Outside the Bubble – Chapter 50


Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 50 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. 

This time, the conversation between Michoel and Dr. Jerry did not take place in the regular office. The doctor took him out to the lawns, to a quiet corner that Michoel had not known existed until today. The truth was, he didn’t know much about anything that was going on in this place. There was too much that he didn’t know, and he wondered if it would even be right to bring Yosef here. He was not the type who bought every word he was told, even if the principles of the method sounded interesting. He’d always been suspicious.

The doctor sat on a wooden bench, folded his right leg and rested it on his left one. He took out a cigarette from an unfamiliar brand and lit up. “How are you acclimating, Michoel?”

“Thank G-d. But I want to recover and return to my country.”



“Is someone waiting for you at home?”

“At home, no. But I have extended family members who are very devoted to me.”

“Where were they until now?” The doctor took a long drag on the cigarette, but did not offer one to his patient. Michoel tried to remember if the flavor of smoking was familiar to him. He sensed that it was, but in the very distant past. He’d quit smoking years ago— maybe with the aid of a book of some type?

“Isn’t it a shame for your lungs?” he asked as he stared at the rings of smoke. The doctor just smiled.

“Where were your family members until now?” Dr. Jerry asked again.

“I’m a lone-wolf type,” Michoel explained. A second later, he felt a cautionary chill creeping slowly up his spine, so he continued carefully: “My family always tries to be there for me, and they worry about me, but I like my independence.” He sighed. “I travel a lot, and my house is set up for that, since I once had a break-in, and another time, I had a leak that caused a lot of damage and no one knew about it.”

“How is your house set up for all that?”

“I installed a whole home-management system, with the help of a relative of mine. It all works without a hitch even when I’m not there—the electricity and all the other things.”

The doctor seemed curious. “What do you mean, ‘the other things’?”

“For example, I usually order pizza every Tuesday. If I’m traveling, there’s a homeless guy who goes to the store to get it instead of me.” His forehead suddenly creased. “I must find out what’s going on with him.”

“But how do you order pizza where you’re not there?”

“I have a whole system of automatic messages, on my house phone, my cell phone, my home computer…” Michoel chuckled. “There’s a recording each week of my order to the pizza shop.”

The doctor was quiet for a long while. “So, what does this all have to do with your devoted family?” he asked finally.

“Well, except for that relative who helped me with the whole system, my family doesn’t always know if I’m home or not. They were probably sure that I was continuing my life as usual, and just wasn’t in the mood to talk to them, so they didn’t try to find me even when I disappeared.” He nodded, almost to himself.

“I’m worried about one of them.” The words escaped his mouth before he had actually decided to say something.

“You’re worried about someone in your family?” The doctor raised an eyebrow. “Or do you mean to say that he’s worried about you?”

“Well, he might also be worried about me, if his mother shared with him what I told her about what happened to me. But right now, I’m worried about him.” Michoel sighed again. “He’s a sweet boy who suffers from schizophrenia, unfortunately. He’s usually pretty well-managed and functions just fine, but lately, it seems something has not been right.”

“He’s been having outbursts?”

“No. If I understood correctly, the issue is not symptomatic of his chronic condition; it’s more that he’s in a depressive state.” He shook his head, wanting to say something else, but ultimately deciding to be quiet.

“His mother told you now about the history of his illness, or do you remember it yourself?”

“I remember it.”

“So you’re progressing really well,” the man noted cautiously. He marked something down in his purple binder.

“Certainly with regard to other people.” Michoel smiled, with a trace of bitterness. In his view, he was progressing fairly well when it came to himself, as well. But for some reason, he had a niggling feeling that he would be better off keeping that information to himself. At least, as long as he wasn’t trusting any of the people here. They should have been looking for his family while he was unconscious, not trying to figure out why they were not looking for him!

“And with regard to your own personal memories, there’s nothing new?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Let’s try to go back to your distant past. You’re a baby, maybe a month old, or even a week. Close your eyes, please.”

Michoel obeyed, allowing the rays of sun to warm his forehead.

“Do you remember something? Feel something?”

He felt one thing:– the tension that he’d been feeling ever since he woke up and found himself here. But he wouldn’t say that. “I’m lying on something soft,” he said in a dreamy voice. “And I hear a pleasant voice, a soothing voice, next to me. My mother, probably.”

“What do you feel when you hear her voice?”

“Like the notes of a sweet tune,” Michoel conjured. “Maybe there is a music box of sorts playing near me; I think I saw it in the photos.”

“Not what you saw in photos. Photos are contemptible things. They forcibly inject into our brains forgotten and fake externalities. Anyway, what do you hear now? The tune from that music box?”

“I think so.” Michoel was very careful with every word he uttered. “Or maybe the tune is from a different source, like from an old record player.”

“Can you identify notes? Do you remember any part of that tune?”

“No. I’m not musical.”

“But can you sing it for me, or hum it?”

Michoel’s forehead creased with exertion. Maybe he should hum something like “Old McDonald Had a Farm”? Better not to. “It’s hard…”

“What is happening next to you? Who is there?”

“My father and mother.”

“What are they doing?”


“Do you hear what they are saying?”

“No.” There was a limit to what he could make up.

“And how do you feel when you hear their voices?”

His imagination had never been particularly fertile. “Good.”

“Do they love you?”

“Very much.” Those were the days when he had been surrounded by loving family members. How much time, and how many events, had transpired since then… Today, there were also people who cared about him, but from afar. If only he could bring someone here!

“I want to bring my nephew here,” he said, and opened his eyes. “I want to feel my family’s love again. You’ve been able to bring me back to those happy days, doctor… My nephew is a good boy, and I want you to help him, too. We care a lot for each other…”

“I’d be happy to get some more details about him. And about his illness,” Dr. Skulholt said as he rose. And to Michoel’s relief, he did not ask any more questions about the older man’s infancy experiences.


Dov sat all morning learning the mishnayos that remained in Maseches Demai. Simi called and said she was baking two cakes and that the others were bringing the rest. Dov had promised to buy bourekas.

Hinda, for her part, was completely focused on the kitchen plans she was nearly finished working on.

Martin sat near the window, reading a book that Dov had recommended, while munching from a bag of Bissli. He didn’t ask any questions. Every so often, he glanced at Dov, and then went back to his book.

Dov rose and closed his sefer. “I’m going to Bnei Brak in about twenty minutes, Martin,” he said. “I have a siyum. Would you like to join me?”

“Okay,” Martin said. “Um…what is a siyum?”

“It’s a siyum on the Shishah Sidrei Mishnah,” Dov explained. “On the days marking the passing of deceased people, we try to finish as many masechtos, tractates of the Mishnah, as possible, in memory of the person.”

“Oh,” Martin said, in a tone that tried to sound understanding, but more than gave away the fact that he had no idea what Dov was talking about. “Who passed away?”

At this point, Dov lowered his voice, and Hinda could not hear what he was saying. She also wasn’t interested; there was no need. Just yesterday, Chaya, the woman who had called her for chizuk two weeks ago, had called Hinda again, asking her to start a small support group.

“Just three or four women,” she’d explained hastily. “More than that wouldn’t work for me. Rebbetzin Werner, the one who recommended you to me, said that she’s ready to send us the right type of women for this.”

“The right type of women,” Hinda had echoed. “But we’re all so different, don’t you think?”

“Different and the same,” Chaya had insisted. “Your husband’s children are married. None of mine are. But I’m still sure that both of us can differentiate between those who accept us more and those who are less welcoming, right?”

“Right,” Hinda had agreed.

“And there’s so much that women in our position need help with. For example, how are we supposed to relate to memorial events for the first wife? What do we do about family events on her side of the family? What about yahrtzeits? What about when someone starts talking about her at the Shabbos table, and tells everyone, ‘Ima used to put less dill in the soup; I can’t stand how much of it you put in—it makes the soup bitter’?”

From there, they’d segued into the subject of direct and hostile criticism versus more veiled criticism, and other topics. They never got to discussing practicalities of the group.

She did not know if she was cut out to moderate such a group. Maybe she was. She believed that she had what to contribute to others, and no less than that, to receive from others, too.


Martin strapped his seatbelt alongside Dov. “It’s not like I’m gate-crashing or anything, right?”

“I’m the one who invited you,” Dov said placidly. “The question is if you are afraid of the police, or of those people who were looking for you.”

“I think they can easily get to me at your house, if they wanted to. Apparently, they want to see if I’m going to stop creating turmoil.”

“And you did stop.”

Martin smiled briefly. “Not only that, actually. You know, I’d already stopped all that a few weeks ago, when I was stunned by the accident… But Kornblit later came to me to suggest that I become a collaborator, a mole, so he might still be trying to find me.”

“It’s important that we discuss this subject carefully.” It was Dov who was serious now, despite his normally cheerful demeanor. “And I didn’t want to do it with my wife around, because she didn’t seem to catch much of why you were hiding out in Michoel Perl’s house; she was too hung up on the fact that Michoel really wasn’t home all this time.

“So first of all,” Dov continued, “if you want to know, I found out about the accident you were involved in. Both of the victims are in various stages of recovery now.”

“I’m happy to hear that.”

“But the activities that you were involved in continue incessantly.”

“The ‘price tag’ stuff?”

“Yes. Once every few days, they hear something new. So I’m asking you—is none of that related to you anymore? Are you sure? You told us that you were very involved in these things before.”

“I have no connection to any of that anymore,” Martin said evenly. In truth, he was offended and was trying to conceal his hurt. “After the accident, I left all of it.”

“I’m happy to hear, because you do remember that I’m trusting you.”

“It doesn’t sound like it, actually.”

“I definitely trust you, and it’s also reasonable for me to expect you to justify that trust.” Dov’s voice was quiet. “Otherwise, my wife and I would not be trying so hard to help you.”

Was there a hint there of some kind? Martin wondered if he should murmur a “thank you,” but then decided it might sound sarcastic.

“I’m happy to hear that it really is all behind you,” Dov repeated as he turned the wheel to navigate Haifa’s winding roads. The sea was laid out before them, at the bottom of the slopes, on one side. “And now the question is what you should do from here on. Maybe it would be a good idea to contact a lawyer, and to close the case as soon as possible.”

Martin rubbed his neck. “I have money for a lawyer. But I don’t know if it will help. I mean, if the police, or the GSS (General Security Service),or I-don’t-know-who-else, tried to persuade me to accept a deal in order to close the case, and then I refused and fled, it’s possible that they’re too angry at me.”

“And they’ll want to take revenge?”

“I don’t know if it’s revenge, but I don’t think they are going to want to let me off the hook just like that…”

“Let’s say they don’t want to let you off the hook. What will they do? Prosecute you?”


“Will the driver of the car that hit the two Arabs agree to testify on your behalf, in that case?”

Martin was quiet. “I haven’t spoken to him since,” he finally said, candidly. “I can try.”

“Do you have his number?”

“Not anymore. I can call directory assistance, but if he is also being followed, the conversation will lead to me very quickly.”

“You can speak from my phone,” Dov suggested. “Or better yet, I’ll ask one of my sons-in-law for their phone when we get to Bnei Brak. In the worst case, the GSS will get to him, and he’ll say he did a favor for a guy and let him make a call.”

“I don’t want to get any of them in trouble,” Martin murmured.

“And you think that I do?” Dov laughed. “I’ll tell my son-in-law what it’s about. He’ll agree without a problem, and might even enjoy the idea. In any case, if the primary threat that came up in the conversation with you was deportation from Israel, it’s hard for me to believe you’ll be put on trial. Either way, speak today with that friend of yours and try to get a feel for what is happening. Then we’ll speak to a good attorney. I need to think who is suitable for this. Once you are exonerated, you can continue life like a free man. Wouldn’t that be amazing?” Dov held Martin’s gaze for a brief moment before turning back to the road ahead of them. “What would be your plans then? Would you want to study something?” “Yes. I’d like to learn computers better. And also…I want to learn more about Judaism. It’s begun to interest me.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: