By Esther Rapaport
“Ima told me years later,” Chaiky said thoughtfully, “that the aunt’s visits began to take longer each time. She no longer sufficed with standing downstairs near the car for a few minutes. Rather, she invited Anna to join them on their drives. Most times Anna refused, but once, she traveled with them to their home in Tel Aviv and came back a few hours later. Abba went down to them that very evening and told them that he and Ima objected to this, and they just laughed. He told them that it violated the agreement between them, and they said that the agreement didn’t interest them.”
“There was an agreement?” Yoel asked.
“There was something. Then one day, out of the blue, Anna informed Abba and Ima that she was deeply appreciative of the beautiful years she had spent in their house, but she was leaving. I remember that evening. I was six or seven years old. I was in bed already, but I wasn’t sleeping. I heard every word.”
“She dropped it on them like that? It sounds awful,” Shifra said, and then coughed.
“It really was awful. She said that she wanted to study a serious profession and to advance in life, and she didn’t see herself continuing in a chareidi high school. And when Ima, who was stunned, tried to cautiously probe as to what had suddenly happened …”
“Anna revealed to her that she actually was not Jewish,” Yoel finished the sentence.
“Right.” Chaiky stirred her coffee, looking into the ripples that her stirring generated. “To this day I remember Ima’s shocked wails. Abba was silent. Then Anna explained politely that she didn’t know this all the years, and that her aunt had just revealed to her that all the documents — which the Chief Rabbinate had based their decision upon to issue her certification of Jewish identity — were forged.”
“You heard that from your bed also?”
“No. Ima told me this years later, one Friday night.”
“It sounds awful,” Shifra repeated. “It must have been such a shock for your parents.”
“It was shocking to them both.” Chaiky looked at her. “When Abba and Ima heard this, they fell silent, and didn’t even try any further to persuade her to stay. At that point, I think, I got out of bed and stood in the doorway to peek into the dining room. I remember seeing Abba talking on the phone. I think he had more than one conversation. He must have been finding out how much he could rely on what Anna was saying.”
“Why, because it was impossible to accept what she was saying about herself?”
“Maybe.” Chaiky raised her eyes. She desperately needed to clear those cobwebs from the kitchen ceiling! One of them was swaying dangerously over Yoel’s head, and Chaiky hoped it wouldn’t land directly on his carefully coiffed hairdo.
“You can ask Abba that yourself. I remember Ima being very quiet, and Anna standing in front of them both. Then she turned and entered our room. She took all of her things out of the drawers and off the shelves and put them into her suitcase, the one that always lay unused under her bed.” She sipped her coffee. “She packed her things without paying any attention to my questions, and went out to the dining room. Then Abba finished his phone conversation, went over to his jacket, took money out of his wallet, and put it on the table. Ima stood on the side, very pale, and Anna took the money. She thanked them politely again and left the house.”
Esther Rapaport is a prolific author whose novels include Diamond in the Rough, Divided Attention, Behind the Scenes, Without a Trace, Dance of the Puppet, Blood Brothers, and The Kenya Conspiracy. She resides in Israel.