Photo Credit: Miikka Luotio on Unsplash
Illustrative photograph

Last week I had the wildest encounter. My car was hijacked.

At a busy intersection in Baka/Talpiot, I slowed my car as I approached a pedestrian crossing because an elderly man was standing at the crosswalk. He was gesticulating with his walking stick. And I stopped for him to cross. But the man didn’t cross. Instead he walked into the road, toward my car.


Now this man walked slowly. Very slowly. But I couldn’t move my car. I didn’t know what he wanted. Cars were behind me honking, as by now the crosswalk was wide open. But I couldn’t drive ahead and leave the man in the middle of the road.

He walked along the side of my car, and then, unannounced, he opened the passenger door, and said: “Just take me down the road!” A total stranger. An elderly man. It wasn’t a question; it was a statement, an instruction. And then – slowly slowly – he placed three bags in the car, and proceeded to sit down. This took what seemed like an endless amount of time.

Cars were passing on the right and the left from every direction. Honking in every direction. One taxi driver yelled out: “They should report you to the police!” All while this elderly gentleman who hijacked my car was just getting into my car, painfully slowly.

So I drove him down the road. He thanked me all the way. I asked him where he needed to go, and all he could say was: “Yashar, Yashar – straight ahead!” I said: “Where am I stopping? I need to find a place to pull over!” Silence. He didn’t communicate. And suddenly he blurted: “Here!” He opens the door, thanks me again, and again – painfully slowly, it takes about ninety seconds – gets out the car.

The entire incident took maybe four minutes. But I was a little shaken – by this stranger, by the honking and the yelling.

Yes, from the perspective of the other drivers, I was absolutely stopped in the middle of the road and breaking every traffic rule. They didn’t know I had been hijacked by a nonagenarian.

Yes, that man was totally wrong to commandeer my car, but how was he going to get the 300 yards down the road? And I am happy I could help a clearly helpless elderly gentleman. I kept on thinking: “He’s someone’s grandfather! What if he were my grandfather?”

What’s the lesson here?

Maybe this: that sometimes we get stuck by all sorts of things that are unexpected, messy, unpredictable. And when we do, we should be gentle, generous, patient and kind.

The crazy thing was that the place he had me stop was right across the road from my daughter’s work. So I popped in to give her a hug. I parked, I went in and told her the story, and I said: “Some strange old man whose name I don’t know forced me to drive here. Maybe it was so I could come and say “Good morning” to you and give you a hug!”

Be gentle, people.


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Rabbi Alex Israel is an author and Tanach educator at Matan, Midreshet Lindenbaum and Yeshivat Eretz Hatzvi, and director of programs at the Pardes Institute. To read his work and for more information, visit