Oy, I forgot Matan filled my hair with white, purple, and yellow wildflowers. I must look like a clown.

"Your father wanted me to tell you everyone's at my house eating what you call lunch. If you want to join them, follow me."

I step beside him as he's walking, but then I stop. "Why didn't he tell me himself?"

Avi shoots me a withering glance. "He also wanted me to apologize for watching you undress the first night you were here."


"Israelis don't apologize for what they're not sorry for."

Now I'm really getting riled up. "You're not going to apologize?"

He looks at me straight in the eye. "What I saw was beautiful and natural, so why should I say sorry?"


Boys are either jerks or clueless. Take your pick.

"Ron, I need to call home and my cell phone won't work." I've been in Israel almost six weeks and need to call home once again. First of all, Mitch is back from his camping trip and I need to talk to him. Second of all, I need to call Mom and Jessica.

Ron is sitting on the couch watching some news channel in Hebrew. Uncle Chime is with him, along with the corkscrew-haired Matan.

Matan is naked and he's been like that for the better part of my trip so far. Who am I to bring it up to them that their son isn't dressed and his pee-wee is dangling out for all the moshav to see. You'd think they would have noticed they're not living in a nudist colony.

"I think your mom was going out of town," Ron says, his face still turned toward the television.

"So I'll call a friend."

"What's the number," he says as he heads toward the phone in the kitchen.

Obviously, like everywhere else around here, there's no privacy.

I recite Mitch's number and then he hands me the phone. I pull up a chair in front of the refrigerator and park myself there for the call.

"Hello," a scratchy voice answers.

"Mitch?" I say.


"It's Amy."


"You know, your girlfriend," I say, starting to get pissed.

"Hey, babe. Sorry I haven't called, I got back late last night. Do you know what time it is?" he says, his voice still ragged.

"I'm in Israel, Mitch. And no, I don't know what time it is in Chicago because I'm halfway across the globe."

"Wait, you lost me. Israel?"

"Are you sleeping or listening to me? 'Cause I can only make one call here and I've chosen to call you. It's like jail."

I hear him yawn and I can tell he's attempting to sit up instead of lie in bed. Hopefully now he'll pay some attention to what I'm saying.


"Wait, I gotta pee."

I have an urge to bang my head against the wall.

"Can't it wait?"


I'm trying to disguise my annoyance in front of the rest of the family.

"Well, can you hurry it up a bit? This is long distance, you know."

"I'm tryin', babe."

In the background I hear a stream of pee hitting water and Mitch lets out a long, satisfying sigh. I don't know if I should feel flattered he feels comfortable enough to pee while he's on the phone with me, or grossed out.

"You done?" I ask after I hear a loud flush.

"Yeah," he says. "I'm back in my room."

"You didn't wash your hands."

I mean, if I heard him pee and flush I would have definitely heard the sound of him washing his hands.

"You just told me to hurry up. If I wash my hands I have to put the phone down. You wanna wait?"

"I guess not. Just remember to wash them when you get off with me," I say. "And then disinfect the phone with antibacterial spray."

"Leave it to you, Amy, to tell it like it is."

Unfortunately, Snotty opens the front door and walks in the house with Ofra. Avi, Doo-Doo, and Moron follow them into the house. Great. Just my luck. Now I have a bigger audience to eavesdrop on my conversation with my boyfriend.

Out of the corner of my eye I catch Avi looking at me, his jaw tense. I haven't talked to him since he purposely didn't apologize for watching me undress. I think we've been avoiding each other, actually. Which is just fine with me.

I turn my chair around so I'm facing the wall and say quietly into the phone, "You know what I like about you?"

"Shit," Mitch says, "I just stubbed my toe on my skateboard."

It's not the response I was aiming for.

"You okay?" I ask, trying not to lose my patience.

"I think I'm bleeding. Wait a minute."

As I wonder how much a phone call costs per minute from Israel to the United States, I twirl the cord around my finger.

It's hard while I'm waiting not to turn around to catch a glimpse of what the others are doing. They're talking loudly in Hebrew.

I can't stand it anymore. I take a glimpse at Avi. He's wearing a black T-shirt with some Hebrew lettering on it and faded jeans ripped in both knees. He's also wearing a silver-linked chain around his wrist.

Now, I've seen boys wear jewelry before and haven't thought it enhances masculinity in the least. But Avi wears the bracelet like it's a manly accessory. He makes the other guys look dorky for not having a silver link chain bracelet on their wrists.

When my gaze travels up, I feel like a Peeping Tom when I realize he's caught me checking him out. Lifting the bracelet hand, he gives me a mock salute.

I can feel my face turn red and my blood starts to pound loudly in my head. He's seen me check him out. I want to die now, especially when he then walks up to Snotty and grabs her hand. That hand holding Snotty's is the same one that held my snake-guts-covered foot two weeks ago.

"Okay, I'm back," Mitch says. "No blood, but it still hurts like a bitch."

I forgot I was even on hold and, to be honest, wasn't paying attention to what Mitch just said. Turning back around, I giggle softly into the phone. Avi is trying to concentrate on Snotty, but I know for a fact he's listening to my end of the conversation.

"What's so funny?" Mitch asks. "I'm hurting here and all you can do is laugh?"

Have you ever tried to make other people think you're having a good time when you're not? What sucks is when the person you're with doesn't get it. They need to play along, but you can't tell them for fear of being discovered. Play along with me, Mitch.

"I can't wait to go camping with you," I say.

Let Snotty and all of them realize I have someone back home waiting for me. For some reason I'll feel like less of a loser here for hanging out by myself every day.

"What's wrong with you?" he says. "You hate camping."

"Of course I do," I say, then giggle again.

Giggling doesn't come naturally to me, but I do a pretty good job of making it sound authentic. I think.

Although my boyfriend now thinks I'm a freakoid.

"What about our tickets to the BoDeans concert at Ravinia for next weekend?" he says. "I spent fourteen bucks on those tickets, along with the extra thirty I spent on the Renaissance Faire tickets. You said you'd go with me."

Thankfully, the group heads outside. I let out a breath because I can finally be myself again.

I turn back around in the chair and stare at a flying spider-like thingy near the ceiling.

"Yeah, well that was before I got sucked into going to a country infested with

Ferragamo-stealing mutts and flying spiders."


"Forget it. I wish I could be there with you, really I do."

God, I hope he doesn't ask Roxanne Jeffries to go out with him. She's his next-door neighbor and has been flirting with him all year. He even told me she undresses with the curtains wide open.

"Say, I've got an awesome idea. Take Jessica. She's not doing anything this summer except working at a day camp for kids. She'll go with you." And she'll keep an eye on you for me.

"Don't you think it'd be weird if I go out with your best friend?"

"It's not like it'd be romantic or anything."

Jessica doesn't even think Mitch is cute. She's told me he reminds her of a poodle on Prozac. Everyone's entitled to an opinion. Mom always says, "Opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one and everyone thinks everyone else's stinks." It's true.

"I guess I could call her," he finally says.

"Tell her I miss her."

"Sure. When are you coming back?"

If I can manipulate Ron, very soon. "Before school starts, but who knows." We both go to Chicago Academy, a private high school.

He yawns. "Have fun."

As if. "You, too. Don't miss me too much."

He gives a short laugh before saying, "Bye, Amy."

I think I hear the phone click before I answer, "Bye."


A star is just a star. Or is it?

It's nine o'clock the next morning and I'm bored, as usual. I eat breakfast, alone again, as I watch Sofia sit in her chair. Snotty came home late last night, her friends all laughing and making noise at two o'clock in the morning. I hate to admit it, but I'm sorry I stayed home. With the exception of Snotty and Avi, hanging with the group is kind of fun.

"Your aba wants you to go to the sheeps. He's waiting for you," Sofia says.

"I don't want to."

I know I sound like a little kid, but why go into detail and hurt the ol' woman.

"He misses you."

What? He wouldn't miss me even if I disappeared from this earth.

"I don't think so," I say as I stuff hummus into a pita and take a bite.

"He loves his homeland and wants to share it with you."

I have a mouth full of hummus as I blurt out, "Why doesn't he move back here if he loves it so much?"

"I bet you know the answer to that question, Amy. He stays away because of you. You're his family. His future. His blood. Wherever you are is his home now."

I kneel beside her while I listen to her voice. It's soothing, and when she talks it almost sounds like a lullaby. I'm loud. My mom is loud. I talk loud. I walk loud. I'm just a loud person. But this old lady is like cotton, everything about her is soft and quiet. She leans over and takes something out of her pocket.

"Hold out your hand," she says.

I hold my hand out. She drops something into it and gently closes my fingers over my palm.

"What is it?" I ask.

"Look at it."

I open my fist and look at a small gold and diamond Jewish star glittering in the center of my palm. It's attached to a thin gold necklace. The star is smaller than a nickel, just big enough to know what it is, but small enough to be almost...private.

I don't know what to say to her. Being Jewish isn't a part of me. Mom doesn't believe in religion so I've never been to church except for my cousin's wedding. I've never been to a synagogue, either, except for Jessica's bat mitzvah.

"I'd like you to have it," Safta says. "It's called the Magen David, the star of David."

Man, I want it. I don't know why I want it, but I do. I'm not Jewish and would feel like a huge faker if I did take it. I mean, I could never wear it or anything. It's just so shiny and glittery and it actually means something important to Safta.

"I can't take this," I say. When I note the disappointment in the eyes that are an exact replica of mine I add, "It's too beautiful."