Outside the Bubble – Chapter 33


Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 33 of a new online serial novel, Outside the Bubble, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Monsenego called on Friday morning, a few minutes after Martin decided that he’d finished going through all the drawers in the computer desk, and that it was time to move on to the bookshelves. His attention was drawn to a light pink book with a fat spine, with the title The Revelation, by S. Sternfeld.

He opened it to the first page, and then the international call came in.

“Hello?” he answered the phone.

“Good morning—it’s morning there in Israel already, isn’t it?” The voice spoke fluent English.

“Oh.” Martin sat down on the swivel chair. “Is this Mr. Monsenego?”

“Yes. And you are Yosef Kirschenbaum, if I understood my daughter-in-law’s father correctly?”

“That’s right.” Martin leaned back in the chair, studying the picture of the Kosel that filled the first page of the pink book. “I wanted to ask if you know what’s going on with Michoel Perl.”

“Why, what’s going on?” Monsenego asked calmly.

“I have no idea; I was hoping you might know. I haven’t seen him in Israel since he traveled in for your son’s wedding.”

“I have no idea where he is either,” the other man said thoughtfully. “I know that he had planned to travel to relatives in America a few days after our wedding.”

“Oh, the Weisskopfs,” Martin filled in the information.

“I see you’re quite in the know. Yes, but on Sunday, two days before his flight, I wanted to send my driver to take him around the city—and he didn’t answer the phone.”

“Why around the city? I don’t understand.”

“To collect money for the Jews of Eretz Yisrael.” Monsenego provided what he thought was a self-understood answer.

“Oh,” Martin said, trying to digest the information. “And you’re saying he didn’t answer your call?”

“No. Not that day, nor the next. In fact, I haven’t spoken to him since.”

“And you weren’t worried about him?”

“Not really,” the man said. Then he explained: “Michoel is the type of person who moves from place to place, without too many firm plans, and without informing anyone.”

“So you think he left the city but just didn’t tell you anything?”

“Right. He’s a nice guy, but not exactly predictable. So I wasn’t really worried about his safety or anything, although to be honest, at one point I began to worry that he had been offended by something at our simchah.” Monsenego’s voice grew concerned. “Not that I know of anything specific that may have occurred…but maybe we didn’t host him comfortably enough? Maybe someone had said something to him? He’s a sensitive person… Anyway, like I said, I wasn’t really worried—but I was wondering a bit. But now that you’re telling me that he hasn’t gone back to Israel, that does sound a bit disquieting.”

“I’m not sure he didn’t come back,” Martin said. He leafed through the large book, without looking into it. “He may have come back, but he’s not here. Perhaps he decided, for his own reasons, to rent an apartment somewhere else…” He looked around. “Maybe something here isn’t good for him, for some reason.”

“Here?” Businesspeople had a highly developed sense of smell and very big ears indeed. “Where?”

Martin swallowed. “In Yerushalayim,” he answered meekly. There was silence on the line.

“Look, Yosef, perhaps I’ll get some of my own people on the case,” Monsenego said suddenly. “I’ll ask them to try to find out what happened after that Shabbos. If you find anything out, please let me know. We’ll update each other.”

“You have a detective office?” That was all he needed—private investigators from Mexico paying a visit to this house! “I thought you had…um…an insurance company.”

“An insurance company? Who said that? Is that what Michoel told you?”

“We never spoke about you.”

“I have a factory for paper products,” the man said with a chuckle. “And I’m going to contact a detective agency to find out what went on with him here, in Mexico. If we don’t find anything, we’ll think what to do next. Maybe we’ll send someone to search in Israel.”

“You know, in Israel they have detectives and investigators, too.”

“You’re not Israeli, right? I could hear that you’ve got a good North American accent.”

“Right,” Martin affirmed, wishing this conversation would end. “I’m originally from Greater Sudbury, Canada, but I live in Yerushalayim now.”

“If you’re there, close to things, let’s see what you can do before I get involved in this story. First, I’ll give you the phone number of his relative, Weisskopf, who was always in contact with him. Michoel once gave it to me. Try to find out what he knows about Michoel, and let me know what he says, okay?”

Martin couldn’t have asked for more. He had made a triple play: he’d gotten significant information about Perl; the phone number of Shimon Weisskopf; and—most important—Monsenego was throwing the search ball into his court for now. There was no reason to worry about investigators starting to nose around the area of the house.

But Weisskopf’s number proved to be a disappointment. Although Martin tried numerous times to call, there was never any answer.


Dov had actually offered to take her to Yerushalayim, but knowing how busy he was at work these days, she’d reassured him that she could manage just fine on the buses. In the front pocket of her bag was a kokosh cake for Mali, which she had left from Shabbos, and in the second pocket was a letter that the Non-Profits Registrar had sent to her. It was this letter that had galvanized her to get up and travel to Michoel again, despite all.

And if he wouldn’t open the door for her again—

She didn’t know what she’d do.

Dov had explained to her briefly that they had to file some type of reports about the organization’s activities, and apparently these reports had not been submitted. This letter was the final reminder before all activities would be suspended by the Registrar.

She was also listed as a member of the organization’s board, a procedural matter that had been important to Michoel at the time. But never, until today, had it been relevant to her. Now, he’d have no choice; he’d have to open the door for her. Otherwise, she’d tell him that she was resigning from anything to do with the organization and the donations.

Not that she’d stop collecting tzedakah. Chas v’shalom! She didn’t feel capable of forfeiting the zechusim she had accumulated over the years. But if Michoel was planning to continue with this estrangement—she would not be able to collect for him. There were lots of other organizations who would be happy to have a veteran gabba’is tzedakah, with more than two decades of experience, working for them.

She waited for Mali outside the building where she lived. Mali came out three minutes later, a bit flushed. She thanked her mother effusively for the cake, and casually invited her inside.

“No, no.” Hinda had no intention of going inside. It would be a complicated visit, and if she’d ever decide to make it, she’d have to think it out very well first. “Thanks for the invitation, but I don’t really have time now. You like it here, right?”

“Yes. It was nicer in the other place, but it’s good here, too.”

“I’m happy to hear that. And I’m really sorry that I can’t come in now. I’ve got to drop in to Michoel.”

“If he opens the door for you,” Mali muttered. “Should I come with you?”

“That would be nice.”

They walked together, not talking much along the way, because it was awkward for them both. Hinda was worried about the envelope she was carrying, and about her uncle. She didn’t want him to get in trouble with the organization, because he had little in his life besides it. She also didn’t want that if, chas v’shalom, there were any problems, the fallout would be hers to deal with. Based on his shouting during her previous visit, she knew it was possible that he would blame her for everything that did or did not happen.


The knock at the door made Martin rub his eyes and raise them from The Revelation. He had spent almost the whole Shabbos reading, but hadn’t finished the book yet. Maybe he would just ignore the knocking. The intercom could also remain silent. I mean, why can’t Michoel just not be home right now? He went to the doctor. The grocery. The bank. The Kosel. Haifa. The possibilities are endless!

Just before anyone could try ringing the bell, Martin disconnected the automatic answer. Let the person knock. Whoever it was could do that until tomorrow. As far as he was concerned, there was no one home.

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