There is something that I have always noticed about Israelis but seem to forget to write about. It’s a characteristic many don’t see at first glance or worse, fail to recognize the base behind the action. The action changes from day to day, situation to situation, but the base is always the same. Israelis are actually very kind people.
There are rules and there are exceptions. Our enemies, especially those from within our society, yearn for the exceptions so that they can declare they are the rules. But that is a lie, slander, libel. It is a vicious attempt to destroy the foundation of our society and so these random acts that happen nearly daily must be told, shared. And so I will.
A few days ago, we drove north and while in Tiberias, along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret), we tried to find a bakery. It was getting late and we were worried that we’d lost a chance to buy some snacks. We stopped and asked a young man who was carrying packages. He told us about two places, one behind us, “the best” he informed us, and another that might have what we want a bit ahead of us and to the left.
“Give me your phone number and I’ll walk to the bakery over there and if it is still open, I’ll call you.” And he did. And it was open. And he was right; the pastries were fresh and delicious. A random act of kindness.
Yesterday in an underground parking lot, a long line of cars were waited while the machine ahead failed to allow one car to exit. Next to me, in a parking spot, a car started to go in reverse. I honked my horn afraid that he would hit the side of my car…the last thing I needed when I was trying to rush home to my grandson’s first birthday party (happy birthday, beautiful little baby). Just to my left was a man standing. The cars had parked so close together that he was waiting for his friend to pull out enough to let him get in the car.
He signaled that I should roll down my window, which I did. He handed me a cookie, told me not to worry, that his friend wasn’t going to him my car, and then instructed me to say the blessing for a cookie. Random acts of kindness.
This morning in a store, an older woman was reaching up for a container of ice tea. A young man reached out and took it off the shelf, and then he took the basket of purchases she was intending to make from her arm and asked her if she wanted anything else. She said that she was finished and so he walked her to the cashier. I thought perhaps that he worked in the store, but after putting the basket on the conveyor belt, he turned around and returned to take down a bottle of soda for himself. Yet another random act of kindness, unsolicited, given simply because it would help someone else.
A few weeks ago, on a horribly hot day, a truck filled with water was sent to the Western Wall and water was given freely to any and all. A few months ago, a man and his son were murdered in cold blood in a vicious terrorist attack just days before his daughter was to be married. Palestinian ambulance drivers were the first on the scene but left when they realized the victims were Jews. By contrast, my sons serve on Israeli ambulances and regularly treat Arabs. When the daughter rescheduled her wedding to the young man she loves, she asked all of Israel to escort her and celebrate her marriage. And Jews came from all over – from the US, from Australia and from all over Israel to be with a bride on her wedding day, when her father couldn’t be there.
Two years ago, during the war, a father jumped out of a car during a missile attack and crouched around his infant trying to protect him; and was surprised when seconds later, another man rushed out of his car and bent down in front of him – further shielding both father and child. An act of kindness in the midst of war.
In the last few days, it was published in various places that an injured soldier who had risked his life during the last war was being denied the government benefits needed to renovate his home because it is located 32 kilometers north of Jerusalem instead of 32 kilometers to the west. Within days, people donated double the amount of money the family was seeking to raise and more, the government was shamed into announcing that funds would be released immediately.
In the hospitals in Israel, men and women walk through the halls and ask family members if they need sandwiches, or food for the coming Sabbath. If you say yes, they will bring you a cooler filled with grape juice for the Kiddush (blessing of the fruits of the vine), challot (sweet rolls), fish and casseroles, and hot soup in a thermos. No cost and often it comes with the whispered prayer that your loved one has a complete and speedy recovery.
Each time there is a natural (or man-made) disaster, Israelis mobilize within hours. To Nepal, the Philippines, to Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, even to places in the US, Israelis fly without hesitation. These too are acts of kindness.
Next time you hear someone describe large numbers of Israelis as extremists, remember that out of such people comes regular acts of immeasurable kindness. And measure too one other fact. When Israelis are accused of extremism, it is most often simply because they want to live in one particular place or pray in another. That’s right – pray. A Jew can be arrested for saying “amen” on the Temple Mount, and a “leading journalist” can condemn Jews for walking through the Muslim quarter while ignoring the Arabs who can and do walk unmolested, unharmed, and uncondemned through Israeli city streets regularly.
The Jerusalem light rail travels from a mid-southern point on the west side of the city (Mount Herzl), to the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev in the north, eastern side of the city. It is regularly attacked (stones, firebombs) in only one place – the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat and occasionally attacked in another – the Arab neighborhood near the Damascus Gate (stones, tear gas, and even a stabbing attack).
And beside the train, there have been attacks in two other stops – both perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists who came from the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat. Jews are not stoning the train, ramming random Arabs standing waiting for buses. Israelis are not stabbing people, blowing up buses…ours or theirs. Instead, our army fights to find a balance and too often that balance limits our soldiers to a dangerous level.
Blind are the people who live in fear in Israel; uneducated and manipulative as well. We live in a society of kindness and if that kindness doesn’t stretch entirely into the Arab community (beyond our hospitals that treat them, our budget that pays for their schools, our shopping malls that cater to their purchases, and our streets and trains and highways that are shared with them), the reason could well be found not in our hearts, but in theirs.
We are a kind and open society. So long as a Jew (no, not a blond one that dresses like a tourist and speaks with an American accent, but an obviously Jewish – even, can you imagine, a religious Jew dressed in modest attire that quickly proclaims his or her identity…so long as THAT Jew cannot walk safely through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem and the Arab villages throughout our country, there can be no peace.
Israel is an open society, not just a kind one. Last week, Israel surprised itself – over 200,000 people walked the streets of Tel Aviv declaring that homosexuality does not bring a death sentence. Women drive in our country, serve at the highest levels of government. Children are cherished and protected, the first to be rushed into bomb shelters.
Israelis are free – free to speak, free to live, free to travel – even free to use the very foundations of our freedom to attempt to undermine the very society that feeds them, supports them, defends them.
Israel has proven itself, again and again, to be a kind society. When the Palestinians can say the same, let’s talk.Paula Stern