In a small grocery store in Modi'in, I met a wizened little Israeli as I was purchasing blueberries and a telescoping back scratcher. She was buying cigarettes, pitot and a small bottle of Arak. I marveled that there are indeed miracles visible to us, if only we choose to see, and wondered if my diet would get me to her age. She, however, was fascinated by the back scratcher, and wanted it explained to her. Fortunately, the young clerk explained in rapid Hebrew as I looked on, nodding and smiling and demonstrating like Carol Merrill on The Price is Right.
Later, I met the same elderly lady at the crosswalk. "Third time, ice cream!" I quipped.
She smiled at me. "You are not Israeli?"
"Now I am," I replied proudly.
"Where do you live?"
"In Neve Daniel, in Gush Etzion. About half an hour south of Jerusalem." She didn't recognize the area, but she placed it in proximity to Jerusalem.
"Where did you come from?"
"The United States."
"You don't speak Hebrew? How long have you been in Israel?"
Aware of my deficiencies, I responded, "I'm embarrassed to say, almost fourteen years."
"So long! You should speak Hebrew!"
"I know, I know. I'm trying to learn. Ah! Here's our light. Have an amazing day!"
As we crossed the street, she gave me many, many blessings, as is the custom of Mizrahi Jews. She ended with, "Stay healthy, Mahmee."
"Amen! You, too, and all of us!"
Why am I writing about this rather mundane conversation? Because the entire thing, every word, was in Hebrew. It may not have been perfect Hebrew, but there was not one word of English.
I laughed to myself for some time as I walked to my children's apartment to babysit their youngest daughter so they could get at least a little work done in peace. We all are guilty of being stuck in our preconceptions sometimes, to the extent that we cannot even hear what language the other person is speaking. The best we can do is the best we can do... and love each other around our miscommunications, and laugh.