Photo Credit: Jewish Press

I’m a pretty organized person, even if I say so myself. Before going to the supermarket, I make a list of the food and cleaning items we need that week. I’m not inflexible, I might well buy an irresistible bar of chocolate on a whim. It’s just that, getting older, my short-term memory isn’t what it was although I can still remember the date of the birthday of my friend in primary school whom I haven’t seen for more than 60 years.

It’s the same when I consult my family doctor after being troubled by various symptoms for far too long. I list them in order of severity, so that the doctor can deal with each one while I’m sitting in front of her rather than forgetting the most bothersome one until I’m standing by the door on my way out. Then I would need to apologize and say, “Oh, and there was something else, doctor…” as the next patient is entering the room.


My family doctor recently referred me to do an ultrasound at the Medical Imaging Institute in Jerusalem, and I went to the secretary to arrange payment for the procedure by my Health Fund.

I called the Institute to make an appointment, wrote the date and time in my diary, and paperclipped all the documents together in a see-through plastic folder, and filed it in its designated place in “Health: 2023-4.” In my mind, I was all ready, everything was organized.

The day came, I woke early, davened and had a light meal, as I needed to fast for six hours before the ultrasound. I extracted the folder with the referral and payment assurance from the file, and placed it in the mail basket on the table near the front door ready to put in my bag.

I was busy all morning, got ready to go out to catch the 1:25 bus, which would take me to the light rail station – Yekutiel Adam – in our suburb of Pisgat Zev East, put on my cross-body bag and took the light linen bag with the morning newspaper and the documents folder. I walked jauntily to the bus stop in good time.

Connections worked well, and I was soon on the light rail. The stop after Yekutiel Adam was Beit Hanina, the first of three stations in Arab neighborhoods. I don’t know why, but I looked in the linen bag to make sure the folder was not getting crushed. It was not getting crushed – for it was not there! I must have left it on the table near the door when I changed my hat before going out.

Thoughts surged through my head. What to do? No point in getting to the Institute without the essential documents. But to get home, rush in, grab the folder, wait for the bus and train and then arrive late, when they may refuse to see me? I decided to take that chance.

I just had time to process these thoughts before the light rail arrived at Beit Hanina. I jumped off, and crossed to the other side of the line. What luck, a train was coming round the corner, and I got on it for just one stop. When I got home I dashed in and, yes, there were the documents on the table, which I made sure I put in my bag before dashing out again.

On the way, I decide – que sera, sera – what will be will be. If they don’t take me today, I’ll make a new appointment. Whatever it is, it’s fine. I was quite calm.

When I arrived at the Institute, the small waiting room was crowded with people. I tried to get a number, as usual, but the machine was not working. I went up to the first clerk at the desk who, before I’d said a word, snapped, “What do you want?” I decided to cut the “I’m sorry, I’m late” explanation, and said only “Ultrasound.” Sulkily, she pointed to the ceiling, nodding “Upstairs.

Upstairs, I took my precious documents out of my bag, and handed them to a more pleasant clerk. The numbers machine was out of order there, too, and she told me they’d call me by name when it was my turn.

I remained calm, sat down in the waiting room and looked around me. As usual, there was a cross-section of Jerusalemites of all kinds. A white-bearded man with his grandson learning Gemara together; a Russian couple with his mother; two Arab sisters; an American walking hesitantly on a stick with the help of her friend. Several others, two going to the water cooler to drink the required cups of water before their ultrasound. Everyone was quiet, most with heads down engaged with their cell phones.

A pretty teenager came in with her mother. The girl looked angry, and muttered something to her mother. I was sitting opposite her, and heard her say, “I don’t want to be here. I want to go to my friend’s house.” Her mother said, “You have to do it.” She replied, “It hurts.” She smoothed her hand over her stomach. Her mother said, “Do something on your phone, it’ll take your mind off it.” The girl began to cry, silently. After a minute she said to her mother, “I’m telling you, in five minutes, I’m going.”

This goaded her mother to get up and speak to the clerk. I couldn’t see what went on because the water cooler obstructed my view. I then heard my name. I stood up, to find the girl’s mother in front of me.

“Could I ask you a big favor? Can my daughter go in for her ultrasound before you?”

“No problem,” I replied. “Of course she can.”

The mother returned to the clerk, and while there, her daughter caught my eye, smiled tearfully, and whispered, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Be well.”

Of course, I rationalized. This was why the documents had been left on the table, which meant I’d had to return home and start the journey to town once again from scratch.

I was behind schedule for my appointment. But I was on time to help someone, to do a mitzvah. I’m sure every single person in the waiting room would have allowed the girl to take their turn, she was so distressed. But for whatever reason, I was the one given that opportunity, and I was on a high. Thank you Hashem.


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