Real Israelis

A36 semgirl6

“Do you want something to eat?”

“No, thank you.” He pushed the newspaper away from him and pointed to the refrigerator, where Uncle David had taped a picture from the last family reunion. “Who are those people?”

I pulled the picture off of the refrigerator and put it on the counter between Sami and me. “That’s my uncle, and that’s my mother, and that’s their sister Beth.” I pointed as I spoke, “And that’s my grandmother. Over on the left is my father, and my brother, and that’s me.”

“That’s you?” Sami picked the photo up to look more closely. “How old were you?”

“Thirteen, maybe? I could have been fourteen, but I think it was before my birthday.”

“And that’s your brother?” He pointed at Ari.


“How old is he now?”

“Now? He’s twenty-one.”

“How old are you?”

“I’ll be nineteen in two months.”

Sami exhaled at that, and put the picture back on the counter.

“How old are you?” I asked, although I thought I knew, roughly.

“Twenty-five,” he said and looked at me. I shrugged, and pointed back at the picture, realizing his age had never even occurred to me as being problematic.

“And that’s my Aunt Beth’s husband, Jack, and their son Joel.”

“You only have one brother?”


“And no sisters?”

“Just me.”

Sami was quiet, and looked back down at the picture. “Where was this picture taken?”

“In California, where my grandmother lives.”

“You don’t live in California?”

“No, I live in Chicago.”

“With your brother and your parents? But not your uncle or your grandmother?”

“Right.” We were quiet for a minute, and the coffeemaker clicked and whispered behind us. ”Do you have brothers and sisters?”

Sami laughed. “Yes. I have three sisters and five brothers.”

“There are nine children in your family?”

He laughed again. “Yes. I’m the oldest.”

“Wow. So tell me about them.”

“About my sisters and brothers?”



“I’m interested.” I smiled and leaned towards him slightly, amazed at how easy it was to flirt, how naturally it came with this man who was strange to me.

“Tell me about your brother.” He was smiling back at me, but his eyes were confused, or worried.

“You go first,” I said, and brushed some hair behind my ear, watching his gaze follow my fingers.

He told me about his family. Twin sisters who liked dancing, and a younger brother who wanted to be an architect. The brother just younger than him who wanted to study law, the sister who hated school, and the mute brother who had been silent for all of his fourteen years. We drank our coffee and moved to sit on the couch in the other room. The music continued for a while, and then, after a rousing version of ‘Tuxedo Junction,’ the room was suddenly quiet.

“Where do you live?” I asked, resting my chin on the heel of my hand.

“In the Old City.” Sami scratched the back of his neck and then looked at me, waiting for my reaction.

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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.