The courtroom is shocked into silence. The confused security guard looks back and forth between my biological father and my adoptive father, unsure of how to react. Abba and Ima stare at Elkaradi in disbelief.

I remain frozen in place, my thoughts racing. Musa Elkaradi claims to be Yael’s real father. The man has proof that he is my biological father. What does this mean? Yael and I are siblings! The woman in the hospital we think is her mother — is she also my mother? I feel shaky all over.

Of course this is exactly the moment the judge chooses to enter the courtroom. “Seder! Order in the court!” she demands, and everyone turns their attention to her.

I hear Elkaradi say something to my mother before he returns to his place on the other side of the room. “What did he say to you?” my father asks.

Ima looks upset. “He said,” she whispers, “that he’s willing to trade. He will get his son and we can keep his daughter.”

Abba turns his eyes towards Elkaradi. If looks could kill, our problems would be over. I shiver. My father places his arm on my shoulder.

The judge stands like a statue for a long time, her fierce gaze taking in every person present. Finally she adjusts her long black robe and sits down. It’s a relief to be off my feet.

I study the judge’s face. Her expression is severe. Yael hasn’t stopped crying since Musa Elkaradi gave her back to Ima. I wish I could do something to help her, but what can I do? Yael is too distraught to notice anything. In the quiet courtroom her sobs sound very loud. The judge shouts at Ima. “If you can’t make that child be quiet, you must leave the courtroom immediately!”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 725)