Real Israelis

A36 semgirl3

Sami didn’t send me a message until that evening. After lunch I was able to shake off the distraction that had been blanketing all of my thoughts, forcing concentration in the Talmud class I had until mid afternoon. Rabbi Hoffman guided twelve of us through the strangely graceful Aramaic, and I kept my mind reined in, genuinely surprised when my phone vibrated in my pocket just after dinner. The message, in English, asked if I was available the following night. I was not. For the next hour we traded messages about our schedules, and his command of spelling and grammar in what must have been his third language impressed me. By 8:30 we had agreed to meet up on Saturday night.

For most of Shabbat I was able to push away thoughts of Sami, and the plans we’d made. Yona and I stayed with a young couple in Bayit v’Gan, a neighborhood slowly being taken over by swarms of religious immigrants. Walking to synagogue late on Saturday morning we veered around strollers pushed by petite women in snoods. Yona stopped to coo at an olive-skinned baby, and I felt the story of how I met Sami forming in my mouth, but I forced my lips closed, exhaling through my nose.

After havdalah, Yona took a cab back to seminary, and I walked the half-mile to my uncle David’s apartment, where Sami and I had arranged to meet. While I waited for my cell phone to pulsate with a message of Sami’s imminent arrival, I paced through the large, quiet rooms, sitting in a leather chair, getting up to trace a window frame with my index finger, and then sponging off already clean counters. Uncle David had left the apartment pristine. Only his office looked at all lived-in. When he bought the place, a decade earlier, my mother had hoped out loud that it was a sign of her brother’s interest in finally beginning a family. But no wife or children had ever appeared, and so I stood in the doorway of the office, a new computer blinking at me through the darkness. Down the hall was a library with rows of sturdy bookshelves and several large plants, and at the end of the corridor the door to my uncle’s bedroom hung open.

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Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.