July 26, 2018

Magical Israel Moments

We just had our 13th aliyah anniversary. After all these years, I am still not habituated to life in Israel. Maybe it is because life is never hum drum, boring or predictable here. Maybe it is because Israelis treat each other like family (for good and for bad.)   And, maybe, it is because Israelis’ beautiful, giving souls reach out in the oddest places. 

We call these instances Israel Moments. Here are a few recent moments which show that in Israel, you just never know….

We were all dressed up and on our way to a wedding. (At least we thought we were.) The chuppah was called for 7pm and the wedding was near Ashkelon, over an hour’s drive away. As we put the keys in the ignition, the engine upped and died. We tried again. Nothing.

A guy we had never met before came out of our apartment building and offered to help jump start the car. Yet when the car yawned and sputtered its death rattle, we threw up our hands.   

Our friendly neighbor said, “No worries. I just have to pick up my kids and will be back at 7 with the car. After then, my car is yours.”

We looked at our generous stranger/neighbor in shock, amazement and gratitude. And then we looked at our watches and realized that we could not miss the chuppah. We thanked him with great appreciation. He gave us his phone number just in case we needed the car and he left.  Only in Israel!

I then called a few friends. Everyone had either already left for the wedding or were going with others in full cars. On the third call, my friend Robin picked up and said she was planning on getting a ride in a car that was full but would happily change her plans and take us in her car. We all made it to the chuppah on time - thanks to Robin.

Only in Israel? Here is another moment.

We went for an early morning stroll at the Herzliyah Beach.  There’s nothing more relaxing and serene than a barefoot walk along the shore. After tuning into rhythmic surf lapping the sand, I always feel as if I have recalibrated my soul.

On my way back, I looked up at a lifeguard tower. Lifeguards are the bronzed and muscled kings of the beach in Israel; and they rule from their tower like monarchs on a throne.  

That morning, however, I saw a lifeguard proclaiming that there was One above him. Shrouded in a white tallit with tefillin on his arm and forehead, he had just finished his morning prayers. He stood still, staring contemplatively out to sea. And I stood watching him, thinking ‘Only in Israel.’

And yet another story….

My son Shaya is an adventurer at heart. When he has spare time and needs to shake things up a bit, he packs a sleeping bag, a flashlight and heads to a hiking trail. One time, en route to a hike, he and a friend found a ride with two brothers. They were dressed in black pants and white shirts and lived in the Hareidi town of Beitar Illit. Shaya started talking to them, sharing some Torah ideas. 

Beitar Illit
He had never been to Beitar Illit and wanted to see the town. The brothers were very nice and trustworthy so he spontaneously asked them if he could visit their home. They said “One minute. We’ll call our mom.” Not only were he and his friends welcomed into their home like family, their mother offered them dinner and had prepared the guest room for them to stay over. Only in Israel!

I anticipate yet another Israel Moment next week. (And when you think that nothing else in life can surprise you, here’s a story.)

As we celebrate our bar mitzvah year of living in Israel, new olim arrive like newborns. I have been waiting 13 years to greet friends and family as they make Aliyah and am becoming a bit despondent waiting. But next week, a special arrival will be at Ben Gurion Airport holding his brand-new citizenship card – my dad!

My father will be making Aliyah on July 31. He is 84 and other than living in London, England for 24 years, he has made Toronto his home base. In less than one week, he will move to Israel and become Israeli.

His furniture and mementoes are tightly packed into a container and are on a ship en route to a new home in a new country. He is leaving the people, the places, the familiar roads and language that he has known for over 50 years. He is shuffling the deck, moving to a place where he will be filled with adventures and awe.

Us, the bar mitzvah children, will be at the airport to greet their newbie dad when he arrives. Dad, I wish you an abundance of inspiring Israel Moments as you come home to a special nation that is already your family. 

Once you are an oleh in this unbelievable land, you'll be cherishing Israel Moments and soon be recounting your own tales!