Yom revi'i, 18 Tevet 5769.
So, where was I, David?
Oh, yes. The fellow who was “giving his father a lift” dropped us off across the road from the base. After a short walk, directed by our dear daughter-in-law, we were outside the gate. In a few minutes, my son’s familiar frame with his “conquering the world” stride came into view.
We had a terrific visit with him. He looks good. He is strong; and his confidence and sense of humor are intact. Baruch Hashem! May he come out of this “adventure” whole and healthy. I could talk about him for a long time… but this letter is about the angels we met, coming and going.
As the sun was sinking, our brief two-hour visit had to end. We made our farewells, with hugs and smiles, and only a few tears.
At the bus stop, we told Executive Girl we would see her later. “We’re going to see if we can find the camera.” Yes, David. My husband and I are a little bit crazy. But cameras cost money, and a quest is a quest. We just had to try…
We wandered down the road for a bit, not sure of the distance. After a pleasant hike, a young father offered us a ride. His little boy’s face is the “wallpaper” on his cell phone. He lives in the kibbutz nearby. Former Golani, he expects to be called up soon. “Where’s your car?” he asked. His question made sense. The only people who would be walking out here are folks whose car broke down, right? We explained. He found us amusing. But he could not leave two people walking on the road; so he took us as far as he could. Brachot were exchanged – for the long, healthy lives of his children, for the successful homecoming of our soldier son.
It was getting dark; and I really had given up on finding the camera. Many cars had gone by without stopping.
And then you came along, David.
Of course you wanted to hear what the heck we were doing here. We explained the whole story, to include the search for the camera. You asked why we made aliyah. Let me tell you the best reason, David. I don’t know what your plans were for the evening. But you spent at least 45 minutes with us. You drove us to the place in the road at which we had lost the camera, near the “camel crossing” sign. You shined your headlights on the road, so that we could look for white grocery bags. You let us stop, three different times, to examine white bags by the roadside. Each time, we told you that you had done enough; but you persisted.
The last bag had my rocks in it… but no camera. You waited as we searched the area, using your headlamps to light the side of the road, until we were sure it was not there. “Thai workers drive up and down the side of the road, very slowly, to see what people may have dropped,” you explained. As if to illustrate your point, a Thai went by on his bicycle at that moment. We gave up on the camera. But my husband was gratified at having found the bag with the rocks. “See? At least we know it wasn’t crazy to try.” He was almost as happy as if he had found the object of our search.
I was happy to have encountered another angel.
You used your cell phone to check the bus schedule for us. We didn’t even ask you to do that! “There are no more buses,” you said. “I’ll take you to the best place to tremp.” Unbelievable. May you have many brachot, David. May you discover for yourself why living in Israel truly is the best way to spend your life!
Still, the night was filled with angels. There were the two soldiers and the “hilltop youth” at the trempiada. “Don’t take that car,” one of the soldiers warned. “He’s an Arab. You can tell by the black windows.” Got it. When a “kosher” car stopped, the “hilltop youth” gave up his place in line, and offered us the ride. “Good luck!” they called after us.
This car felt like a tiny spaceship. Very cool little car, with all the latest gadgets. The Gen-X driver wore driving gloves and a Bluetooth. He was constantly checking the news, roaming from station to station. I could see that he was very into the drama of the war, of traveling in the south. “The main road isn’t good. No miklatot – no bunkers, in case of the ‘tzeva adom.’ I’ll take you to a bus stop in Ofakim with a miklat close by.” As he dropped us off on a well-lighted street, he pointed to the bunkers on either side of the street, very serious. “If you hear the warning, go there quickly.” Off went the angel in his spaceship.
We enjoyed the silly, night-time teen life in Ofakim. Young girls playing karaoke on their cell phones, singing and flirting with friends who passed by. Yes, if they were our daughters, we would be freaking out (which is the main reason G-d didn't give us daughters, I think). But since they were just beautiful young Jews, filled with life and normalcy and a complete disregard for the serious adult world enveloping them, we could just take pleasure being near their exuberance. It was a comfortably cool night; and when I remarked on the worrisome lack of rain, our young soldier's father reminded me that sleeping outside in a tent, and fighting the enemy, are best done on rain-free, cool nights. I made a silent prayer that Hashem would fill the Kinneret only after our soldiers' work is finished, may it be soon.
We reached Jerusalem at around 9 PM. Realizing that we had not eaten since breakfast, Avi offered to take me out for a bite of lamb at Burger's Bar in the tachana. We asked if they took credit cards, since we had never made it to an ATM machine. The new employee said yes; so we placed our order. Another young man came out of the kitchen to prepare the food; and I offered him my credit card. "We don't take. No place. See?" He pointed enigmatically at the cash register... The Dearly Beloved and I had a brief moment of panic; and then my dear husband went to get money from the machine. "The teller is unable to complete your request at this time." [Note: refer to earlier note: traveling on Sunday is not always the best idea...]
"Ehhhhhh... we don't have any money; and the caspomat is not working for us today."
"Don't worry. Pay me tomorrow," said the young man behind the counter.
Embarrassed, I accepted his offer, as the food was already on the grill, marveling at the "only in Israel" nature of the fact that he wasn't disgusted by our lack of funds. We sat down to eat, wondering why our reasonably flush US bank account was letting us down. "I'll come in tomorrow, first thing, and pay this," The Dearly Beloved said to me.
Our 14th angel arrived in the form of our landlord's daughter, who was here for a friend's birthday party. She loaned us the money to pay the bill.
As I was paying, I explained to the delighted young man behind the counter: "I just want you to understand what kind of day it's been. We went to visit our son, who is in Gaza."
("Golani? G'dud Shteim-Esray? [12th Battalion?] Wow!" he interrupted. I didn't mind. The hero image of the Barak Brigade helps to ease the fear. A little.)
"Nu? So we had all these angels help us up and down the road. You and the lady who paid for dinner are just the latest. What makes a Jew an angel? That he has a desire -- no, a need -- to help another Jew. This is the best place in the world to live!"
This slender kid could have looked cynical in another setting. He said to me, with deep sincerity in his dark brown eyes: "Thank you for saying it. I know what you say is true. But thank you for saying it. It is the best place. You are a neshama tova."
Our friend Marc says that if you scratch to just beneath the surface of any Jew in Israel, male or female, old or young, you will find a Jewish mother, who is dying to help you out. We have found this to be true.
We took the 10:30 PM bus back to Neve Daniel. Just so that the day wouldn't end in a boring way, the gate was broken, and the new driver was afraid to take his bus through the narrow opening. Let off at the bottom of the hill, Avi said to me, "I have been good all day. We have walked miles; and I have kept a remarkably good attitude. But now I am going to piss and moan my way up this hill. Fine. Just fine." I laughed, because I know him, and I know he was mostly kidding (although he really was looking forward to "slipper time").
Just then, the 15th angel arrived. Our landlady drove up. "Would you like a ride?" she asked, in her musical and clear school-teacher's Hebrew.
Would we ever!
David, I won't pretend that any of the encounters we had today would not have happened in Chutz l'Aretz. Hashem made beautiful people; and He placed them all over the globe.
What makes the country of your birth so special is that people like this cross our path every day. And not just once or twice a day. Some days, one is blessed to meet 15 angels in 15 hours.