On the first day of school after Channukah vacation,
something unexpected lay in store for me. At the end of the day, as
we were leaving school, Anat turned to me and said:
"Will you come to my room today, Tammi?"
"What for?" I asked in surprise.
"Is there a test tomorrow?" I asked, startled. "When did
they announce it? How come I didn't know?"
Anat calmed me down. "I brought the mandolin from home,
especially so that you could learn to play it."
I gave her a look full of gratitude. I had been hoping very
much that she would remember her promise to teach me how to
play the instrument. But I was too shy to remind her myself.
"You're wonderful, Anat!" I whispered. I couldn't contain my
tumultuous feelings. For years I'd been wanting to study music,
but my parents, for budgetary reasons, hadn't been too delighted
about the idea. It meant a steady monthly outlay of no small
amount for lessons, besides the cost of the instrument itself
-and I had never been able to decide exactly which instrument
I wanted to learn. At first I wanted accordion, but then I
heard violin music and decided there was no more beautiful
instrument. I was in love with the sound of the violin until I heard
a friend playing the organ, and I got enthusiastic about that.
After the organ I changed my choice to piano-in short, I
never made up my mind. If my parents had come to me and said:
"Tammi, we've decided to let you take music lessons. Tell us what
instrument you want, and we'll buy it"-I'm sure I would have
been able to choose. But since I knew that for the time being
the whole thing was only a dream, I allowed myself to expand
on the fantasy, making it more and more pleasant as each time
I played a different instrument-in my imagination, of course.
And now, here was Anat with the mandolin!
That same afternoon we began the first lesson. At the
beginning it was a bit difficult for me. I couldn't move my fingers
quickly enough, and that aggravated me. Very soon my fingers
began to hurt, and that also upset me. When I had first heard
Anat playing, and had seen how nimbly her fingers moved,
plucking the strings, I had been positive there was nothing
easier in the world. Until I tried it myself. But Anat didn't
let me despair. She encouraged me by telling me that for her,
too, it had been very hard at the beginning.
"It takes a lot of will-power for the first week," she explained.
"The second week, a little less. By the third week, you'll already
forget how hard it was at the beginning. And by the fourth week
-you'll already enjoy very much playing the mandolin!"
"And what about the fifth week?" I asked, trying to be jolly,
though in reality I was very depressed by what I considered my
lack of success. That was my feeling, in spite of Anat's explaining
to me over and over that this was how it was for everyone
at the beginning, and that she didn't know of anyone who
had been able to play effortlessly at the first lesson.
"By the fifth week..." Anat began, with a secretive smile. Her
smile lit a warning light in my brain. She was keeping something
from me! Since she didn't finish the sentence, I probed her, a little
shakily: "What will be by the fifth week, Anat?" She still looked
thoughtful, and I began to panic. Almost yelling, I asked: "Anat!
Don't tell me that in another month you're going with your
parents to America!"
Only now did she perceive my fear. "What's the matter with
you, Tammi! Of course I'm not going. By the fifth week, I have a
surprise for you. Do you remember, when you visited at my
house, I told you that when I saw you give up your grandparents'
present for Peninah's sake, I decided... I didn't tell you what I
decided. Will you allow me to keep my secret for another month,
more or less?"
"No, I don't allow!" I decided. "You've kept me in suspense
Anat gave in. "I decided to give you a present," she said
with head down, avoiding my gaze. "You do me so many favors,
and I want to give you something in return. I understood from
you that you like music very much, so I've decided to give you
an instrument I love-a mandolin."
For a moment I couldn't utter a word. Finally I managed
to blurt out: "Have you gone crazy? Buy me a mandolin? That's
impossible. It costs a fortune. As if you owed me anything!"
"Yes, I owe you a great deal," she said deliberately.
"No more than I owe you," I insisted.
"Let's drop that old argument." Her tone was almost
pleading. "I feel I should give you something. And I can afford
to give you much more than that. You don't want to cause me
pain. I was so happy when I got the idea of giving you a present
like that. Will you accept it?" she begged.
I fought a short battle with myself. I tried to be honest with
myself. Of course I would be delighted to have a mandolin... but
to take it as a gift from Anat? The idea seemed so strange to me!
And what would my parents say about it?
"My parents for sure won't agree," I tried to change her
"They'll agree once I explain my feelings. They'll understand
"Let's stop the debate," I suggested. "In the meantime,
we'll continue the lessons. We have a number of weeks ahead
of us, and first I have to find out if I'm going to be able to
master the mandolin at all."
Anat smiled and went on with the lesson. And I? From the
moment I heard that Anat was planning to give me a mandolin,
I learned with redoubled desire and motivation. Deep down,
I very much hoped that my parents would agree to Anat's
gift, which I was sure was given joyfully and whole-heartedly.
Yes, I know the verse in the Book of Proverb, "He who hates
gifts will live." My teachers had mentioned that verse more than
once, and its meaning was firmly etched in my brain. And yet
all the same... how could one refuse an offer like this? Especially
since I was sure that my refusal would cause Anat much pain.
In the following days, during which we spent several hours
together daily, in addition to our time in class, I became closer
and closer to Anat. I also noticed that she felt closer and more
open towards me. Our friendship deepened and became very firm.
I was no longer afraid of Anat's making friends with Peninah
or any other girl. I learned to understand her, and knew that I
could depend on her without any doubt.
The days went by with agonizing slowness-and at the
same time with dizzying speed. No, it's not a contradiction.
What I mean is that before the time went by, it seemed
to me that "a month from now"-the estimated date of
Anat's parents' departure for America-was such a long time,
but when those days were behind me, I was truly startled. "What,
already? How quickly it passed!"
Our mechanechet announced that the class would celebrate
Rosh Chodesh Shevat with a party, and asked the girls of the
class to prepare a program. Anat suggested to me a musical
performance, singing with mandolin accompaniment.
"Wonderful!" I enthused, but her words sounded strange
to me. "You're going to play?" I was sure that was what she
meant, and I was surprised. It wasn't like Anat to show off her
"Not I, of course," Anat corrected me. "I meant that you
should play and also accompany yourself. Why not? You have
a very nice voice, and in the past three weeks you've made
excellent progress in your music lessons. Of course, you still have
much to learn, but without doubt you can make a very successful
It was true that I already knew how to play no small number
of songs, and could without much difficulty find the right chords
for almost any new song I wanted to play. Anat was very
impressed with my ear for music. I could play by ear much better
than from written notes. All the same. No, I couldn't do it! I
refused Anat's suggestion.
"I'm very sorry that I won't be able to demonstrate to
everyone your tremendous talent as a music teacher," I told her.
"But why don't you take your own suggestion? You don't need
to be shy."
"As a matter of fact, I'm not shy. But I'm afraid I'll get too
excited. Don't forget, my parents are going to America in another
week and a half."
I had almost forgotten. But Anat hadn't. She was counting
the days. On one hand she was sorry about the prolonged
separation from her parents, but on the other hand she was happy
that they would be returning with Maggie, her sister, who would
live with them in their home. She was picturing to herself the
expected meeting with Maggie, and making plans how to persuade
her to begin observing the mitzvot of the Torah.
Anat was the last to arrive at the party for Rosh
Chodesh Shevat, which was held on Saturday night, motzaei
shabbat. At first I was a little worried about her, but our mutual
friends from the dorm reassured me that there was no reason to
worry. She had received an urgent phone call just when all the
girls were leaving for the party, and that was why she was late.
When she arrived I saw right away that her expression was
clouded. At the first opportunity I asked what had happened.
"Mother called. My parents are postponing their trip."
I saw that she was very upset, and tried to calm her down.
"What's so terrible about that? When were they supposed to be
"This Monday. Mother claims that unexpected problems
came up with my father's work, so they have to put off the trip
for two weeks."
"That's all? Just two weeks?" I breathed with relief. "You
had me so scared!"
"You don't understand!" Anat countered. "I was waiting so
much for that day to arrive! And now that it has arrived-it's
been pushed away from me again. I can't wait anymore to see
Maggie!" Her voice expressed tremendous yearning, and only at
that moment did I realize how little I had shared in her feelings
during the past three weeks, even though I had thought that
I was closer to her now than ever before. I had not managed
to perceive the great longing with which she had been looking
forward to meeting her sister.
After a period of silence she said: "There's something else
I'm worried about. I'm afraid that this first postponement may
become the precedent for more postponements. I'm afraid their
promise was only made to calm me down and get my mind off
the subject, they might go on putting off their trip again and
again, hoping that in the end I'll give up, and then they can
announce that they've canceled their plans."
I understood Anat's fear, but in her present situation I
considered it better not to build it up. I tried to convince her
that she was mistaken. "Wait another two weeks," I suggested.
"It's not so terrible. You'll see, those two weeks will also go by
quickly. After that, if your parents still make excuses, you can
begin to worry."
Sensing that she did not accept my suggestion, I added: "If
you see that your parents don't intend to keep their promise,
what's to stop you from running away again? You know
you'll always be welcome at my house!" I was aware that my
words might be interpreted as, G-d forbid, encouraging Anat
to run away, but at that moment I didn't see any other way
to calm her fears. "When your parents see that you're firm
in your decision, they won't have any other possibility except
to keep their promise."
She smiled sadly, and just then the lights went out. Two
of the girls had prepared a slide show. From outside, the glow
of the streetlights penetrated dimly into the room. Despite the
closed shutters, the wind could be heard howling through the
branches. Rain began to fall. A slight shudder went through my
body. What was Anat doing now? Was she crying? I wanted to
show her somehow that I sympathized with her feelings-but
didn't know how to let her know.
There was no second postponement. At the end of the two
weeks-during which Anat was somewhat on edge-she
went with her parents to see them off at the airport. When she
returned, she was much more relaxed. It seemed that once they
had gone she could breath with relief.
"Thank G-d!" she told me, "I was worrried for nothing. It
wasn't just an excuse, as I had feared at first. There really was
a problem, and my father's documents weren't ready on time.
I told you that his office was taking advantage of his trip to
give him a couple of assignments in America. That way he can
receive salary for the month he's spending there. As if he needed
I said to her: "Now, after everything has worked out fine,
don't you think it was a mistake to load yourself with useless
worry? You should have relaxed and waited calmly to see how
things would develop."
"That's easy enough to say," she sighed, and then after
a moment's silence: "-and much harder to do. Altogether,
recently I've been so tense. I've never been so nervous as
during these last two months. I know it doesn't seem sensible,
but I can't be any different. It's not up to me. There's a
turmoil inside me that doesn't give me any peace, and I don't
know why. If it's possible to say that a person's heart feels
what's going to happen to him, then my heart is foretelling
"Nonsense," I brushed away her foreboding, though it had
been expressed in such a tone that my own fears were aroused.
Of course they weren't to be taken seriously-and yet...
"You've had too much excitement lately. You've had to deal
with things which are very important to you, and which have not
gone the way you wanted. And you still don't know what will
be in the future. Is your sister Maggie going to agree to come
to Israel? And if she does, is she going to accept your guidance and
agree to live her life in accordance with the Torah? After all, she's
already too grown-up. At her age it will be hard, without a
strong reason, to give up the way of life she's grown accustomed
to, and which has been good for her. All this leaves you in doubt.
And doubt and uncertainty are the foremost enemies of serenity.
It's not for nothing that they say, 'There's no joy like the
resolution of doubt.' What you have to do is convince yourself
that it will all turn out fine-yet at the same time prepare
yourself psychologically for the possibility that everything might
not go precisely according to your wishes."
She nodded her head in agreement. I was happy that she
didn't reject what I had said.
The same day that she came back from taking her parents to
the airport, I received her gift-a wonderful mandolin, just like
"My father bought it, at my request," she told me. Pure
happiness shone from her blue eyes as she handed me the present.
It had been a long time since I had seen her eyes so blue. I felt that
I had to accept the gift, if only to give her pleasure and enjoyment
-feelings she didn't have a surplus of, during this period when
she was so tense and nervous. "It's the best mandolin there
is!" she added. "It's exactly like mine."
Anat's parents said that they planned to return after Purim.
That meant they would be away for more than a month. Of
course, I invited Anat to be a permanent guest at our house.
At first Anat and I had thought that she would just come
to us every Shabbat. But my mother has penetrating eyes and
a sensitive, understanding heart. She sensed with her special
intuition that Anat needed a warm home, especially during these
weeks. She spoke with the dorm mother, who granted permission
for Anat to move into our house for the coming month. My joy
knew no limits. At last I had a sister!
At first Anat felt a little uncomfortable, but she overcame
that without much trouble. She had already been like one of the
family, so it wasn't a big step for her to become a permanent
resident. Of course I moved her into my room. I gladly gave
up the privacy my room had afforded me, in order to share it
with Anat. I'll never forget that marvellous stretch of time. We
were exactly like two sisters. No, I take it back. We were like two
good friends. Sisters sometimes get angry at each other and fight.
With us such a thing did not exist. We got along fine with each
other, each knowing how to adapt to the other's weaknesses. We
became friends with all our heart and soul.
In the evenings we would sit in my little room, strumming
our mandolins and singing. Our voices blended splendidly, and it
gave us a wonderful feeling. Even my mother would often come
to our room, sit off to one side, and listen without disturbing
us, gazing at us with obvious pleasure while she did her sewing.
Her eyes held an expression of boundless love, which extended
to both of us. I don't think my mother felt any differently
towards Anat than she did towards me, her only daughter. I
don't think she loved her any less than she loved me. She
felt and acted towards her like a daughter, her own flesh and
In our class, the studies went forward with no special
incidents. Chedvah had become much quieter-and also much
more full of real happiness-since her father's miraculous
recovery. The sharp change that took place in her was truly
Chagit, too, stopped producing "brainstorms" for disrupting
our learning. She still continued drawing during the lessons
-so that her "hand wouldn't get rusty," as she explained to
me-but while she drew she would listen to what was being
said in class, and would even take part. In the afternoon she
worked in my parents' store, and they valued her very highly.
Within two weeks my mother told me that she didn't understand
how she used to get along without Chagit's helping hand. As my
mother put it, "She's hard-working, quick, understanding, and
alert. And we can depend on her with confidence." Working in the
afternoon didn't detract from Chagit's studies. On the contrary,
just when she started working in our store she began to be more
careful about doing her homework, and for tests she usually
studied with me and Anat.
I imagine that a good portion of the improvement can be
credited to my mother. She's an expert at persuasive conversations
which begin as if by the way, with no special purpose, yet manage
to reveal what's bothering the other person and to work on
the troublesome point. I wouldn't be surprised if Chagit even
confessed to my mother what had forced her to leave her previous
No doubt Anat's beneficial influence also brought about a
change in Chagit. Anat, who so much regretted that she had
overlooked Chagit's isolation, now worked to make up for her
mistake. She made friends with her and treated her with great
consideration. I was no longer jealous, I knew what motivated
Anat to act this way, and was happy to have the chance to
help her in her efforts-my main assistance being to keep
out of the way.
In general, our class changed for the better. The girls
matured, and this showed in their behavior, which was more
thoughtful and balanced. I don't think any of us would have
paid attention if someone had suddenly stood up one clear day
-or rainy day, for that matter-and suggested an afternoon
romp to the beach. And that's not because it's not usual to go to
the beach in the winter, but because we had gained in moderation
and good judgment, and were much more grown-up than we had
been at the beginning of the year.
Every week Anat received a letter from her parents. Usually it
was written by her mother, in English. To Anat's disappointment,
her mother didn't tell much in detail. She wrote only that "matters
are a bit difficult, and are progressing slowly." These words
threw Anat into somewhat of a depression. But afterwards she
wrote that "noticeable progress" had occurred, she had spoken
with Maggie and suggested that she come to live in Israel, and
Maggie had not expressed any objection to the idea. When she
read this, Anat almost shook the walls of my room with her
These letters were very brief, and nearly always included one
or two sentences at the end in the handwriting of Anat's father,
who usually signed off with something like: "Miss you. Cold here
in America. Send us a little Israeli sunshine. Very busy, can't
write more. Lot's of love-Eli."
The last letter Anat received while living at our house arrived
when I wasn't home. My mother had sent me out on some errand.
As she read it through for the second time, Anat wrote down a
translation into Hebrew for me. To this very day I've kept
that sheet of paper, filled with Anat's lovely, neat handwriting
-even though years have passed since then.
My dear Annie,
(Anat's English name, which her mother frequently used, was
I miss you very much, my girl. I hoped that our forced
separation wouldn't last too long, and we would soon be together
again, but I was mistaken. Unexpected difficulties are piling up
in front of us. Matters are not progressing as we had hoped
and expected. It is hard to persuade Maggie to leave her
fine house and her new mother and father who love her very
much, to come to a foreign country where she would have to
begin everything all over again. Remember that she doesn't even
know Hebrew. She wants to hug her little sister, but for that
purpose she is not willing to sacrifice her home, her country, her
friends, and her future. That's what she insists again and again.
Your father will return home as planned. He has completed his
assignments here very successfully and cannot extend his leave of
absence. Yesterday he received a telegram from his office, in which
they say they need him to return as soon as possible. He'll arrive in
Israel next Tuesday.
It seems that I shall stay here in America for some time
longer. I don't yet know how long. I'll try to persuade Maggie
to come, despite the difficulty involved. If I don't succeed, how
would you feel about coming here yourself, to try to speak with
your sister? But we'll talk about that when I get back.
In connection with your father, I must prepare you for the
fact that he has undergone a tremendous change of late. I don't
want to explain in detail, you'll see and understand for yourself
when he comes home. These past few days I've hardly seen him.
He gets up in the morning, dresses, and leaves. I don't even
know exactly where he goes. When he returns, late at night,
he claims that he has gone "to be alone with himself," because
he is presently going through a process of soul-searching. I don't
understand what has happened to him. No doubt he will tell you
everything when he returns. You, Anatty, will surely be happy with
the way your father is changing.
I'll send you more exact information about my plans as soon
as I myself know what I intend to do. In the meantime-"I'll
be seeing you."
Take good care of Father!
Your mother, who loves you very much,
P.S. Please convey my feelings of gratitude to the family in whose
home you are staying, and also my greetings, especially to Tammi!
When I returned, Anat asked me to read the translation of the
letter. I read it through quickly, and was left in uncomprehending
wonder. We both tried to analyze the contents.
"I'm interested to know what could have happened to my
father!" Anat wondered with emotion. "He never used to want
to be alone with himself. Soul-searching? Since when does he
indulge in soul-searching?"
"I think I understand!" I said excitedly. "Probably...
apparently your father, for some reason, arrived at a situation
in which he decided to do some soul-searching, and, from what
your mother writes, he has also changed in accordance with the
conclusions he reached. What do you think? Has he decided to
change his way of life?" I was excited by the very thought that
Anat's father might have decided to return to the way in which
he had been brought up as a boy.
"I'm not so sure that's what she meant," Anat hesitated,
"although that was the first thought that occurred to me. I
can't picture my father's changing his opinions, his behavior,
the way of life he's held to with such great zealousness. I can't
imagine anything that could have happened to make him do
teshuvah. No! It can't be," she decided.
"Let's not jump to conclusions," I suggested, "especially
since we know that anything we say now is only a guess. Let's
wait and see. You don't have much time to wait."
On the day her father returned to Israel, Anat got permission
to miss school. The mechanechet allowed her to go to the airport
to welcome her father. Without Anat, I felt a little alone that day
-and the next day too, for Anat extended her own leave of
absence and did not return until early Wednesday evening. The
first place she went was my house, even before she took her
things to her dorm room. She practically fell all over me, her
face totally radiant with joy.
"You won't believe it, Tammi!" she cried excitedly. "You
guessed right! It's still hard for me to believe that it's all true...
that all this has really happened!"
I brought her a chair and asked her to take off her coat. In
her great excitement Anat had forgotten these minor details.
"You were right, Tammi," she repeated. By this time she was
sitting comfortably in the chair I had brought her. I sat opposite
her and she told me the story: "I stood by the door where the
passengers were supposed to come out. I waited impatiently to
see my father. The plane had already landed fifteen minutes ago,
and my father had not yet appeared. I started worrying. Maybe I
had got mixed up about the flight number? Or maybe something
had gone wrong at the last minute and my father had not got on
the plane? Dozens of men, women and children went by in front
of me. Most of them were pushing carts containing suitcases and
packages. I didn't search for my father among them. I knew that
he would arrive with his attache case and one other small bag.
With my eyes I searched through all the faces that were going
past me, focussing on the heads. I was looking for a man with
a light brown wave in his hair, and a business suit. There were
a few like that, but none of them was my father. I almost
decided to worry, thinking: What'll I do if the last passenger
comes out, and my father's not there? I was just making plans to
go and ask if he was on the passenger list, when a hand was
laid on my shoulder. I turned around quickly and saw facing
me-my father's smile! Yes, only the smile. None of the rest
belonged to Father, but the smile was unmistakably his. My
mouth fell open in amazement, and before I could say a word he
asked me: 'Nu, what's this-you didn't recognize me?"
"I hadn't recognized him when he had come out among the
other passengers. I had been looking for a man with a light brown
wave in his hair, and that wave didn't exist. It had disappeared.
On his head, which I had always seen bare, was a black hat... and
he had a little fledgling beard, just a few weeks old... how could
I have recognized my father with a beard? In my whole life
I'd never seen him that way! The suit and tie remained, but
from under the suit, tzitzit were peeking outócan you picture
to yourself how ecstatic I was?" Anat jumped up from her
chair and danced around the room. I smiled in understanding.
All the same, certain questions remained unanswered.
"How did all this happen?" I wanted to know. "In such a
short time he changed so much?"
"The story is even more amazing. Really astounding!"
Anat came over and stood facing me. "To me, the way he
was persuaded to do teshuvah is much more amazing than
the fact that he did it. The hand of Providence is so clear!
It's really an open miracle... just for that reason, he had
to go to America."
And she went on to tell me the story.
"As part of the assignment he had been given by his office,
my father had to meet with a number of people who work in
his field. One day, about a week after he arrived in America,
he was supposed to have lunch with a certain person in a
luxury restaurant in Manhatten. It was what the Americans call
a 'business lunch.' During the meal they discussed their work
and clarified everything they had to clarify. By the time they
finished lunch, their business was taken care of. They wrote up
an agreement, signed it, shook hands, and ordered a bottle of
wine in honor of the occassion. Suddenly my father's colleague
asked him: Tell me, is it true you're Jewish?'
" 'Yes,' my father answered. He felt a little ill at ease. Why
was the man suddenly interested in his Jewishness? Was that
going to make him cancel this important agreement?
"His fear proved groundless. The colleague asked: 'So why
don't you act like a Jew?'
"My father told me later that this question was like a heavy
blow to him. To hear a question like that from a gentile! For a
minute he didn't know what to answer.
" 'What... what do you mean? What are you referring to?'
" 'Look,' the other man explained, 'You're a Jew and I'm a
gentile. But all the same we're no different from each other. You
look like me, dress like me, act exactly as I do, and even eat
together with me at the same table, the same foods I eat. If so,
what is it that expresses your Jewishness?'
" 'I... I'm a Jew!' My father didn't know how to explain the
matter successfully. 'There don't have to be special differences... it's
enough that I live in Israel, which is a Jewish country... that I live
among my people, the Jewish people.' He himself felt that his
explanation was very shaky.
" 'It doesn't make sense,' the gentile said decisively. 'So if
you come to live here in America, you'll no longer be a Jew? No!
And if I go to live in Israel, will that turn me into a Jew? Also
not. So obviously it's not where you live that makes you Jewish.
My questions is, in what way are you, as a Jew, different from
me, a gentile?'
"My father didn't answer, and his friend went on setting
forth his puzzlement. 'Anyway, on what basis do you, or your
fellow-Jews in Israel, claim that country belongs to the Jewish
" 'Our ancestors were there first!' my father hurried to
defend his rights of ownership to Eretz Israel.
" 'No,' his friend corrected him. 'Before your ancestors, Eretz
Israel was inhabited by seven nations. Canaanite nations. Yes,
I know. I became interested in the subject and read up on it.
And before those seven nations, other peoples lived there, before
the Jews even existed. Who gave you, the Jewish people, the
right to steal the land of peoples who existed many years before
"At this point, my father's boyhood studies came to his aid.
'G-d gave us that land,' he claimed. 'That's written explicitly in
"Apparently the gentile had been waiting for that answer,
and now he jumped all over my father. 'Written in your Torah!
Written in the Torah?' he repeated. 'Is that all that's written in the
Torah-that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews-or are
other things also written there? And those other things-do you
fulfill them with the same fervor with which you fight for your
right to live in the land of Israel? No! You choose the things that
are convenient for you, and that's what you adhere to! The rest
you toss over your shoulder...'
"My father gave him a surprised look. 'Maybe by chance
you yourself are a Jew disguised as a gentile?' he tried guessing.
" 'No!' came the answer. 'I'm not a Jew. I was born a gentile
and I'll stay one. That's how G-d created me, and apparently
that's what I'm supposed to be. That's my function in the world,
and I'm here to fulfill it. But you were created a Jew, and
you should act accordingly. You should live like a Jew, as G-d
wanted you to. What do you think, that G-d does things
for nothing? He's smarter than all of us, and He knows what
He's doing. He wants you to be a Jew, and He gave you a Torah,
in which it's written how Jews are supposed to live...'
Here the the man lowered his voice and said to my father
in a quiet, apologetic tone: 'Don't think that I'm speaking
out of ignorance. I've taken an interest in the Jewish Torah
and researched it, and I must tell you-there's not such a
marvellous work in the entire world! Listen,' he appealed to
my father, 'You're a nice man, and I don't want to hurt our
friendship. Please don't be angry with me for what I've said. I
want us to go on being friends. I don't want to tell you
how to live your life, and yet-I don't understand! How
can a person consciously and deliberately throw away such a
"To hear a gentile talking about the Torah as a 'precious
treasure'-that was beyond my father's comprehension. The
matter gave him no rest. A gentile felt that way while he, a Jew,
turned his back on his people's Torah!
"They remained friends in spite of the 'tongue-lashing'
the man had given my father. Happy with the success of his
business deal, my father left the restaurant, got into his car, and
drove to a small street in Manhatten. My mother had requested
that he stop at a certain electrical supply store to buy something.
He got out of the car, locked the door, took a few steps-and
suddenly was struck by a second heavy blow. Opposite him
stood two young men. Perhaps my father had thought that one
could see such types only in Eretz Israel. He certainly hadn't
expected to see them in the heart of Manhatten. They wore suits
and hats, and everything about them declared that they were
" 'Pardon us,' they said in English. 'Are you Jewish?'
" 'Yes, I'm Jewish,' he stammered, not yet understanding
what they wanted of him. Perhaps a contribution for their
" 'In that case, come and put on tefillinV
"They weren't asking if he wanted to, and they weren't
requesting him to. They were telling him gently that he was
about to put on tefillin'. My father didn't have the nerve, nor the
desire, to refuse. It had been years since he had last put on
tefillin-more than twenty years!-but he hadn't forgotten
how to do it. The young men watched with satisfaction as he
wound the tefillin-strap around his left arm, and they answered,
'Amen' when, unaided, he recited the appropriate blessing.
" 'You're no beginner at putting on tefillin,'' one of them
commented with pleasure.
" 'Am I a Jew, or not?' my father smiled-and suddenly
he was filled with a strange emotion. 'I'm a Jew!' he said, and
connected it with the fact, 'I'm putting on tefillin! Wasn't this the
answer to his gentile friend's question? The man had been right:
My father was a Jew, and he should act like one! With emotion
he thanked the two yeshivah students, and left.
"That was the beginning of the period of 'soul-searching,' as
my mother called it in her letter. During the next two weeks, my
father reviewed his entire life, especially the years since he had
turned eighteen, when he had left his parent's home in order to
forge his own path in life. And now he had arrived where he had
arrived. The roar and bustle of the city disturbed his ruminations,
so he would go into the countryside. He would park his car by
the side of the road and walk alone among hills and mountains,
beside streams and ponds, in green fields and leafy forests. There
he did his soul-searching.
"It was hard for him to decide that he would suddenly
leave his accustomed ways and begin to live a life of Torah and
mitzvot. For two weeks he struggled with the issue, until finally he
decided that at least he had to try. He went back to the place in
Manhattan where he had met the two yeshivah students. That was
on a Friday. This time it was he who went up to them and
asked to put on tefillin. The two young men welcomed him
joyfully, like an old acquaintance. My father went with them to
their yeshivah, and from there he phoned my mother and told her
that he wouldn't be home until the next evening. He spent
that Shabbat at the yeshivah, and apparently was very strongly
influenced by it. The results show it. At present, my father is trying
to remember everything that a Torah-observant Jew is supposed
to do. He's making a very serious effort. And can you guess
where we were this morning?" She didn't let me guess, but
answered immediately: "This morning I went with Father to visit
his parents, my grandfather and grandmother!"
"They made up with each other?" I cried out enthusiastically.
"Made up?" she laughed. "They didn't have time for that... my
father simply knocked on the door, opened it-and went in
-sorry, I'm getting ahead of my story. Before that, I had
phoned to tell them that I was coming for a visit. Since I often
drop in on them, my expected visit was nothing unusual. Of
course, I didn't tell them about the important guest I was bringing
with me. When my father walked in, my grandmother simply
stared at him in astonishment. Suddenly, with the beard and
hat he looked so much like my uncle, my father's brother
Shaul... the next moment she was already falling all over him,
laughing and crying at the same time, and murmuring over and
over again: 'Eli... Elitzur...' Grandfather came in to see what
all the commotion was about-and immediately joined the
celebration. They left me on the sidelines, no one was interested
in me," Anat said in mock indignation. She was very happy! Her
tremendous joy about her father's teshuvah somewhat covered
her disappointment at having to acknowledge a reality which
until now she had tried to ignore. Maggie would not be arriving
in Israel all that quickly...
"At first I had planned to be a guest at your house during
Pesach," she revealed, "except for the Seder-night. I hadn't
decided whether to spend it at your house or at Aunt Hadassah's,
where the whole family would be gathered. In the light of these
recent events, it seems that my plans have changed. Grandfather
and grandmother insist that we come to them," she said with
a radiant smile. "After so many years, they wouldn't hear
of anything else. During the week of Pesach, we'll sleep at
home, and also eat breakfast and dinner there. For lunchtimes,
we're all booked up. The uncles are actually fighting over us!"
I shared her joy whole-heartedly, despite the fact that the
happy development had cost me the pleasure of Anat's company
during Pesach. I wasn't so egotistic that her joy would make me
"One problem is still facing me," Anat said. "I have only
three more weeks to clean the house for Pesach."
I thought of her enormous house, and was glad it wasn't
mine. I didn't envy what lay ahead of her. But her next words
reassured me. "I don't intend to clean the whole house. We'll close
up a number of rooms. All the same, there's a lot of work to
do, my parent's room, my room, the kitchen and livingroom
-that by itself won't be easy, especially since I have to finish
everything in the space of two weeks. Pesach vacation doesn't
begin until the first of Nissan. My father promised that he'd hire
someone to help me with the cleaning, but now, with Pesach so
close, no one is available. Besides, how can you rely on paid help
for Pesach cleaning?"
I thought for a minute. Suddenly I had a flash of inspiration.
"I'll come to help you!"
"You?" she asked incredulously. "You have more than
enough to do in your own house. Your mother certainly will
need your help!"
I debated briefly with myself. Of course, Anat was right.
My parents were very busy in their store. Especially now, just
before Pesach, there was a lot of work. The women and girls of
Jerusalem were interested in new dresses in honor of the holiday.
Besides, they wanted to refurbish their summer wardrobe now,
because right after the holiday week the period of semi-mourning
would start, due to the Omer-count, when it's customary not
to begin wearing new clothes. If they could wear their summer
dresses at least once during the week of Pesach, these clothes
would already not be considered "new" during the Omer-count.
My mother already had her hands full of work. She came home
at night later than usual, sometimes even taking urgent sewing
jobs home with her, to finish them at night. It was hard for
her to keep the home running as usual, and on top of all that
to do the Pesach cleaning by herself. Hence, whether I liked it
or not, I had more duties at home than usual.
On the other hand, I so much wanted to go to Anat! It would
be a great experience, working together. That was something else,
something different, much more enjoyable than cleaning my own
"I'll ask my mother," I said in a low voice.
"You don't need to," Anat hurried to say. "It would be
hard for her to give up your help. Even if she did, it would make
me feel very uncomfortable."
"Still, I want to!" I refused to give up. "Maybe all the
same she'll agree?" I expressed my hope, even though I knew the
chances were small...
Mother listened to my request, fixed a penetrating glance on
me and said: "I'm surprised at you, Tammi. To ask something
like that-to be away from the house for several days, right
"Only for two or three days. Mom!" I pleaded. "We can
get a lot done, the two of us together. Anat doesn't have any
little brothers to get in her way. I promise that when I come
back I'll do all the work you would have given me during those
My mother was not convinced. "It's impossible, Tammi. I
can't give up your help at a time like this."
"And who will help Anat?" I said stubbornly. "There's a big
mitzvah involved here!"
"Anat will succeed in finding help, Tammi, I promise you."
My mother wasn't softening. "And it's no small mitzvah-maybe
even bigger-to help your mother. Just between us, I'm very
doubtful whether it's the mitzvah that's motivating you to want
so much to go to Anat's. It seems to me that it's more the
charm of being able to spend time with her. Don't think, Tammi,
that I don't understand your feelings. I know how hard it is
for you to give up the idea. It's certainly much more enjoyable
to visit a friend than to work at home, even though there
would be plenty of work at your friend's house, too. I'm willing
for you to visit Anat, but not during these last weeks before
Pesach. During summer vacation perhaps I'll let you spend a few
days at her house."
My mother's half-promise was intended to make it easier
for me to accept her refusal. And even though it was hard
for me, I gave in. I lowered my head, and tears welled up
in my eyes. I didn't try to argue. I knew it wouldn't do any
good. After all, my mother was right. I should never have
asked in the first place-yet I had hoped that my mother
would understand my feelings and, despite the difficulties, allow
me to go to Anat. I turned and started for my room without
another word. My mother saw my tears, but didn't react. She was
already used to childish outbursts from her growing-up daughter.
Such occurrences were becoming more rare, but still happened
Anat wasn't surprised to hear that my mother had refused
permission. She even seemed relieved.
"I never imagined your mother would agree," she said, "and
I'm glad she didn't. If she had given permission, I wouldn't
have been able to refuse you, knowing how much you wanted to
come to me. Refusing would only have hurt your feelings. But
at the same time it would have put me in a very uncomfortable
position with regard to your mother. It would have seemed
that I was 'stealing' you from her just when she most needed
"And what will you do now?" I asked. "How will you
manage by yourself?"
Anat thought a little. She fixed her gaze on me, hesitated
for a long moment, and then said: "You'll be amazed to see
how the Holy One, Blessed be He, takes care of each one of
us. I've already found help!" I gave her a questioning glance, and
she explained deliberately, weighing each word: "This morning,
Peninah came over to me..."
"Yes, Peninah. Why not?-and asked me where we were
going to stay, my father and I, during Pesach. Everyone knows
that my mother hasn't yet returned from America, and that I don't
have brothers and sisters. When I answered that it seemed we
would be staying at our own house during Pesach, she went on to
ask: 'And what about cleaning for Pesach?' I told her that it was
a real problem, and I didn't yet know what I was going to
do, but if worst came to worst I would hire a cleaning woman
and work alongside her to make sure she cleaned well enough.
And then Peninah offered that she herself would come to help
"Doesn't she have work to do in her own house?" I tried
not to make my dissatisfaction too obvious. It was hard for me
to accept the thought that Peninah would be taking my place.
Anat ignored my annoyance. "They moved into their new
apartment only a month and a half ago, and since it was so close
to Pesach, they were careful not to take chametz into any room
except the kitchen. So their apartment is clean for Pesach. They
just have to clean the kitchen and, as you know, Peninah has
four sisters who can help. And her mother, unlike yours, doesn't
have a job."
"You accepted her offer, I gather," I said disappointedly.
It wasn't Anat I was disappointed with, nor Peninah, nor
my mother, and certainly not myself. I was disappointed with
everyone-and with no one...
"Of course I accepted. Why not? I understand her very well.
Peninah feels that she owes me a lot, and wants to do something
for me in return. I know the feeling very well..." She smiled at
me. I didn't smile back, though I knew what she meant. Anat
added: "It was Peninah's mother who told her to make me the
"O.K." I couldn't control a choking feeling in my throat.
It was hard to hide the tears welling up in my eyes, so I tried
to sound angry, as if I had simply lost my temper because
of jealousy-though that wasn't really the emotion that filled me
at that moment. "Have a good time with her, Anat. I'm glad
you found someone to help you..." I tried to make my voice
sound casual as I searched for my handkerchief, wiped my
nose and blinked my eyes. Maybe Anat would think I just had
a cold. Maybe she wouldn't see the tears of disappointment. "In
any case," I went on, "I'm very relieved. There's no need to worry
about you now, you'll manage very well." I turned to go to my
seat. Anat followed after me.
"Tammi," she pleaded, "don't take it so seriously. Are you
mad at Peninah?"
"No." My voice was choked. I didn't try anymore to hide
"At me?" she tried again.
This time I couldn't even answer. I just shook my head no.
"Think logically," she said, trying to ease my feelings.
"I'm thinking logically." My crying subsided a little. "I
know that my mother is right, that you're right, that Peninah is
right-that everyone is right, except me. The problem is that
it's hard for me to accept what I know is logical."
"Right. Feeling and intellect are opposites," Anat said
quietly. "Feelings are much stronger than intellect-and yet
it's our intellect that has to control our feelings."
"It's so difficult..."
"Difficult-but not impossible. It takes work, but the
results are well worth the effort. By the way, Chedvah is also
coming to me, along with Peninah. She offered, with her mother's
permission, and I couldn't refuse."
My eyebrows went up in surprise-and also somewhat in
relief. For some reason, this last piece of information calmed me.
Then suddenly I remembered: "My mother said she would allow
me to visit you for a few days during summer vacation." I wanted
to change the subject. Maybe getting my mind off it would help
dry my tears.
"Wonderful!" Anat said enthusiastically. "You have a
wonderful mother! So understanding..."
I was swept along with her enthusiasm. My "problem" began
to look smaller, in the presence of a friend who was a spiritual
giant like Anat. We began making plans where to go and
what to do in the summer. It seemed to us as if vacation was
almost here-though in fact there were still more than three
months of school ahead of us.
We didn't know, the two of us, that our beautiful plans
would never become reality.
Finally, after prolonged struggles, the sun gained the upper
hand over the winter clouds and shone forth triumphantly in
a brilliant light blue sky. Spring celebrated in the streets of
Jerusalem, and I along with it. A spring day like that brings joy to
my heart, on this kind of day I feel lighter, want to flutter like
a bird, run like a little girl, jump and cavort without caring
what anyone thinks about me. And that's how I felt today. I
wasn't walking, wasn't stepping on the sidewalk, but fluttering.
Anat, striding along thoughtfully beside me, was still enveloped
in the drowsiness of winter. Five minutes ago she had knocked
on my door, and since I was just then going out on an errand
for Mother, Anat joined me. On lovely spring days like this,
I enjoyed going on errands, to the grocery store, the vegetable
stand-I didn't even mind taking Natti for an outing.
"Smile, Anat!" I said merrily. "It's a wonderful day! Look at
the sky-what a marvellous blue!" I raised my eyes heavenwards
and tried to hug the stratosphere with my arms.
Anat produced a forced smile. "You're right," she said, "it's
really a wonderful day..."
"So why are you so sad?"
"I'm not sad," she answered. Exchanges like this weren't
uncommon between us. We were very open with each other. "But
something's bothering me."
Today we had returned to school after the long Pesach
vacation. I immediately noticed a change in Peninah and Chedvah.
They felt much closer to Anat than they had previously. That was
obvious from the way they acted. The few days they had spent with
her at her house, working together, had made them better friends
with her. Anat, too, had gone through a similar change, and for a
minute I was afraid... but Anat didn't let me down. As she had
promised me a number of times, I remained her best friend. I
had already noticed in the morning that something was bothering
her, and had intended, after finishing my errand, to visit her at
her dorm room and find out what the problem was. But she came
to me before I had a chance to go to her.
" 'When a person has worry in his heart, he should speak it
out,' " I quoted ceremoniously, trying to cheer her up. "Tell me
what the problem is. Maybe together we'll find the solution."
"It's not a specific problem," Anat sighed. "I can't tell you:
'such and such has happened,' because nothing has happened. It's
a strange feeling..."
"Still that feeling of tension and restlessness?" I asked gently.
"Like you told me about the day you went with your parents to
"It's something besides that."
That was all Anat needed-"Something besides!" What
had happened to her? Why had she become so moody? I tried
groping in the dark. "How was the 5erfer-night?"
"Wonderful!" She became enthusiastic for a moment, but
her enthusiasm immediately died down. "It was very nice. The
problem is not connected with that. You couldn't recognize my
father. He's become a different person! And Grandfather and
Grandmother were overwhelmed with joy that their Elitzur had
come back home. All my uncles and cousins came to celebrate the
Seder-night at Grandfather and Grandmother's house-specially
in honor of my father! And Father was so moved..." She sighed
"In that case, what's the problem?" I asked. "It seems that
you ought to be very happy!"
"True, but... how can I explain it to you? My father makes
me wonder... something has happened to my father!"
"Of course something has happened! He's revolutionized his
life, changed from one extreme to the other. Does that seem to
you like a small thing? Did you expect that a sweeping change
like that would happen without leaving any marks?"
"Besides that whole subject, lately he's become serious,
thoughtful... you might even say sad and a little brooding. Yes,
I know what you're going to say," she forestalled me. "I also
thought at first that he was feeling regret about his past, that
his heart was broken with sorrow for the things he had done.
But I've noticed that his mood darkens mainly when he's around
me. When I'm in the same room with him, even if he's busy with
something else like reading a book, studying Torah, or eating,
every so often he glances up at me with a look that gives me
chills... yes, I'm not exaggerating. I have the feeling that he's about
to burst into tears. I sense a tremendous sorrow that's breaking
his heart. When he talks with me, even about little things, he's
very nervous and upset. Sometimes when he walks past me he
stops suddenly, gives me a long look-and his eyes are so sad!
Sometimes he murmurs my name-'my Anat!' he whispers,
putting a hand on my shoulder or stroking my hair as if I were
a baby. I ask him, 'What's the matter. Father?' and for a moment
it seems as if he wants to tell me something. But immediately he
changes his mind and stops himself. 'It's nothing, Anati,' he
says hurriedly, but his eyes express the opposite. In his eyes I
see that he has very much to say to me."
"Very strange," I mused. "If I didn't know you, I'd say you
were imagining all this."
Anat smiled sadly. "I don't know if you remember," she
said, "that evening at your house, when I told you the story
of my life, how I met my cousin Batyah and through her
influence did teshuvah. Remember I told you I had the feeling
that my parents were hiding something from me?
I searched my memory a bit. "Yes," I said finally. "I
remember something like that." Her disturbed mood was
beginning to infect me.
"I'm always going around with the feeling that there's a
secret in our house, that my parents are guarding something in
their hearts that they aren't willing to tell me. I've never asked,
never probed, never tried to find out what it is. My parents have
the right to keep things from me that I shouldn't know about.
But lately the feeling is growing stronger in my heart that the
secret is connected with me. My father's strange looks are better
evidence for me than a thousand witnesses."
I didn't know what to say to her. "Try asking your father,"
"I think that's what I'm going to do," she said. "I'll ask my
father to speak openly. I can't bear the tension. My nerves are
getting so weak!"
To tell the truth, Anat's behavior during the past few months
had begun to worry me. But I'm not a psychologist, and have no
special qualifications for dealing with the human soul, and I
didn't know what I was supposed to do in a situation like this. I
decided to agree with her.
"I think that's really the best thing. Try to ask your father
to have a frank talk with you-and it would be a good idea
to do so as soon as possible."
"No," she replied, "I'll wait until my mother comes back. I
want to speak with both of them! And maybe... maybe it's possible
that my father's tension is caused by the delicate situation that has
come about between him and my mother..." She reddened a little.
"My father, after all, has done teshuvah, but what about Mother?
It doesn't seem to me that she's planning to follow in his
footsteps. In any case, from her letters it seems that she's making
fun of this turning point in his life, just as the two of them
used to make fun of me at the beginning... could it be because
of the probable confrontation with my mother that my father has
become so tense and nervous?"
"That's also a likely possibility." I was glad to have
something to pin the problem on, since I was totally confused by
the tangle of changes and feelings into which Anat had thrown
me. "When is your mother supposed to come back?"
"Yesterday she phoned and said she'd be coming back this
Monday." She was silent for a moment, then added softly:
I already knew that her mother's trip to America had not
born fruit. Wanting to blur the disappointment a little, I counted
on my fingers: "Today is Wednesday... so there's less than a week
until her return. Five days, to be more exact. Maybe even less.
Is your mother arriving in the morning?" She nodded. "Are
you excited, Anat?"
"Very!" she smiled, but her smile froze immediately. "I
would be more excited if she were returning with my sister."
For some reason I allowed myself to ignore this much-
discussed sister of Anat. Perhaps it was because in my heart I
believed she was the cause of all these troubles. Anat continued:
"It seems that during the summer vacation I'll be going to America
myself to speak with Maggie and try to persuade her to come to
Eretz Israel. Or at least to change her way of life there... that's
what my father promised me."
"And what about our beautiful plans for the summer
vacation?" I was a little afraid. A whole vacation, two full
months, without Anat! How could I bear it?
"Don't worry," she reassured me. "We'll come back quickly,
and then you'll come to me, and the three of us will carry out
all the plans we've made. Maggie will join us! Or maybe the
four of us-we can invite Batyah, who is Maggie's age!" Anat
sailed off on the waves of imagination. I didn't try to stop her.
That was better for her than sinking into the depths of depression.
She suddenly changed the subject. "Do you know what I
have an urge to do right now? If you're willing, I'll come to your
house and we'll play our mandolins together. I feel that music
would improve my mood."
I gladly agreed. When I finished my errand we went back to
my house. On the way, Anat went into her room at the dorm
for a minute to get her mandolin. We sat on the little sofa
in my room and played our instruments. We had no sense
of time passing. I was already quite expert at playing, and quite
a few times I received compliments from Anat-which made
me very happy. Making music with Anat-that's an experience
I'll never forget. It was as if the two of us soared into another,
exalted, world where worries did not exist. A world of pure calm
and serenity. Anat cast away all her problems and threw her whole
self into the music with almost desperate devotion. For her sake,
I was glad that there was something in the world that could
make her forget her pain and worry.
Sometimes it seems that when a certain thing is not going
right for a person, everything else is pulled along with it and
also gets out of kilter. That is what happened with Anat. As if
she didn't have enough to deal with in her downcast mood, her
fears in connection with her father, her sister, her mother, and
herself, on top of it all the history teacher adamantly refused
to release her from the test on the history of modern Israel
which had been scheduled-as if on purpose to annoy!-for
the Monday when Anat's mother was to return.
Anat tried to explain to her, and so did I-but nothing
helped. The teacher held firm to her position that every single
girl had to take the history test, and anyone who missed it,
no matter what the reason, even if she were sick with a high
fever, would be considered to have failed the test.
"But her mother is returning from the United States after
two months that she hasn't seen her!" I objected heatedly, trying
to soften the teacher's stony heart.
"Two months is not so terrible," was her verdict. "If you
told me she'd been gone a year, I'd understand," she went on,
infuriating me with her unique logic. "Will it be so terrible if you
meet your mother two hours later, when she gets to your house?"
"My mother will be more pleased if I come to meet her
at the airport," Anat explained, trying to remain calm. No one
except me knew how hard this was for her.
"I think your mother's knowing that you missed the history
test would not give her happiness, but the opposite. It would spoil
her happiness, even if you were to meet her at the airport."
Anat knew how much importance her parents attached to
her success in school, and realized that to some extent the teacher
was right. She answered: "My mother wouldn't be bothered by it
if she knew I would be given an opportunity to make up the
It did no good. The teacher had closed her ears and her heart,
she wanted neither to listen nor to understand. "You can miss the
test," she said indifferently, "and fail it. Just so you know that
this test will determine fifty percent of the semester grade on the
report card. I don't want anyone claiming that I didn't warn her.
Now you may do whatever you like."
Anat had no choice but to stay for the test, which took place,
as expected-during the last hour of the schoolday!
"Will you be able to write the answers?" I asked her at the
break. The whole class looked as if-exactly as if they were
about to have a test! The girls stood in anxious, excited groups,
going over historical events and names, drilling each other on
important dates, suggesting possible test questions-based on
previous years exams-and giving answers to the hypothetical
Anat didn't even try to open her history notebook. "I studied
enough yesterday," she had told me. "Any more studying now
will only confuse me." To my question whether she would be
able to write at all, she smiled weakly and replied: "I hope so. I'm
not all that excited about my mother's arrival-unfortunately."
"Unfortunately?" For a moment I didn't understand, but
immediately I caught the signficance of her words. It still bothered
her that her sister Maggie would not arrive in Israel with her
"It's not nice of the history teacher!" I still hadn't gotten
over my anger. "She has a heart of stone! How could it be that
she didn't understand your feelings?"
"This is an important test," Anat justified her, in keeping
with her habit of always giving people the benefit of the doubt.
"It covers a large amount of material. She couldn't permit me to
miss a test like this."
"But she could have let you make it up later!" I argued.
"True, but then she would also have had to give a make-up
test to Yael, whose mother, as you know, just had a boy,
and today is the brit milah. They rescheduled it for late in the
afternoon, almost entirely because of Yael's test. And there's
also Tirtzah, whose big sister is having an engagement party
this evening. I'm sure there are other girls who asked to miss
the test, each one for a good reason. In the end the teacher
would have had to give make-up tests to half the class! And if
she had listened to us and put off the test altogether till a later
date, no doubt the other half of the class would have claimed
that they had to be absent that day. So she did the smartest
thing by announcing that no excuses would be accepted!"
"But she should at least have understood you, if no one
else!" I insisted.
"More than Yael?" Anat smiled. "Look, Tammi. I certainly
would have preferred to be excused from the test today. But I
also understand the teacher's reasons for refusing."
"You're too understanding of others-at your own
expense!" I burst out. "When are you going to understand,
Anat, that if you act like that you won't get far in life?"
"And who says I want to 'get far' in life?"
"Anat, Anat," I sighed. "Always justifying everyone. The
history teacher is just nursing a grudge against you because of
that time-remember?-at the beginning of the year, when
Chedvah passed you a note, and you tore it up instead of
handing it over to her. That's why she decided to get even with
you by refusing your request!"
"Tammi!" This time Anat was really angry with me. "What
kind of expression is that-'to get even with you'? Aren't you
ashamed of yourself? I'm sure she forgot about the incident a
long time ago, just as I did!"
I was embarrassed. I hadn't had any intention of drawing
a connection between the two events, the words had slipped out
thoughtlessly in my anger.
"Besides," Anat went on, "I know that everything that
happens is decided in heaven, with individual divine providence
for every person and every created thing. It wasn't the teacher
who refused me, but G-D. He put the
words in her mouth. Whenever things don't turn out exactly
according to my plans-even if it's a heavy disappointment
-I try to accept everything in a good spirit, and tell myself:
'Whatever the Holy One, Blessed is He does, is all for the
good!' And if we don't perceive what is good about a particular
happening? So then we have to pray and ask for our eyes to be
opened so that we can see the good in everything, even the things
that seem bad to us."
She had silenced me. What could I say to those words of
As soon as Anat finished the test-I had finished a few
minutes before her and waited for her-she hurried to the dorm
to get her things. I went with her. We clattered down the stairs
and nearly ran to the gate, where I said good-bye to her.
"I'm in a hurry, Tammi. See you later!" she said hastily.
"See you later," I answered. And then a voice was heard,
calling out from the entrance of the dorm building: "Anat,
telephone! Anat Zahavi... where is Anat? Telephone for Anat..."
We quickly covered the few meters to the dorm. Who could
be calling Anat just at this moment?
We got there just in time to hear Ronit say into the telephone,
"She's not here. They told me they saw her leaving two minutes
ago. Oh, wow! She just walked in. Anat, telephone for you." She
handed her the phone.
"Shalom," Anat said. There was a second of silence, and
then she said in English: "Mother! Where are you calling from?"
I stood next to her and listened, straining every mental muscle.
To my surprise, I managed to understand almost every word!
That proves I had paid attention in the English class...
"What do you mean, you're calling from home and you want
to know where Father is? He didn't come to the airport? That's
impossible! You came home by taxi? Strange! I talked with
Father last night, and he definitely told me he was going to
the airport. I couldn't come because we had a history test
and the teacher wouldn't excuse me from it. Exactly when
you called I was on my way to the bus. No, it can't be!"
Anat's voice sounded adamant. "I'm telling you. Mother! I
spoke with him yesterday and he didn't mention anything of the
kind! Father didn't sound at all angry or upset. As a matter
of fact he sounded very happy that you were coming home.
You know what? I'll call Grandfather and Grandmother to see
if maybe they know something. I'll call you back. Talk to
you soon, Mother."
She quickly hung up and began looking in her purse for
telephone tokens. While she searched she told me: "Very strange!
My father didn't go to the airport." Her eyes expressed deep
worry. "I hope everything is alright..."
She looked around cautiously and then whispered to me
quietly, taking care that her words could not be heard by the other
girls, even though they were quite some distance from us. "Mother
is afraid that Father deliberately didn't meet her, to show her
that he's angry with her for not intending to join him in
becoming observant..." Anat found three tokens and dropped
all three into the slot of the public phone. She dialed the
number and waited a short time, swaying back and forth with
obvious nervousness. Then she burst out into the mouthpiece.
The conversation was short: "Grandma? This is Anat. I wanted
to find out, is Father with you? No, I don't have any special
reason for asking. I thought he might have visited you. You
haven't seen him for two days? Maybe they asked him to come
into the office today? No? He said that explicitly? I understand...
Thanks, Grandma. I'm in a hurry right now. I'll phone again
When she put the phone down, her face was very pale.
Her lips were trembling, and she barely managed to tell me: "I
hoped... maybe Grandfather and Grandmother knew something.
I don't know what to think! They haven't seen my father for
two days, but this morning at quarter to twelve he phoned
and said he was on his way to the airport. Why didn't he get
I felt sorry for Anat. She was so confused and afraid! "I'll
call home," she thought out loud. "Maybe my father got home in
the last few minutes?"
The telephone at Anat's house was busy. She dialed again
and again, her impatience growing by the second. "What's the
matter?" She wondered. "Who is my mother talking to for such
a long time?"
"Maybe it's your father, and he's explaining why he didn't
show up," I said hopefully while Anat dialed for the fourth time.
This time her efforts met with success. Her mother had finished
the conversation. But... what was wrong with Anat? She stood
speechless, frighteningly pale, while her hand, which gripped
the receiver tightly, trembled so much that I was afraid she
would drop the phone. After a long silence, which seemed to me
like an eternity, she managed to get a few words out of her
mouth. Her voice sounded strange, not like Anat's. It was a
voice on the edge of hysteria. "No, Mother. No, no, no, no!"
She kept repeating the same word. Her outburst apparently
calmed her a little, and when she continued she was still upset,
but not hysterical. "I'm taking a taxi home!" That was the end
of the conversation. Almost throwing the receiver onto the hook,
she turned to face me, slumping against the wall. Her hands hung
limply at her sides, and I was afraid she was going to faint.
I recalled when she had looked the same way in my house
not long ago, and it scared me. To my relief, this time Anat
got control of herself, perhaps because she had given vent to her
"They phoned my mother from the hospital." Her voice
was paler than her face. "That's why the phone was tied
up for so long. On the way to the airport my father's car
collided with a delivery truck. His car was crushed and my
father... was... critically injured." With great difficulty she got out
the last words-and then burst into tears.
I stood as if nailed to my place. I couldn't move, couldn't
manage to utter a word. The first thought that came into my mind
was that Anat's mother had not told her the whole truth. At that
first moment I began to picture horrible visions and fantasies.
I assumed the worst... but immediately I shook off those stupid
"Could you call a taxi for me?" Anat asked. Her voice
trembled with sobbing. "I can't... do it... myself." She turned and
faced the corner between the telephone and the wall, trying
not to attract the notice of the girls who walked past us, each
occupied with her own business.
I did as she asked. On the other end of the line they told me
that the cab would arrive in ten minutes. We went out to wait
in the courtyard, and I asked Anat if she wanted me to go with
her. She hesitated for a moment, but declined. "There's no need,
I'll be O.K." she promised me. I didn't press her. I trusted
that if she had felt it was necessary, she would have asked me
to accompany her. I wished her a complete recovery for her
father, and that we should hear good news-and just then the
She drove off. I didn't know the reason for my feeling,
but as I waved to her and she only nodded in return, her
eyes still red and swollen, I felt a great foreboding that was
working its way deep into my heart.