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The Fallen Mountain
“I’ll see you tomorrow Yael! Lali Tov!” Tamar had cried as she had run to the bus. Her dark curls had been bouncing on her shoulders and her laughter had made her dark eyes glitter in the sun. Tamar had been on her way to the Scouts retreat and she had been so excited. Yael had smiled and waved. She had turned and begun to walk into the Castro’s across the street when the bus exploded, and with that, Tamar’s life ended.
Yael had taken it as any young girl could. She had hidden. She had locked herself in her twin’s room, sitting among the old shirts and spraying the perfumes that Tamar wore the most. At 16, Yael had been ready to join the army. She had gone to see the people from the government, she had watched the movies on the army, but after her sister’s death, she had nothing left. No will for anything but sorrow.
2 years later Yael flew to the U.S to go to college. She had been given a special scholarship to Brandeis University and she had gladly taken it. It got her away from Israel and those memories that went with it. Being away from her home country gave her time to redefine herself. From Yael and Tamar, two girls who were always glued together, to just Yael, silent and solemn.
“Yael! Guess what? Professor Greenbaum is giving the lecture on Iraq today! Are you going?” Rachel asked her, catching up in two quick steps.
Rachel was Yael’s roommate and best friend. The one girl who knew the whole story of Tamar and her death.
“No Rach, I don’t think I am. I don’t think I could stand that. Knowing what happened to Tamar, and what is surrounding my family,” Yael answered, shaking her head.
Rachel reached out and pulled on one of Yael’s curls saying, “Why don’t you go home for a bit? I’m sure the school would be happy to let you, and I bet your family would be so happy to see you. I know that they miss you.”
“No Rach. I can’t. I’ll see you later; I have a Hebrew class that I have to TA. You know that it’s my first day, I have to make a good impression.” Yael said, escaping from the prying eyes of her friend.
Rachel waved, a frown on her face, and Yael walked into the huge building and into the NEJS (north eastern Judaic studies) building. After stepping into the classroom she set her notebook neatly on her desk and waited.
“How are you so organized?” a voice asked. Yael turned to see a girl standing behind her. The girl was blond with brown highlights and her blue eyes stared straight into Yael’s.
“I wasn’t always,” she answered, pushing her books to the corner of her desk.
“Well why are you now?” the girl pushed.
“No reason,” Yael said, looking at the girl with hard eyes.
“Oh. Well I’m Molly, and I’m guessing you’re the new TA?”
“You’re Israeli,” she said, it was not a question, but a statement.
“How did you tell?” Yael asked, sarcasm dripping from her voice.
Instead of the normal “accent” answer, Molly replied with a glimmer in her eye, “All Israeli’s are thin it seems. Plus you have the dark skin. And you’re pretty.”
Yael just stared at the girl in disbelief.
“I’m studying to be a profiler. You know those people who draw pictures of people to be identified by? Well, accents can be superficial, but looks can’t,” she said, her voice smug.
“Molly, I hope you’re not bothering our new TA. Yael, this is Molly Greenbaum, the administrator’s daughter. Molly, please sit down,” the professor said.
Yael stood in the class and went through the motions, all the while thinking about everything in her life that was weird.
“Hey Yael, Are you coming home anytime soon or what?” Yocheved, Yael’s Israeli best friend asked over the phone that night. It was two in the morning for Yocheved and she was out in the center of Jerusalem.
“Chev, we’ve been through this. I’m not coming home. Ever. You need to come visit me here,” Yael said, the Hebrew a comfort she wished she didn’t need.
“You say that now Yael, but sooner or later you will get on that plane. Tamar has been gone for six years; you need to let it go. Tamar wouldn’t want you to waste your life because of her. And I know that I tell you this everyday and that you don’t listen, but I won’t stop until you are on an El Al plane to Israel!” Yocheved cried.
“Why El Al?” Yael asked, as she always did.
“Safest planes around baby,” Yocheved said laughter in her voice.
“I miss you,” Yael said, the words slipping out by accident.
“And I miss you, but we are both too stubborn to give in. Call me when you’ve booked your flight!” Yocheved said, hanging up. Her voice seemed sadder than usual.
“Yael, you aren’t going to like this,” Rachel said when they woke up the next morning.
“What am I not going to like?” Yael asked as she slipped on her favorite shirt. A T-shirt with the words “Coca Cola” written in Hebrew on it.
“You just got an e-mail from the administration, asking for you to talk on terrorism in Israel. They think that you would be a good candidate…” Rachel said, her voice trailing off.
“Because I was there when my sister died,” Yael said flatly, her eyes blank.
“No, I won’t do it,” Yael said, turning to pull on her jeans.
“Maybe you should…” Rachel said, looking with doe-like eyes at Yael.
“At least call Chev, see what she has to say!” Rachel pleaded. She had met Yocheved when Yocheved had come to visit Yael for a semester.
“I know what she will say, but I’m still not doing it!” Yael said, anger filling her voice, making her accent thicker than normal.
“So did you get Daddy’s invite?” Molly asked, standing over Yael.
“Yes,” Yael snarled, not looking up.
“Are you going to do it?” Molly asked, ignoring Yael’s tone.
“What do you think?” Yael asked, her pen marking the paper’s harder than was necessary.
“I think you should. But I don’t think you will,” Molly said.
“That’s right. And now I would appreciate if you left me alone,” Yael said through gritted teeth.
“Well I don’t think I can do that. See, I think you would do an amazing job on that speech because of your sister, and I think it would help the school get publicity,” Molly replied.
Yael’s head shot up, her dark eyes blazing. “You know about Tamar?” she seethed.
“I will not do that speech. I will not put Tamar on display for everyone to see! I will not make her death a good thing!” Yael ranted. People looked over at her and Molly gently grabbed her arm and steered her from the classroom.
“Now I know how you feel. She was your sister. I have a sister, I don’t think I could ever lose her without going insane, but this could help Israel and its people! Cant you see that?” Molly asked, her eyes pleading.
Yael slid down the wall and looked up at Molly. “Tamar was not just my sister but my twin. We did everything together. I know you think that you understand what that would feel like, but you can’t even begin to understand. I don’t think this could help anyone at all, personally. All it would do was showcase what we all already know and make old memories come alive.”
“The thing is Yael, I don’t think those memories ever died,” Molly said sadly.
Two hours later the girl were in a coffee shop on campus, discussing Yael and Tamar, something that Yael hadn’t done with anyone. This strange new girl seemed like the only one she could talk too.
“Did you know that Tamar means mountain in Hebrew? It does, and Yael means goat. Tamar was always out mountain, while I was just the goat that inhabited it. Tamar did everything, and I just followed. That never bothered me; it was just how I was. Where Tamar was, I was, end of story. The one thing that we didn’t do together, the one thing that I didn’t want to do, was the one thing that got her killed. I don’t think I could survive without her in some shape or form, so I did what I could. I got away from the place where she was remembered, and carried her to a place where we could start, new. Tamar is now a fallen mountain, and I am a goat without a field,” Yael told Molly.
“No your not. You said it yourself, you brought Tamar with you. She is with a now. She is still your mountain, just in a different way. Just think, if you told Tamar’s story, maybe people like Tamar, innocent people who were just unlucky, won’t have the same kind of end like she had. And people like you wouldn’t have that pain. You could help them, and Tamar could help them too.”
“Yael?” Rachel asked as Yael stormed into their dorm room.
“I’m going to give that speech. I owe it to Tamar,” Yael said shortly as she walked her to her bed.
Rachel just smiled and kept on studying.
“So, when are you coming home?” Yocheved asked.
“I’m booking my ticket for next month, is that okay?” Yael said and she heard Yocehved’s quick gasp.
“That’s just fine. Just fine,” Yocheved answered, her voice filled with ears.
Two weeks later Yael stood at the podium, looking into the faces of the Brandeis staff. Her breathing was ragged until she saw Rachel and Molly, sitting together at the top of the balcony.
Yael looked straight forward and with a slight smile she started, “I would first like to tell you the story of a mountain, and the goat who inhabited it.”