"Hey, Brother, how ya doin?" That's how I first greeted him
at the Central Bus Station. I'd never seen him before, but
there was an immediate attraction to the tall, dark-haired
youth, about my own age, who stood in front of me. I admired
the thick curls of the neat ponytail at the nape of his neck.
Was it really that much shorter than my own, or did it just
look that way because of the curls? We were both taking the
bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and we continued a lively
conversation on the bus.
"See you around sometime," he said as we parted ways at our
That first meeting was five years ago. I didn't even ask his
name then, but I felt I'd known him all my life. He lived in
a small town in the north of Israel; I lived at that time in
a small town south of Jerusalem.
Two years after that initial meeting at the bus station, I
became observant and I came to study at a small yeshiva in
Jerusalem. I'd been studying for three months when Yonatan
came to study there, too. Even though he had cut his long
hair and grown a beard, I recognized him from our first
meeting. I remembered his deep, searching black eyes and I
could just about make out the shape of his lips under his
full, black beard.
Yonatan was given the dorm room next to mine at the end of
the corridor, and we became fast friends. I'd take out my
guitar after a long day of classes, sit crosslegged on my
bed, and we'd sing together way into the night.
"If you two guys are going to be singing," my roommate would
usually say, "I'm going next door to sleep. You don't mind,
do you, Yoni?" And my roommate, more often than not, would
switch beds with Yonatan. We'd share our dining table, too,
in the large dining hall where we ate all our meals.
Even though I'd often talk to Yonathan about my parents, and
told him I was an only child, I never mentioned the fact that
I had been adopted when I was a few months old, or that I
actually went to visit my biological mother and her family
one free afternoon. It was too complicated for me to talk
about it, even with my best friend. I needed to unravel my
mixed emotions first.
On the one hand, a fuzzy feeling of abandonment lay somewhere
within me, yet on the other, I felt a deep appreciation for
my Mom and Dad and a deep sense of their acceptance of me,
whoever I am. What? I have a mother and a father and also a
biological mother? I felt more secure with and accepted by my
adoptive parents than by my biological mother. Sometimes, a
strange twinge of guilt would haunt me, but I'd push it to
the furthest recesses of my mind. I was too ill at ease with
the situation to discuss it. I preferred to keep life simple
and discuss other complexities, such as the gemora
we'd been learning that week, or to pull out my guitar and
Even though I knew I'd been adopted when I was fourteen
months old, it was one of those things that I put in the back
of my mind, and carried on with my life. My mother was my
Mom, packing chocolate-spread sandwiches for my ten o'clock
recess at school when I was a kid, and telling me at least
twice a day to clean up the mess from my floor (as if my
floor was ever so messy with just a couple of magazines on
it, and maybe a sock or two waiting to make its way to the
laundry hamper), and telling me to "look after myself now"
every time I walked out the front door. My father was my Dad,
usually hiding behind the business news page of the paper,
with a cup of Turkish coffee with two-and-a-half teaspoons of
sugar in his hand, or yelling at me to turn down the volume
of my CD player. I went to school and spent most of my free
time playing soccer, and when I got to high school,
basketball or listening to music.
Soon after I finished the army, after reading about Jewish
history in the local library, I decided to become observant.
I looked for an intimate setting for study in Jerusalem. I
wanted a place that would give me the background I lacked and
after I checked into several possibilities, I found the
"Hey, Brother -- don't you remember me?" Yosef said almost as
soon as I walked through the door, and I remembered our
meeting two years previously on a bus trip to Tel Aviv. I was
astonished to find someone I already knew in my new setting.
No one was observant or even close to it in my army unit,
neither was anyone in my neighborhood. I didn't even remember
Yosef as looking religious on that bus trip. We had talked
about music -- jazz or blues.
When Yosef got married a few months ago, he invited all of
his classmates to the wedding. This was the first real Jewish
wedding I'd ever been to. The ceremony took place at the end
of the lawns of a wedding hall on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
When Yosef returned with his bride to join all the guests,
after the ceremony, a fanfare of music greeted their
entrance. I was so excited.
I lifted him up on my shoulders and I danced and danced with
him. Even though he's tall and muscular, he felt no heavier
than a package of sugar. All the boys danced in a circle
around us. Their jackets and sweaters were all left on
chairs, and their shirts became moist with sweat. I guess I
didn't even notice the sweat on my neck then. I felt as if
clouds were beneath my feet.
When I eventually lowered him to the ground, his father came
over and hugged him. Oh, I could see the emotion in his face:
his eyes were moist with joy. I wished then that my father
could show such emotion. But my father was the reserved type.
I don't think he ever hugged me.
I was sorry, on the one hand, to lose such a great next-door
neighbor. I was sorry to lose our midnight music sessions,
but I was really happy to see my best friend so very happy,
and we would still continue to see each other in the study
About a month ago, Yonatan mentioned to me that he'd looked
in his adoption file for the first time. An orange light
blipped in my mind. I hadn't told him I was adopted or that
I'd gone to meet my biological mother, but I guess he sensed
"Er, Yosef," he said to me, "I know this sounds kind of
strange, but I'd like to bring a friend for moral support
when I go to meet my real mother for the first time. Would
you do me the favor and come with me?"
Even though I hadn't wanted anyone to come with me when I
made my first contact with my biological mother, I could
relate to Yonatan's anxiety, and I agreed to accompany
We travel on the bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, just like we
had done on our first meeting. Yonatan had arranged to meet
his mother in a restaurant in downtown Tel Aviv.
"I spoke to her on the phone," Yoni tells me as we get off
the bus near Dizingoff Center. "She said she'd be wearing an
orange cotton shirt.'
We walk down the busy street, filled with sidewalk cafes and
tables with umbrellas opened as shade from the hot Tel Aviv
sun. We continue walking and turn left to reach the Circle
Restuarant. We enter the restaurant.
The only woman in an orange cotton shirt is my
based on a true story