Sunday, November 08, 2009

And Still, I Burn To Return (to EretzYisroel)

A typical happening in Israel (that I just read at Treppenwitz's blog):

I was standing at the entrance to Kiryat Arba waiting for the bus that would take me to Beer Sheva (Zahava had the car), when a late model SUV pulled up and let off a 20-something woman at the bus stop.

The woman was dressed in loose slacks, a pretty blouse and sweater, and had her dark hair pulled back in a sloppy ponytail. At her feet sat an overstuffed soft-sided suitcase, and in her arms she held a baby blanket and a bottle filled with milk or formula.

This seemed odd... baby blanket, baby bottle... but no baby.

But then I spotted the car that had dropped her off idling nearby, and as our bus approached, an older man (perhaps in his 40s) emerged from the car with a baby and handed the child to the woman. Mystery solved. Since it was cold outside, they had simply left the baby inside the warm car until the last possible moment. Responsible parents.

But as I was watching the man pass the baby to the woman, the blanket slipped from her arm and landed by her suitcase. But for this small slip I would never have noticed that there was a luggage identification tag on the handle... written in Arabic. And on the suitcase itself I noticed there were a few more Arabic words written in magic marker.

So this woman is boarding the same bus that I was about to take to Beer Sheva... a bus with bulletproof windows and armor plating on the sides, roof and floor against a very real external threat. Now here was a potential internal threat... against which none of that armor would help!

A moment before I had looked at this woman and seen only a caring mother who loved her baby so much, she had asked her husband (or some other relative or friend) to wait with the car so the infant wouldn't be out in the cold. Now all I could see was a potential suicide bomber with the perfect cover.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who had noticed the Arabic writing on the suitcase. Nobody was saying anything, but when the woman asked the driver to open the luggage compartment, her Arabic-accented Hebrew caught the attention of everyone nearby. Suddenly this woman had become the object of silent but intense scrutiny from a bunch of Israelis who would otherwise have been pushing one another out of the way to get on the bus.

A young soldier with the insignia of an elite infantry unit on his shoulder saw that the woman was having trouble juggling the baby and her suitcase, so as she was speaking to the driver, he deftly took her suitcase and carried it towards the storage compartment that was now opening on the side of the bus.

Under other circumstances, his gesture would have seemed polite... chivalrous, even. But as he got on the bus and flashed his ID to the driver (soldiers ride free in uniform, but they need to show their army card), he leaned in close enough not to be heard by anyone but the driver (and the person behind him; me) and said, "It was too light to be problematic."

The driver, who had certainly heard the woman's accent, nodded and visibly relaxed. The people at the front of the bus who had watched the exchange between the soldier and the driver (without hearing it), also visibly relaxed once they saw the driver's posture change back to one of 'business as usual'.

The only person who seemed unaware of the scrutiny and discussion was the Arab woman who was now seated about halfway back on the left side... fussing with her baby.

7 comments:

Yossi said...

wow

the sabra said...

what part?

Yossi said...

the story. the whole post.
how everyone went into panic mode and then in a second relaxed, how people have to go through this every day.

Baruch said...

Thanks for sharing
not the typical homesickness story, yet, as always, uniquely Israel, and special.
did find the story a bit surprising though. (unless the writer is exaggerating the reaction the people had to emphasize his point) do you think that kind of reaction is normal? had you been there, would you have assumed the worst as well?

the sabra said...

Don't know how I would react but definitely don't think the reactions described are exaggerated.

mishmum said...

OY.

es said...

Ha. Funny how different of a reaction I had to the previous posters. And here I was thinking: Poor mother. All she is trying to do is board a bus with her baby. How unfortunate that every Arabic woman is viewed as a potential terrorist. How unfortunate that peace is so very far away...