfamiliar. There were a few girls
in the class who had heard of the issue of "Who is a Jew,"
but even they had not understood exactly what the problem was,
and it had never occured to them that they should take the trouble
to study the matter in depth. The problem didn't seem to concern
them personally. But now, due to this unfortunate law, one of
our friends had become the "heroine" of a sad story, a story that
sounded far-fetched and unlikely, and yet all of us could testify to
the accuracy of every word. Now we felt that the topic of "Who
is a Jew" was much closer to us.
"And to think that Anat persuaded me that I should be proud
of being Jewish," Chagit whispered to me in trembling. (She had
been sitting in the seat next to me ever since Anat had been absent
from school. But I had no need to worry, her mind — thanks to
Anat — was no longer occupied with cooking up nonsense.)
"And that Anat chose, from the whole prayer service, to
concentrate especially on the blessing, '...Who did not make me a
non-Jew,' " I added my part.
"I'm stunned. I'm shocked. I don't have... I have no words!"
Chagit said with feeling.
The whole school heard the story of Anat. For the next few
weeks, we were the most popular class in the school. At every
break we were visited by friends from other classes who wanted
to hear again and again about Anat. They begged to listen,
for the umpteenth time, to her tragic story, or just to learn more
about her through everyday anecdotes. Of course I, who had
been her best friend, involuntarily became the most sought-after
"That was the tall, pretty girl with the long blond braids?"
one of the twelfth-graders asked me. "Its really unbelievable!"
"She seemed so refined... poor thing!"
I looked forward to the time when the storm over Anat would
die down, if only so that everyone would leave me alone a little.
And it did in fact die down, as does every event in this world
of ours. Everything is forgotten as time goes on, giving place
to new events, whether greater and more important, or smaller
and less significant.
But even after everyone had stopped talking about Anat,
I didn't stop thinking about her. I had been too close with
her to forget about her. I tried to find out where she was
living and get her new address — and succeeded, after no small
amount of effort. I wrote to my Aunt Shirley in America and
asked her to find out Anat's address for me. She fulfilled this
assignment with success, managing to extract from Maggie the
present location of her mother and sister.
I wrote many letters to Anat, but didn't merit to receive
an answer to any of them. I only got a reply when I finally
asked her what to do with her mandolin, which was still in my
house. The reply wasn't in Anat's handwriting. Someone else
wrote: "Keep the mandolin for yourself. And please do not write
again to Anat." I honored the request and didn't write anymore
to Anat. On the other hand I did write to my Aunt Shirley,
asking her to act as my private detective, keep track of Anat, and
report to me about her every move. My Aunt, giving in to
my imploring, from time to time kept me posted on the latest
news about my friend.
Anat enrolled in a public high school near where she lived,
and apparently Aunt Shirley didn't discover any unusual news,
for the stories she wrote me were quite humdrum — until one
day she told me in her letter that Anat had suffered another
nervous breakdown, apparently more severe than the first, and
had to be hospitalized in a special institution. It hurt me so
much to read that! I thought that if Anat had been near me
I would have held out the mandolin to her, and we would
play music together. At first, no doubt, it would have been hard
for her, but once she got started she certainly would have calmed
The next report was that Anat had overcome the attack,
recovered her health, and been released from the institution. But
she didn't remain long in her home. After about two weeks she
left the house, together with her mother. They appeared ready
for a long trip. A week later, the mother returned alone. Rumor
had it that Anat had gone to learn in a seminary for nuns, with
the intention of becoming a nun...
That was the last report I received from my Aunt Shirley,
for from that time on we lost track of Anat.
Three years passed. Anat's memory didn't leave my heart,
but also did not burn as it had at first. I learned to live without
her, to miss her now and then — and to accept the fact that
she was lost to me.
The fragrance of autumn wafted on the air of Jerusalem.
The days were still hot, but the nights had become cool, and
it was no longer possible to walk around at night without a
sweater. Autumn was knocking at the door — and with it the
start of a new schoolyear. I had graduated very successfully
from high school and enrolled in the seminar for teachers. Quite
a few girls from my class were going on to the seminar with
me: Peninah, Chedvah, Edna, Batyah, Orly, Ruth. Chagit didn't
continue. She decided to enroll in a short course in graphics,
and then begin working. She hadn't given up her eternal hobby
of drawing. I don't think that any of us had forgotten Anat.
All the same, we didn't speak of her often. On rare occasions
someone would mention her name, wondering where she was
now and what she was doing. As for me, I kept everything
I knew locked in my heart.
One day towards the end of Elul I went, together with
Chedvah, to wish a good new year to the teachers who had
taught in high school — especially our mechanechet from the
ninth grade, with whom we had maintained a closer connection
than with any other teacher. She, too, did not ask about Anat,
but deep inside me I knew she had not forgotten her.
When we were leaving, the mechanechet said to me, as if by
the way: "Tammi, do you know who is in my new class this
year? Anat's cousin."
The mention of Anat's name struck me like a blow, and
for a moment I stood frozen to my place. I don't think the
mechanechet noticed, for within a fraction of a second I had
"There she is." She pointed to a tall girl. As well as I could tell
from the distance, she had brown hair, cut short. I made a fast
mental calculation. At that time she had been in fifth grade... yes,
that was little Michal... she had grown so tall in the last three
years! But maybe she wasn't even the cousin I was thinking of?
Maybe she wasn't the daughter of Hadassah and sister of Batyah,
but some other cousin?
"Is her name Michal?" I tried.
"Right," the teacher answered. "Do you know her? Want to
speak with her?"
"No, thanks," I hurried to say. "It's not necessary. I'm sure
she's forgotten me by now."
Only once after Anat left had I met with her Aunt Hadassah's
family. I told them everything Anat had gone through during
the previous months, and also let them read her letter. Even
though they knew the basic facts — from the grandfather — they
still were interested to know the story from the viewpoint
of the one most vitally affected, Anat.
We had parted on good terms — and had never met again.
I didn't have any special reason to renew my relationship with
them, and I preferred to keep the memory of Anat guarded
within me, in the way that seemed best to me, without sharing
my thoughts and feelings about her with anyone.
Rosh HaShanah passed, the Ten Days of Teshuvah also went
quickly by. On the eve of Yom Kippur I suddenly felt a strange
yearning to go and pray Kol Nidrei at the Western Wall. I
had no reason not to give in to this yearning, and even though
this time Anat was not with me, I decided to go.
The look of Jerusalem's streets, flooded with humanity,
was similar in every way to their appearance four years earlier
— the same array of personages, the same varied styles of dress,
the same sanctity and splendor. The Jewish people streamed in
their multitudes towards the Western Wall, remnant of our Holy
Temple, to pray that it be rebuilt speedily.
As I stood at the Wall, festival prayerbook in hand, I recited
the prayers, but almost without being aware of what I was
saying. I couldn't concentrate on the words, and kept glancing
to my side. I was looking for Anat, just as I had been doing
then, when she had stood beside me on the eve of Yom Kippur
four years ago. She had prayed with intense devotion, and
I had felt how she soared far above me — but this time,
I didn't find her at my side.
The prayer-service ended. I turned to go home, swept along
with the crowd of women and girls. I strode with everyone
else along the walk that led to the exit gate from the Western
Wall area. And suddenly — I stopped in my tracks, struck
with wonder. In front, of me walked a nun, thin and tall, in
a long, black dress... just like that nun who had so shocked Anat
four years ago! She wore exactly the same white headpiece, the
same crucifix around her neck, had that same serene look in her
eyes. I was riveted to the spot. Women pushed and shoved
me, but I didn't move. I stared at the nun with wide eyes.
I too, like Anat then, wondered what she was doing beside
the Western Wall on this sacred night. I wondered, because
it was impossible that I was mistaken. The nun in front of
me was — Anat! It was the same face, though older and more
serious. But above all, those were the same eyes. She wore the
clothes of a nun — but she was Anat!
For a moment I didn't know what to do. Should I go up
to her? Call her name, speak with her? Now, with so many
people around? But my feelings overcame all logic. I shouted out
in a loud voice: "Anat!" and suddenly I found myself running
I imagine the people around me looked at me in amazement.
What connection could there be between this Jewish girl and a
nun? And on Yom Kippur, no less! But if people were wondering
and astonished, I didn't see them. I saw only Anat.
"Tammi," she said to me, "tonight is the eve of Yom
Kippur!" Then she turned quickly and disappeared into the
crowd. I couldn't understand how she had done that, how she
had managed to slip away from me with such great speed. I
tried to follow her figure with my eyes, but the great crowd, the
darkness, and the mist clouding my eyes made it impossible to do
so. I couldn't see where she had gone.
All the same, as I walked home my feet hovered in the air
above the pavement. "Anat is in Jerusalem, Anat is in Jerusalem!"
a voice within me kept singing. Despite my disappointment at her
rapid disappearance, I was excited. No! I wouldn't tell anyone
about my discovery. I would keep it to myself, and in the
meantime I would search for Anat. I would keep a close watch
on my surroundings, look carefully at every nun who passed
me... I had to find Anat and speak with her... had to know
everything that had happened to her during these past years.
I wasn't quick to find her. Apparently she made an effort to
stay hidden from me, and perhaps also from other acquaintances
from the past whom she might run into in Jerusalem.
Another half year went by. One sun-drenched day in the
month of Adar, I was walking through the streets of Jerusalem.
Now as then, I enjoyed absorbing the clean, clear air of winter,
the pure, bright atmosphere of Jerusalem. My eye caught a
temporary booth that had been set up right in a bend of the
street, a place where pedestrian traffic was particularly brisk.
A large sign beside the booth proclaimed: "Join the million
who have already signed the petition for the amendment of the
law of 'Who is a Jew!' "
I gazed with satisfaction at the long line of Jews of every
religious and political persuasion, every social stratum and walk
of life, standing and waiting patiently for their turn to add
their signature to the important demand. It would be presented
to the prime minister, in the hope that the call of a million
of his country's citizens would make him stop and think, and
he would take action in favor of the important amendment.
I also noticed a few Arabs among those waiting. Perhaps there
were other non-Jews who recognized the importance of the issue.
I didn't get in line, since I had long since signed the petition,
at the beginning of the campaign. The bus I was waiting
for didn't arrive, so I went on standing there, moved by the
sight of so many Jews who desired to preserve the specialness
of their people, a holy nation. "Maybe at long last the law will
be amended," I hoped in my heart. "Perhaps the terrible decree
will be annuled!" They went up one by one, took the pen and
signed, then made way for the next in line. Suddenly, I leapt from
my place. Among those waiting I noticed two nuns, and when one
of them turned her face in my direction, I discovered that it was
"Anat!" I called in a voice that was not my own, "Anat,
With measured, deliberate steps, she left the line. "Tammi,"
she said to me before I could get a word out, "we live now in two
different worlds, and they are very far from each other... please,
don't force me to leave the Jerusalem I love so much!"
"But..." I tried. She silenced me. "I can't talk with you
long. It's impossible for me to have a friendly conversation with
you. As I wrote to you at the time, I'm trying it, examining,
investigating. It will take time. Perhaps," she added, in a barely
audible voice, "perhaps we'll yet meet, one of these days..." And
once again she slipped away and vanished from me.
I didn't try to run after her. My disappointment was intense.
I didn't think about her concluding words, which she had
whispered. I didn't try to fathom their meaning. All I knew
was that Anat was not interested in speaking with me. I tried to
overcome my pain through forgetfulness, tried to make myself
stop thinking about Anat, to forget her — but I didn't succeed.
The mandolin was a great help to me in times of distress.
When I felt that my sorrow was getting stronger, or unbearable
pain threatened to overwhelm me, I would take the mandolin,
sit in my room, and play it. I would also take out Anat's
mandolin, set it on the bed beside me, and look at it occasionally
while I played. Would the day ever arrive when Anat would sit
beside me, as in those fine past days, and we would play our
Two more years passed, two years during which I didn't
see Anat even once. One summer evening, just as the sky
was reddening with the setting sun, I sat in my room and
played the mandolin. I hovered in another world, pondering and
envisioning without knowing what I pondered and envisioned.
My fingers fluttered over the strings. They no longer hurt, it
was no longer difficult for them to form the chords. Those days
were long past, in which Anat had just begun to give me music
lessons. A light knock on the door interrupted my reveries. I
stopped playing and listened. Silence. My parents weren't home.
My brother Arik already learned at a yeshivah for young men,
where he boarded. Boaz learned at a yeshivah for highschool-aged
boys where he, too, lived in a dorm. Shuki and Natti also weren't
home. They had gotten older, and already learned until late in
the evening at their Talmud-Torah. I was alone in the house.
I had nearly decided that it was only my imagination, and
was about to begin strumming again — when again I heard
a knock, this time a little louder. I got up to go to the door.
Anat stood there in front of me, embarrassed, smiling shyly.
It was the Anat I had once known. With two long,
bright braids trailing behind her shoulders. With that serious-
mischievous look in her eyes. She no longer wore the clothing
of a nun. She stood before me in completely ordinary clothes
and for a moment I thought everything that had happened
until now had only been a bad dream that dissolved, and that
we were two friends who still learned together in the ninth
"Aren't you going to let me in?" Anat asked in a soft voice.
"Of course!" I hurriedly stepped aside, still completely
confused. "Excuse me..."
"I heard the sound of the mandolin," she said in her quiet,
refined voice, "and I guessed that it was you playing. I've been
sitting for half an hour on the wall outside, listening. You play
In the meantime we had reached my room. Anat stood at
the door — and stopped, turning pale.
"What's that?" she whispered, pointing to the other mandolin,
which was on a chair.
"That's your mandolin." I didn't understand the reason for
"Is that how..." she said slowly, "...I didn't know... Do you
always take it out when you play?"
I turned red. "Always!" I declared, and in my heart I thought:
"Strange girls! For five years they've hardly seen each other, and
haven't talked at all, and neither one has any idea of what's been
happening to the other — and what do they talk about when they
"Do you want to play some music together?" she asked,
and without waiting for an answer, picked up her instrument
and took her regular place at my side. "It's been five years since
I've touched the mandolin..." she whispered in a dreamy voice,
"but I haven't forgotten how to play it. It's good that you saved
my mandolin for me, Tammi."
"I was waiting for you," I whispered.
"I know," she replied.
"I knew you would come back," I continued.
"And here I've come back," she said in a restrained voice.
"Is it true you've come back, Anat. Have you really come
back?..." There were tears in my eyes — and in hers, too.
"I've truly and completely come back — with everything that
"How did it happen, Anat?" I dared to ask — after all, was
she my best friend, or not? "Tell me what you've been through
since you left!"
"I've been through very much," she said in a quiet voice,
"...very much, and it's even been very interesting. But, thank
G-d, I can say 'I've been through it,' in the past tense. Those
things are done and gone. Everything that happened, didn't
happen to me. It was another Anat, or Annie, or Anna, or call
her what you will. But it wasn't I. The person sitting in front
of you now is a new, different Anat... an Anat who tried it
out, and investigated — and arrived at the truth." She hesitated
a little, biting her lower lip, and then said quickly, as if trying
to escape from something — perhaps from the past, which all
the same was still on her mind? "And this time my certificate
of conversion is kosher and real, given in accordance with the
halachah. Let's play the mandolins, Tammi."
I picked up my mandolin, trying to identify the song she was
playing, so I could join in with her. After a moment we played
and sang together, our voices blending into one voice:
"Atah echad, ve-shimcha echad, u-mi ke-amcha Yisrael, goi
echad ba-aretz — You are One, and Your name is One, and who
is like Your people Israel, one nation on the earth!"
" 'Who is like Your people Israel,' " Anat murmured in a
dreamy voice, " 'one nation on the earth...' But nowadays — oh!
When will the breach be closed that allows many nations to
penetrate into our people?" she asked, and the question was
almost a cry.
Her cry remained unanswered.