Warming Up the Neighborhood

What follows is a post from International Abrahamic Network (IAN) participant, Yoav Peck, detailing a brief but humanizing encounter with a gentleman from his neighborhood. Yoav is Executive Director of the Sulha Peace Project, a group of Israelis and Palestinians who meet regularly to encounter the other in their full humanity.

"We at Sulha stand on the front lines of the struggle to return decency and compassion to our shared land."

You can read more from Yoav on his blog published by the Times of Israel.


Surgery ward at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, Jerusalem

I broke out of the hospital for two hours tonight. I'm in for another of my increasingly frequent bouts with a blocked intestine. Till now, each hospital drama lasts 3 days and ends happily as my guts straighten themselves out without intervention. I needed to handle something I couldn't do from the hospital and, since I'm getting released tomorrow, the doc in charge didn't mind my hopping home, 10 minutes from the hospital. Spent some quality time with my wife, Frumit, had my first food in 72 hours as she threw a bowl of her soulful vegetable soup into the mixer to grind it for my sensitive gut, then I got the errands done on my computer, and got back in the car.

I was in no hurry to return to Hadassah, but Frumit was already gearing up for her last night at home alone, and the night nurse would feel betrayed if I didn't come back to the ward when I said I would. I drove off, glanced at the new moon above the streetlight, took a deep drag on my cigar and enjoyed the bracing air of a breezy Jerusalem winter's evening.

As I pulled up to the stoplight at my local junction, I noticed a young Haredi guy (ultra-orthodox religious) trying unsuccessfully to catch a cab. On impulse, I shouted to him, "Where do you need to go?" And he answered, "Bait Vegan," a religious neighborhood just beyond my home in the mixed secular-religious Kiryat Yovel neighborhood. When the light turned green, I did a quick U-turn and pulled up beside him. Looking surprised, he opened the door.

I had reversed direction, so I figured he might be wondering what I was up to. I told him I noticed he was having trouble getting a cab, and I had some time and I could get where I'm going through his neighborhood as well. As that settled on him, I tried to put him at ease by adding, "If we don't help each other out, who's gonna do it?" He was maybe 30 years old, with a delicate frame and auburn beard, in a black suit and fedora. He said something appreciative, and asked if I am from the neighborhood, and I said yes.

"It's a nice neighborhood, Kiryat Yovel," he offered. "I love it, I replied, but you know, there are some conflicts here between Haredi people from Bait Vegan and secular folks here." "Oh yes," he replied, "I have heard of the conflicts." "It's too bad, because we are all going to have to work things out together, don't you think?" I asked. "Of course," he said.

Encouraged by his receptiveness, I pressed on…."Do you know, when I am driving down a street on the Sabbath, sometimes religious people walking home from the synagogue will deliberately slow their walk, when they see a Jew breaking the Sabbath by driving, reluctantly clearing the way to make sure I get their message before I can drive through." What message is that?" he asked. "That it's not ok for a Jew to drive on the Sabbath, that they would like to irritate him a little to get their point across."