It was early evening in Jerusalem. I was exhausted, and thankful that the light rail train had arrived. Along with all the other passengers, I jockeyed for a place to stand where I could place some of my bundles on the floor. At the next stop a seat became available, and I was grateful to be able to claim it.
At the following stop, an older woman came aboard laden with bundles of her own. No one offered her a seat, and I did not have the energy to get up and offer her mine.
At this point a 30-something, non-religious man boarded the train and stood for a minute, observing the older woman. He quietly walked over to a young man, seated with sefer in hand. This young man was so engrossed in his learning that he had not noticed the old woman in need of help. The first man leaned over and quietly whispered in the young man’s ear, gesturing to the older woman standing nearby. This was done so quietly and respectfully that I don’t think most people were aware what had taken place.
The young man nodded, kissed his sefer and closed it, and quickly offered his seat to the woman. He then moved two rows down, and stood near another friend who was seated. The two talked for a few minutes, and then the first young man noticed an older gentleman who was looking for a seat. He pointed this out to his friend, and the old man was able to gratefully sit down. The two friends found standing spots in the row in front of me.
At the next stop, the two seats next to them were vacated. The two friends were about to sit down when one held the other one back. He looked around to see if anyone else might need a seat, then indicating to his friend that they could now sit.
There have recently been reports about tensions between religious and non-religious Jews, and between religious Jews from different spectrums. Here was an example of a chain of events, seemingly simple but yet so beautifully orchestrated, that shows us how we are all brothers – and how we can learn to live as one.
During the rest of my ride, I thought about what I had witnessed. I wondered if anyone noticed me, the savta with the bundles and tired eyes smiling from ear to ear.