T

he double doors open abruptly and the crowd pours out of the courtroom. Our lawyer appears from somewhere and gestures for us to follow him inside. I feel like I’m entering a lion’s den.

I’m taken aback by how ordinary it appears. There are several rows of wooden seats divided into two parallel sections. Elevated lecterns with microphones face the center on either side. An Israeli flag and a large photograph of the Prime Minister are displayed in the middle of the front wall, above a raised table stretching from one side to the opposite wall.

Our lawyer indicates the seats reserved for us and we sit. I keep my eyes down because I’m afraid to even look toward the opposing side of the room. Though I don’t want to see the man who is my biological father, I feel his eyes on me. Abba squeezes my hand and I respond with a little nod.

Quite a few people followed us from outside into the court room. They take seats on the benches in front of us. Who are they? Why are they here? My father reads my mind. “These are students in law school,” he explains. “They come to learn from rulings in actual cases.”

There are large windows all along the left side of the room. I see birds flying and I wish I had wings to join them. Suddenly there is a commotion as everyone jumps to their feet. Abba gently nudges me to stand up as well. A middle-aged judge wearing a loose, dark robe enters from a private door in the front wall. She takes her place in an executive chair exactly in the center behind a long desk.

It’s a female judge! Is that good? Maybe she is a mother, and will be sympathetic to how a child feels when threatened with separation from his family? Her glasses slide halfway down her nose as she looks at the audience. Her expression is very stern.

A secretary takes her place not far from the judge and begins clicking on some kind of machine. Maybe it’s a typewriter. Her fingers don’t stop moving, and she sits staring forward. Another assistant steps over to the judge and arranges files and papers on the table before her. Everything is silent until the assistant speaks. “Adon Musa Elkaradi versus the State of Israel,” he intones in a nasal voice. “Citing biological paternity, Mr. Musa Elkaradi demands the invalidation of the illegal adoption of the minor known as Meir Weiss, by Yosef and Sarah Weis. The court is asked to revoke custody of said minor from the adoptive parents and award it to his father, effective immediately.”

I get goose bumps. Abba strokes my hand to calm me. The judge turns to the other side of the court room and asks Musa Elkaradi to identify himself. From my peripheral vision I see him rise and I hear his gravelly voice, “I am Musa Elkaradi, Your Honor.”

Now she turns to us. “Will the minor known as Meir Weiss please rise?” she asks, looking directly at me. Abba nudges me and I stand up shakily.

The judge studies me for several seconds. “State your name,” her assistant prods. I say, “Meir Weiss, Your Honor.”

“Speak louder,” she admonishes, and I can see that she’s irritated because I spoke too softly.

“Meir Weiss, Your Honor,” I say it so loudly it seems to echo in the large court room. The judge nods, apparently satisfied. I sit back down. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 721)