The moment I walked into the classroom, one morning
between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, I saw that something was
happening. The class was all in a stir. A sea of heads formed a
large, tight circle which occasionally shook and quaked, creating
an opening that immediately closed again. This sea rippled with
waves and breakers of hands fluttering upwards and to all
sides from an excess of energy and excitement as all the girls
formed a ring around - yes, I should have guessed it before I
looked. In the center of the circle stood Chedvah, specifying,
explaining, and arguing in high gear.
Chedvah. I hadn't yet managed to explain this girl to myself.
All she had allowed us to discover about her was that she
was a good-hearted person, cheerfully willing to help anyone
who needed her. She was a bright girl. She wasn't at the top
of the class, but her answers during the lessons, her written work
and her test scores - just imagine, we had already squeezed
in two exams since the beginning of the year! - showed that
she had a head on her shoulders. She didn't always bother
to use this head of hers for studying, but generally speaking
she was always using it for something. She was constantly coming
up with ideas - usually daring and unusual ones.
This time, too, Chedvah had an idea. Within a few minutes
after walking into class, I had succeeded in understanding what
was the subject of all the excitement: The day's schedule consisted
of six lessons, ending at 1:45, and the Final lesson was history. It
was such an exasperating lesson! Chedvah claimed. And the
history teacher wasn't exactly the type that had us all trembling
in our boots. Therefore Chedvah proposed that we skip the last
lesson, get on a bus, and go to Tel Aviv - to the beach, of
"Summer's almost over!" Chedvah explained. Her voice was
already hoarse from yelling, but she was still full of energy and
enthusiasm. "How many warm days like today will we have until
next summer? Hardly any! In fact... in fact... today might be the
last day!" she exclaimed dramatically.
Suddenly a quiet, calm voice was heard.
"Why the last day?" It was Anat, who had just that moment
walked into the classroom.
Chedvah was thrown off guard for a moment. "Oh, Anat!"
she stammered, "For sure you won't agree. You'll say it's not
"Why the last day?" Anat repeated her question.
"Well, it's not sure... but it might be... the last day we can
go to the beach..." The lame declaration sounded ridiculous; and
even more ridiculous was the confused expression on Chedvah's
face, which was turning slightly red. The whole class broke out
in thunderous laughter. Our hilarity jolted Chedvah out of her
"Yes, it's not at all funny! We've only been learning for three
weeks, but to me it seems already like three months!"
Just between you and me, Chedvah was definitely right about
"These teachers," she went on, "have put us under such
pressure from our studies that we've forgotten there's anything
else in the world besides studying. Can't we enjoy life a little,
too? So we'll miss one lesson. What's so terrible about that?
If we leave right after our Navi lesson, and get away right at
quarter to one, we can catch the one o'clock bus to Tel Aviv.
We'll get there by two, stay at the beach till four or four-thirty
and take, let's say, the five o'clock bus back. We'll be home
by about six. What's wrong with that plan?"
"Excellent! It's a wonderful plan, Chedvah," Ruth broke into
the rush of Chedvah's enthusiasm. "But there are a few holes in
"Holes? What do you think it is, a pair of shoes?" Chedvah
screeched irrelevantly. She wasn't about to let anyone ruin her
plan. "What are your problems, Ruthy? I'll solve them for you
one by one."
"First of all, where will we leave our briefcases? Surely you're
not suggesting that we take them to the beach with us."
"Why not?" Yael spoke up. "Maybe the fish are bored. We
could teach them something. History, maybe..."
"You're beginning to talk nonsense!" Chedvah lost her
patience. "You think I don't know what to do with the briefcases?
In the schoolyard there's a little hut, kind of a storeroom. I
checked. It's always open. We'll put our briefcases there, and
pick them up when we come back."
"And what about our parents? We didn't tell them we'll be
late... and where will we get swimming suits?"
For a moment the room fell silent. Was Chedvah defeated?
No. She refused to give in. All the same, her voice lost a little of
"O.K. So we'll change the plan a little. At quarter to one,
everyone will race home, with briefcases - we'll forget about the
storeroom. We'll tell our parents, take swimming suits and food,
and at one-thirty - not a minute later! - we'll all get on the
bus. Everybody got it?"
"What if some of the parents don't agree?"
"And I live far away. I won't make it in time." Peninah
raised a reasonable objection.
"I also live far away. Ruthy, can I come to your house to
call home and get permission from my mother? And maybe you
have a swimming suit I could borrow?"
"Chedvah, you've forgotten about the girls that live in the
dorm." Ednah, who lived in Haifa, joined in. "We'd have to get
permission from our madricha or dorm mother, and if you think
one of them would agree to your plan, you're dreaming, though
its true that nothing special is planned for today, and the dorm
is a bit deserted, since quite a few of the girls haven't come
back yet. They live too far away and will only come back after
Sukkot. They're living the good life," Ednah grumbled.
"So let's live the good life, too!" Chedvah urged her. "And
whoever is afraid to come - let her stay home! Tomorrow, when
she hears us talking about what a good time we had, she can pop
Anat and I stood together, a little away from the group, and
listened to the debate.
"What's your opinion, Anat?" I asked. The truth is, Chedvah
had succeeded in getting me on her side. It was a little cool inside
the room, but outside was a heat wave. You couldn't even
look up at the sky, or your eyes would immediately dry out
and be scorched. The sun was flaming, blinding. Your mouth
and whole body felt dry, the air was still and suffocating. They
say the end of summer is hotter than the summer. How true.
The beach - just thinking about it gave a refreshing feeling
to the whole body. To dive under, to be swept along among
the moist, cool, caressing waves...
Anat shrugged her shoulders. "I'm crazy about the beach,"
she admitted half-heartily, "But, to run away from class? And
without the madrichahs permission? I can't do a thing like that."
"Are you afraid, Anat?" Only after I saw the look in her
eyes did I realize that the provocation, even if unintended, was
pointless. For a moment I thought she would choose one of two
possibilities: Either she would gaze at me silently, with penetrating
eyes, and not even bother to answer; or she would reproach me
with her characteristic gentleness - the kind of reproach that
always left me feeling like a wayward sinner in comparison to
But Anat's reaction was not what I expected. "Afraid?"
she answered, after a moment's thought. "I suppose I am. The
question is, who am I afraid of? Certainly not of the teachers..."
And even though I'm convinced she hadn't at all intended
her words as a reproach, that's the effect they had on me.
Only two days ago had been Yom Kippur.
The excited voice of Dalyah rose into the air: "I've got a
different idea! Maybe we could put off the plan till tomorrow?
If so, we'll gain a couple of advantages. Since tomorrow is the
last day of school before Sukkot vacation, we can do whatever
we want! After Sukkot, who's going to remember that, way back
then, we ran away from a. lesson? Which is the last lesson
tomorrow? History again! Aha! Nothing's changed, just the day!
And besides, tomorrow the dorm girls won't have a problem.
They're all travelling home anyway after school. No one has to
know that instead of going straight home they made a detour to
the beach." Dalyah herself was one of the dorm girls.
Murmurs of agreement were heard. "Makes more sense. That
way we also have a better chance to get our parents permission.
We can bring everything we need in the morning, and go straight
from school to the central bus station."
"Chedvah, we'll have use for your storeroom, after all. We'll
have to hide our briefcases there!" someone remarked. But the
comment went unnoticed.
Chedvah once again became full of energy. "O.K. Good.
So it'll be tomorrow. But remember. Not a word to our parents
about the fact that we're going to skip the history lesson. And
be careful that none of the teachers get wind of the plan. Don't
even talk about it with girls from the other classes!"
"But I thought today was the last day of summer, winter
already begins tomorrow and it will be impossible to go to the
"Don't be silly, Anat!" Chedvah sounded a bit insulted,
more from our satisfied laughter than from Anat's remark. "I
only said 'might be.' You never know for sure, so we have to
make good use of every day."
But Anat didn't let up. "In that case, why not make use of
Sukkot vacation? Why do this at the expense of our learning?"
"Sukkot!" Chedvah hissed contemptuously. How would we
manage to get the whole class together during Sukkot? You're
the first one that for sure won't show up, and besides, that
would take all the fun out of it. During Sukkot, everyone can
do whatever she wants. During Sukkot, it's allowed to go to
the beach. The teachers can't tell us what to do on vacation.
What's the point of doing what's allowed anyway?"
Cries of agreement were heard, along with a few opposing
voices. We must have been making so much noise that we
didn't hear the bell that signaled the beginning of classes. We
also didn't notice the teacher standing in the doorway, until
a voice announced: "Girls, the teacher's here!" We hurried to
"Good morning, girls," she said in a calm voice. "I see
you're having a great time."
"Yes," answered Yael, whose enthusiasm was still at a
height. "We're very happy today." Her words caused yet another
outburst of glee.
"Very nice. It's good to be happy. Perhaps you'll share your
reason for happiness with me as well?"
Confused silence reigned.
"What's the matter? Don't you want to make me happy too?"
Silence. Hesitant smiles.
"Chedvah," the teacher said, turning to her, "First of all,
when I was standing at the door I noticed that you were at the
center of the activity. Perhaps you can tell me what happened?"
"It's, um, nothing special. Teacher. Just... nothing."
"Still, I can see that it is something - and something happy,
it would seem." Our teacher wasn't backing down.
"It's happy as long as the teacher doesn't know about it."
Ruthy was a girl who didn't think a lot before she let words slip
out of her mouth. "If we tell the teacher, we won't be able to be
Tension was felt in the room. Chedvah fixed a pair of
furious eyes on Ruthy. What would happen now? How would the
It seemed that Ruthy's thoughtless remark amused the
teacher. A tiny smile, which she tried unsuccessfully to hide,
fluttered around her lips. She had a special talent for smiling
just at the moment when any other teacher would have begun
to yell, get angry, launch a major investigation. It was a sign
that she understood things, this woman! And that was even more
dangerous, because a teacher like that can wreck everything.
"If so, I don't want to know any more details. I don't want
to ruin your happiness." And as if nothing had happened, she
went on to begin a regular day of learning.
The next day was even hotter and dryer. I can't remember
ever being so happy during a heat wave. The hotter the day, the
more we would enjoy swimming in the ocean.
That afternoon, I told my mother about our plan. Of course,
I went out of my way to explain that all the girls had thought
up the idea together, and I didn't want to be the exception.
I didn't mention the part about skipping the history lesson. After
hearing me out, my mother wrinkled her nose. Basically, the
idea didn't appeal to her. On the other hand, she realized that
I was concerned about becoming socially accepted in my new
class, and therefore she leaned towards adopting a soft stance
and allowing me to take part in "the crazy trip," as she called
our plan - just so I wouldn't be different from my friends.
"One thing I don't understand," my mother puzzled. "Why
did you decide to go all the way to Tel Aviv? What's wrong with
a swimming pool here in Jerusalem?"
"Swimming pool? Fooey, Mom! What can you do in a
swimming pool? All the fun is swimming in the waves - topping
them, diving under them, letting the surf pull you back to the
Apparently I started to get carried away. My mother smiled.
"Nu, nu, O.K., that's enough. The more you go into ecstasy
about it, the more you persuade me not to let you go. When
will you get back, did you say? About six? I just want to know
when to start worrying about you."
When I got to class the next morning, I found out that
all the girls had got their parents permission for the planned
trip. The girls who lived in the dorm all planned to take part.
They hadn't even bothered to ask permission. The only exception
was Peninah, who announced that she wasn't going with us. She
didn't explain why. We tried to probe and discover her reason,
but she avoided giving an answer. Our questions seemed to
disconcert her, and also to darken her mood. Once, when Dalyah
went up to her and tried to find out why she wasn't coming
with us - and she approached her in a very friendly manner,
without being critical at all, I thought I saw tears welling up in
"They don't have money," I heard Chedvah whisper to Yael.
"They're actually impoverished. Don't you see how thin she is?
They hardly even have food in their house!"
It's a good thing Peninah didn't hear what Chedvah said.
She surely would have been very hurt. It was true, though,
that Peninah was very thin. Tall, but thin. The bones of her
hands and cheeks stuck out, as if only skin was hanging
on them. It was strange that we had never connected this with the
possibility that there might not be enough to eat in her house.
"So what will be?" someone asked Peninah. "You'll stay for
the history lesson? The only one in the class? And you'll tell the
teacher where we disappeared to?"
Peninah was confused. She didn't know what to answer.
"She doesn't have to stay in class," someone suggested. "She
can go home. That way she won't snitch on the class."
This last remark hurt Peninah's feelings very much. She
lowered her head, her face turning bright red.
Once again. Anat's calming voice intervened. "Peninah, for
her own reasons, doesn't want to go along. Your remark was
out of place, Ruthy. Next time, think twice before you say
Ruthy lowered her head and mumbled something like, "Don't
you tell me what to do." But she took care not to be heard too
"Yes, yes. She almost ruined everything for us. How did you
dare to talk like that to the mechanechet. You almost gave away
Anat ignored this last remark. "And you should know," she
continued, "that Peninah isn't the only one who's not going to
the beach. I'm also planning to stay here."
"You? Anat, you're not going with us?" A number of
shocked voices sounded the question simultaneously. But I heard
only my own voice. From everything I knew of Anat until now, I
had been sure that she would come with us. It never occurred to
me that she might do anything else.
"I've decided to stay here," Anat answered calmly.
"For the history lesson?" asked a chorus of indignant voices.
"I don't know yet whether I'll stay for the lesson. But I'm
definitely not going with you."
Did I only imagine that a look of relief and happiness came
into Peninah's eyes?
"But, why, Anat? It's not like you! You always go with the
"Well, this time, I'm not. And, believe me, I thought a lot
before I made my decision. I wish I could say the same about the
rest of you. You made up your minds without thinking!"
That stubborn Anat! Once she decided about something,
and was sure she was in the right, it was impossible to change
her mind. But I - what was I going to do? How could
I go without Anat? But it was so hard for me to give up
the idea of the trip, especially after I had looked forward
to it so much. Should I go? Or should I stay?
"Maybe, all the same, you'll come with us, Anat?" I tried to
persuade her. "You told me that you love to go to the beach."
"True," she smiled. But she didn't say any more.
As the day went on, I kept nudging her, hoping that I
might be able to talk her into it at the last minute. But I got
nowhere. At the last break - not the one when we had planned
to make our getaway, but the one before that - Anat came
to me and said: "Understand, Tammi. You don't have to
feel guilty as if you were leaving me behind. You don't owe
me anything. No one tied you to me, and you're free to do
whatever you want. Believe me, I won't be mad at you at
I reddened. Could I answer Anat and explain that it was I
who had tied myself to her? That whatever Anat was unwilling
to do seemed forbidden to me, and that the only way it could
become permissible in my eyes was if Anat would come with us,
I fought a hard battle with myself. In the end, of course, the
winner was - the beach. At quarter to one, exactly when the bell
rang - no, sorry, half a minute after the bell rang, for we
waited until the Torah teacher had left the class and disappeared
down the stairs, we grabbed our briefcases and escaped from
the classroom. I paused a minute by Anat. "If...if I don't see
you before Sukkot, have a happy holiday."
"You, too. Have a happy holiday." She smiled at me. But
why did it seem to me that her smile was more sad than
happy? Could it be that, in spite of what she had said to me
before, she was angry with me? Or was something else bothering
her? I didn't think about it deeply. My friends were calling me,
and I hurried after them.
We got to the beach about a quarter past two. It was still
very hot, and as soon as we touched the water we went crazy.
All at once we forgot everything and dashed into the waves.
We floated, dived. Some of the girls, including me, knew how
to swim. We held a swimming race. We played in the water
and in the sand. I didn't at all regret coming. I didn't even
think about Anat. Let her stay in the class if she wanted. She
could study history, if that was what she preferred. As for
me, even if I got punished afterwards, it was better to go to
At quarter to three they appeared. Anat, and right beside
her, Peninah. We pounced on them in our excitement. "What are
you two doing here? Did the history teacher agree to let you go?"
"The history teacher never even came," Peninah answered.
"What? What are you talking about? What does that mean?"
everyone clamored. For a minute, it got so noisy that I thought
our loud voices even silenced the thundering surf.
"About five minutes after you left," Peninah explained
patiently, "a girl from one of the other classes came. She said
that the office had sent her to announce that the history teacher
hadn't come today, and we could go home an hour early."
"Great! Now for sure we won't get punished. The teacher
didn't show up anyway!" Yael rejoiced.
"Just the opposite," said Chedvah, disappointed. "It means
we ran away for nothing." For her, the minute the trip became
allowed, it lost all its charm.
And I? I was simply delighted. Now Anat was with us too!
And besides that, I was relieved that it turned out we hadn't
done anything wrong. True, I hadn't been especially bothered by
it before, but apparently somewhere in my unconscious it had
disturbed me. Especially next to a friend like Anat.
"But what is Peninah doing here? What made her suddenly
change her mind?" someone remembered to ask.
Anat hurried to answer, before Peninah's consternation could
"Peninah told me why she refused to join the trip at first,
and I persuaded her to change her mind."
We all accepted this explanation. Peninah looked relaxed.
But again I managed to overhear Chedvah whispering to Yael:
"Anat must have given her money for the bus tickets." I had
never thought of that. If that was really the reason for Peninah's
change of heart, Anat deserved a blessing. She had a heart of
gold, that girl.
"Did you hear the news?" It was about two weeks after we
had returned from Sukkot vacation. Studies had quickly returned
to their normal routine. As for our trip to the beach, no one
had said a word. No one even hinted to us anything about
it. We knew that two full months of high-pressure studying lay
ahead of us. No more vacation until Channukah! And now Ednah
had come in all excited. "Classes 9-2 and 9-3 are going on a field
trip tomorrow. And what about us? Why didn't they tell us
anything? It's a sign that we're not going!"
"What? Really? How do you know?"
"Orah from 9-3 told me. She was surprised to hear that we
didn't know anything about it. They took it for granted that we
were coming along."
"We're going to have to check this out with the mechanechet"
The next hour was scheduled to be with our mechanechet.
Before she could even take roll, we jumped on her excitedly.
"What's going on? Why aren't we going on the field trip?"
She smiled, of course. Was there ever a time that she didn't
"First of all, I want quiet here. This is not how you greet the
We got quiet. We knew she was right. All the same, we felt
very grumbly. Only after the class had become completely silent
did the teacher begin to speak.
"You asked why you're not going on a field trip tomorrow..."
Again sounds of protest began to be heard, but the teacher
silenced them with a wave of her hand. "In view of the fact
that this class has already had a field trip this year - excuse
me, I mean a beach trip." She surveyed us with a penetrating
look. "The teaching staff and the administration decided that
you will have to forego the yearly joint field trip."
"What-what does that mean? What's the connection?"
"If I remember correctly, on the last day before Sukkot
vacation you organized a trip to the beach for yourselves."
"But that wasn't instead of anything else!" a number of
"Just instead of a history lesson," the teacher rejoined.
For a moment we didn't know what to answer.
Yael tried to save the situation. "It wasn't even instead of a
history lesson. In the end, the teacher didn't come."
Our teacher smiled. But this time it was a cold smile. "And
do you know why the history teacher didn't come?"
"What? We don't understand!" voices were heard. "It must
be that she didn't come on purpose!" The light suddenly dawned
in someone's mind, and she immediately blurted out her thoughts.
"In fact, I myself told the history teacher not to come that
day," the mechanechet announced.
"But why? Why not?" We were still mixed up. Our nice,
refined mechanechet had suddenly become tough.
"Why, you ask? For your information, the history teacher
comes here from one of the most distant neighborhoods of
Jerusalem in order to give your class a history lesson. The
teaching schedule didn't work out in such a way that she could
have a number of classes on that day, so she has to come
just to teach one class. Your class. What did you want me
to do? Allow her to make that whole trip, and waste her time and
strength, just so she could meet an empty classroom? And just
before a big holiday, when she certainly had enough things to
She spoke in a loud voice, forcefully, and we were silent with
"But how did the mechanechet know that we planned to go
to the beach?" came a hesitant question.
"Is it so hard to imagine that I figured out why you were all
so joyful that day?"
"Somebody told the teacher. ..There's a spy in our class!"
angry voices proclaimed. "No way! We won't put up with a thing
like that. Who could it be?"
"Girls, be quiet!" the teacher reprimanded us. "No one in
this class is a 'spy'..."
"That's impossible! Otherwise, how did the teacher find
out?" Someone held stubbornly to her opinion. A voice I didn't
manage to identify dared to say, "Anat and Peninah, they didn't
want to come with us..."
"Quiet!!!" the teacher silenced us. This time she was truly
angry. "Don't you know our Sages saying, 'Whoever casts
suspicion on the righteous will be punished with physical
suffering?' And what happened to all that you learned about the
rule, 'Always judge a person with a presumption of innocence?
The truth is, it never entered my mind that I had any obligation
to reveal to you how I know things. But since you've raised such
ugly suspicions, I'll tell you. I called up a number of mothers
- yes, your mothers! - and by talking to them I discovered
your plans. I don't need to make spies out of my students. As
for Anat and Peninah, it's you who should ask their pardon.
Just because of you, both of them are losing out on the field
trip. To the best of my knowledge, they are the only ones
who didn't leave the classroom that day. Isn't that true? And
from now on, I don't want to hear any more of that kind
of talk. Understood?"
We understood, and we were ashamed of ourselves. I'll go
so far as to say that we even regretted what we had done. But
there's always one who recovers faster than the others, and we
soon heard the complaining voice of Chedvah. "All the same,
it's not a fair punishment. We only missed one lesson. Classes 9-2
and 9-3 get to miss a whole day of studying."
"You can leave the determination of the punishment up to
me," said the mechanechet, fixing Chedvah with a cold look. "For
now. I'm the teacher here, not you."
Yes, our quiet, refined teacher knew how to be tough when
she wanted to. And this time, like it or not, we had to admit
that authority was in her hands, and maybe justice, too. The
second part was harder to admit to than the first, but whoever
thought about the matter without allowing personal prejudice to
interfere - like me, for example - had to admit, to herself at
least, that the mechanechet was right.