Synopsis: Orly has been following her friend's
metamorphosis into a `baalas tshuva' and has resisted her own
inclination to walk in her footsteps. Still, she has agreed
to come for a visit in the Jerusalem apartment which Deganit
shares with her fellow seminary schoolmates.
"I don't want to have anything to do with rabbis any more!"
Orly reacted, laughing at this pronouncement. "At this rate,
I'll be going home tomorrow with a skirt down to the floor
and sleeves to my wrists. My mother is liable to have a fit!
Enough! I'm staying here overnight, but tomorrow I'm going
home. And that's final!"
"Say `bli nedder'," said Ofra, who entered the kitchen
"Bli nedder? What does that mean?"
In the morning, all the girls went off to their various
occupations, some to work, others to studies, some to take
care of other matters. The clock showed a few hours left
before the first class was scheduled to begin.
"Our school schedule is different on Chanuka because of
candle lighting," Deganit updated her. "If you like, you're
welcome to join us," she added apologetically, afraid that
Orly might just pick herself and her backpack up and
All was quiet in the empty apartment and Orly decided to go
out and just wander around. "Even here, in this congested
neighborhood, my spirit of adventure is aroused," she noted
to herself. "It's great that Deganit left me some acceptable
clothing, otherwise I couldn't possibly go out in my own
weird clothing that would cause people here to stare."
She put on the long skirt and looked in the mirror at the new
`she' reflected there. Laughing to herself, she thrust her
arms into the long khaki army coat and left the apartment.
Two neighbors stood conversing in the stairwell. One was
holding a baby and the other held on to a one-and-a-half-
That's what you'll look like in seven years. She tried
to imagine herself in a blue kerchief and checkered robe, and
found herself chuckling but frightened. She sat down on a
green bench near the small local shopping center. There were
a lot of plastic bags strewn all over the area.
Scooters stood in a haphazard row near a stone wall. Bottles
and bits of paper were scattered across the empty area. A
group of girls were jumping rope. They gave her a look and
continued jumping, accustomed to the girls of this
midrasha who came and went in the neighborhood.
A typical vacation morning.
Orly had time. She sat and watched them jumping rope. "Two in
time, two in time..." Two different worlds, yet the same
words. She remembered herself jumping rope in her Haifa
neighborhood, "Two in time... Bought some candy for a dime...
Two in time..." I was still born in the same small country,
They called out excitedly, running and jumping in turn. They
even quarreled amongst each other when one was out and
refused to take her turn at the end of the rope.
Still in all, there was something different here. Even
their fighting was different.
Their words of anger, insults, jibes, bore a different tone
than what she knew and remembered.
She had played a lot as a child. With Yael, with Anat and
Limor. Where were all these friends today? Where was each of
them? Yael had gone to the States. Anat had moved away from
Haifa and was probably studying law or medicine, as she had
And Limor -- the last time she heard of her, she had been in
the midst of a backpack trip round the world. Where were they
all headed? What would the future hold in store for them?
A cool breeze began blowing. She buttoned up her coat and got
up. "Two in time," the voices accompanied her. The Jerusalem
mountains peeked at her from between the buildings, the grey
skies touching them.
Visibility was poor. White clouds changed shape, chased by
the wind. She continued with the road and then turned back,
trying to organize her thoughts, unsuccessfully.
More than the actual decision itself, she was perturbed about
the impact it would have on her surroundings. What would they
say? Her parents -- how would they react? And what would
Ofer, her older brother, say? a small voice inside her asked.
Her aunts and uncles? They were liable to stop speaking with
her out of anger. Democracy goes haywire when it smells
anything smacking of religion. She made the full circle,
ending back at the apartment.
When they went to class that afternoon, she joined them.
Actually, Deganit hadn't said a word. Only Sharon had
blurted, "It's here. This building has large classrooms.
We're having a lesson in dinim, Jewish law. No
preaching, no brainwashing. You've got nothing to be afraid
After two lessons, she remained behind to talk to Rabbi
Levine. It was getting late. Time to light candles.
Again, they sat together. The flames danced on the window
sill. She had always loved Chanuka. They had lit Chanuka
candles in her home, sometimes, when Ofer or she had brought
home a chanukiya from gan. She had never
dreamed there could be so many laws involving these Chanuka
Deganit had chosen a difficult path for herself.
"They didn't swallow you up alive in that class?" Ofra
laughed. Orly smiled.
They sang some Chanuka songs and chatted. Later, Ofra got up
to clean the kitchen and Orly volunteered to dry the
They accepted her as is, not trying to tell her what to do
and what not to do. Deganit wanted, oh, how she wanted, to
help her decide to cross the bridge, but she was afraid.
Afraid that Orly would pack up all the thoughts that
disturbed her into a box and hie off to some other country,
of no return.
Orly knew that the bug was nipping away in her brain and that
she'd have to make some decision. "Come, let's go out for a
breath of fresh air," she suggested to Deganit later that
The air was cold, damp with rain and Chanuka. Orly thrust her
hands into her pockets. Deganit huddled into her coat. The
lights beamed down at them from the windows and the doorways
of the buildings glowed with the glass boxes housing dozens
of menoras, stacked one above the other.
They walked along the path behind the buildings. The
streetlights in the distant highway created a winding snake.
The mountains opposite looked like black spots. Something
about this nighttime scenery caused Orly's eyes to mist.
It's more beautiful than India, lovelier than Canada,
Equador, or any place on this whole wide globe. A charm, a
clear atmosphere you couldn't find anywhere except in
They walked, still silent. Deganit knew that soon she would
begin to talk, and walked by her side, silent, letting her
arrange her thoughts side by side in an organized fashion.
And Orly talked.
To be continued...