Original Diary Entry
Thursday, the fifth day. This day a preacher presented himself to me, dressed shabbily, and with his hair falling in front of his eyes. His aspect was so fearful and ugly that he seemed like the devil emerged from Hell. […] I was so afraid that I shook from head to toe and looked down so I would not have to see him. […] he took a pitcher of Acqua Santa and threw it over me, saying that “this water has the power to make you convert.” For my part, I struck my face with my hands and began to shout. “It will never happen that either my flesh or my face will accept a drop of this water as long as I am a Jew. I will have nothing to do with your water, nor with your superstitions. For my part, a dog may just as well have pissed on me.” To make me even more desperate, he took a chain out of his purse, which he called the Crown, and passed it again and again over my face and head, saying, “this is the chain that will bind your heart to our faith, and this is the water, which I now pour upon you a second time, which has the power to smother the infernal fire that has been prepared for (all) Jews. There is no way to make it grow cold other than by accepting this Holy Water with love.” He repeated this performance nearly twenty times. Then he got down on his knees and began to pray […] I […] began to fear very greatly and to shout bitterly, crying, with my eyes facing heavenward. […] he began again to spray me with water, saying he would convert me that very day. It was as though he had impazzito, gone crazy, repeating ugly verses. […] I could do nothing but cry and pray for release […] I was stunned, half dead, and that whole day I spent in tears. […] If God had not gotten him out of there, with his bad humour, he would have brought me to kill myself. […] Later on that day, six more priests came in, bringing with them the cursed sister of Sabato Coen, yesh’u. […] one of the priests, [as always] a neofito, began to ask whether I belived in the God of Israel […] Friday evening, the same monster came back, to ensnare me just at the hour, as he knew so well, that I had intended to welcome the Sabbath. After an hour and a half of preaching, which left me destroyed, he took a little pail of water in his hand, which he said was blessed, and began to spray it in every direction, on my back, my face, on the bed. I could feel my flesh curling up, as though I were standing in the middle of a fire. When this stregone finished making me miserable, another frate arrived, whom they called the Parrocchiano. […] he […] began to make me uneasy again, for about an hour. Finally one of the two left, and I was alone, in a solitary place, with the second, in the dark. I felt totally beaten down […] Lacking the power to find some remedy, I threw myself on the bed. I begged the remaining curate to cease. I had no strength to listen to anybody. My head was spinning […] Speechless and unable to respond, the frate left, desperate (for his failure), while I was beside myself, this being the first time (I was alone) on a Shabbat. I tried to rest, but I was not granted repose.
NARRATOR: The man in front of you is a devil from hell. His clothes are frayed, his hair falling in front of his eyes – his whole face twisted and leering.1 You can feel your arms trembling, and your breath is tight in your chest.2
PRIEST: You think you can leave? Get it out of your head. You are in our hands, and either you be like us and believe in the true God, the one we believe in, or you will finish your days in our cloister. Forget your mother, your father, any of your family – you will never see them again. If I wanted, I could get the entire College of Cardinals and the pope to ensure that you will not walk out of here victorious. This water has the power to make you convert!
NARRATOR: Taking a pitcher, he throws the contents over you. The water drenches your hair, your skin, your clothes. They stick to you, and the chill starts to seep into your bones. Your flesh crawls and you strike your face repeatedly, shouting at him that your flesh nor your face will accept a drop of this water – you are a Jew, you will have nothing to do with his water, or his superstitions! It is as if a dog pissed on you.
Rapid breathing turns to hyperventilation as the water hits you. The breathing turns to short shivering gasps. The sounds of skin slapping skin
His eyes narrow. Moving into your space, he takes out a chain, waving it over your face again and again. You can feel his breath on your damp skin.
The sounds of breathing right in your ear
PRIEST: This is the chain that will bind your heart to our faith, and this is the water, which I now pour upon you a second time, which has the power to smother the infernal fire that has been prepared for all Jews. There is no way to make it grow cold other than by accepting this Holy Water with love.
NARRATOR: (Over the preaching) He repeats this at least twenty times, until finally he kneels, praying fervently. Hearing his prayers, you feel your stomach jump.3 You shout to heaven – begging god for strength, to save you from this man’s rapacious, infernal hands, which are trying to steal your soul. At your words, the man rises once more, throwing water over you again, and chanting verses incessantly, until they fill your head. You cry and pray, unable to do anything else, unable to be rid of him.
The sounds of water hitting you once again, ragged breath as you cry
PRIEST (REPEATED): This is the chain that will bind your heart to our faith, and this is the water, which I now pour upon you a second time, which has the power to smother the infernal fire that has been prepared for all Jews. There is no way to make it grow cold other than by accepting this Holy Water with love.
NARRATOR: Later that day, six priests enter your room, along with the sister of Sabato Coen, the man who offered you to this place.
NEOPHYTE: Do you believe in the God of Israel, Anna?
NARRATOR: You refuse to incriminate yourself. You remain silent.
NEOPHYTE: Why do you not answer? I only wish to know whether you believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets. Do you not know that God is the same for all? The statues in the Churches are only symbols of the real saints. Don’t believe the rabbis who say the worship of saints is idolatry. You Jews do not want to believe that God is the messiah, whom you made a martyr and put on the cross, but who was the one your sainted ancestors as the Prophets recognized.
NARRATOR: He continues speaking at you, until finally, he leaves.
NARRATOR: It is Friday evening, and just as you begin to welcome the Sabbath, the same neophyte returns. For an hour and a half, he preaches at you, and you can feel your energy leave your body, your head heavy, your stomach hard. There is a little pail in his hand, and moving forward he throws water at you, all over the room, on your bed, on your face.
The sounds of water hitting you again, your short quick breaths
NEOPHYTE: You are blessed my child! Find the light, just as I did!
NARRATOR: Your hands clench and your body curls in. It feels as if your very skin is contracting. Another priest joins the neophyte, and finally, the first one leaves.
In the darkness, it is only you and the second priest. The room seems off-balance, and your head whirls until you throw yourself down on the bed, begging him to stop- to leave you. You will never convert, never.
Footsteps as he leaves, the sounds of tears and gasps as you cry
Try as you might, you will not find sleep tonight.
1Extrapolated from the man’s ugly and fearful aspect
2This is a description of an adrenaline response. ; O’Mara, 107.
3She feels fear in the text, and thus I have described another adrenaline response.