Chronicles from Home         

Part  10


January 15, 2004


Something very strange happened to me the other day while attempting to get
my new Israeli driver's license.

After a two-month strike, during which very little could be done, I
couldn't wait to start the process.  I rushed early morning to the West
Jerusalem neighborhood close to our house called Talpiyot, where the
license bureau is located, to get a document I needed to schedule a driving
test.  I had a nice walk.  It was 7:30 AM and I thought of the French
proverb that the world belongs to those who rise early.  How true.

A beautiful bracha was coming down from HaShem, the shape of nice
raindrops, cleaning up the City, feeding Her soil and trees.  In a word,
the day started full of promise.

After the usual diligent inspection of my purse by an Israeli guard, I
entered the building and suddenly I entered the "twilight zone":  I found
myself in Jordan!

The room was filled with approximately 150 Palestinians and I was the only
Jew, except of course, those working there.  What a strange feeling.  I
either walked more than I thought (very doubtful) or I time-traveled
(somewhat improbable), finding myself 5 years ahead when everybody expects
the Muslim population to outnumber us, Chas V'Shalom.

I sat in the back row (using a trick my dad taught me in case of possible
danger).  This way I could have a full view of everybody.

I couldn't help but wonder how much we all had in common.  Some men were
praying; some women wore scarves.  Then it occurred to me that some of them
would actually make their children orphans if it means killing few Jews,
Chas V'Shalom, by blowing themselves up.  No, all things considered, we
don't have so much in common.

A children's book popped in my head called "Where is my mother?"  It is the
story of one little bird looking everywhere for his mother, asking many of
different animals if they were his mother.  I thought of asking Avraham
Avinu: "Are these my cousins?  Is this young man, so agitated on his cell
phone one of them?  Or maybe this older man, with his red Kefia?  My
cousins must be somewhere, but where?"

With some relief, I became aware of the few kipot in the crowd.  They were
floating on the surface of the human sea, appearing and disappearing,
knitted kipot bobbing up and down, leather kipot hidden by the incessant
human tide, just a few, like stranded, tired boat wreckage after a storm.

Those were my brothers.  I felt the strong family ties holding us together
and I felt like grasping onto them, like a safety line.

But, what about my cousins?

So many thoughts came crossing my mind while I was waiting for my turn.  I
wished that I had carry sextuplets to try to balance the scary demographic
predictions.  I wished that every Jew having children would feel the need
to raise them here, in the Jewish state while it is still Jewish.

I wish I could tell people that there is, indeed, a time to cry and a time
to act.  HaShem will take care of us.  I have no doubt in my mind about
this.  But we have to prove to Him that we deserve His help.  We need to
jump away from our fears and doubts into the water of Emuna, like Nachshon
jumped in the Yam Suf before it split.

Deeply imagining scheme to increase Aliyah, I suddenly heard Hatikva, the
Israeli national anthem.  I was so moved.  I immediately thought: good for
us to play it in our government buildings.  I felt proud and strong and
invigorated and…then I became aware of the hostile looks of all people
around me.  The strange thing was, the hostility was directed at me!

Then I realized that the Hatikva that was being played in our government
building was coming straight from my purse!  Good for me.  Rich was calling
on my cell phone.  (I asked him to make the ring of my phone the anthem of
our country.)  Engaging in some passive resistance, I didn't answer
immediately.  I let it play a little longer.  I am glad nobody from the UN
was there because I would now be the subject of a new nasty UN resolution.

Where are my cousins?

Few days later I took the driving test with my dear friend Rebbitzin
Stepen.  To give us some courage, we loaded our stomachs with chocolate
croissants.  It was a strange feeling to have to prove that we can do
something that we have been doing for so many years.  I remembered my
experience in Los Angeles when I had to come to the driving test, driving
my own car.  Who said that Israeli's bureaucracies are crazy?  At least we
were in the instructor's car.  (I had some doubts regarding my success when
I forgot to turn on the engine and had to ask shyly, in my poor Hebrew, how
come I couldn't move the car.)  After some unbearable suspense regarding
the verdict, we learned that we both passed B'H''!

This meant that I needed to go one more time to "Jordan" to get my license.

So I went.  I waited 40 minutes for my turn.  When it came, I was told that
I was in the wrong place.  I needed to go somewhere else an hour later.  No
problem.  Before I left the building to get a cup of coffee, I asked the
guy at the window where I was supposed to go when I returned.  He told me
that he didn't work there and that he couldn't help me and that he didn't
speak English.  No problem.  I left.  I came back.  After waiting 25
minutes, I found myself facing the same guy.  I told him that, in fact, he
did work there.  He gave me the most beautiful smile and told me that I was
right, but assured me that he still didn't speak English.  How can you be
angry with family members?  I had to give him the benefice of the
doubt.  Who knows?  Maybe he just got hired in the last 20 minutes.

We then started to enter the matter of my coming here.  My Hebrew was far
from being helpful.  I heard from behind me a man's voice translating in
English for me and in Hebrew for my friend behind his desk.

When I turned around to thank my helper, I saw an elderly Arab.  His face
was gentle and his eyes deprived of this hate we so used to see around
here.  He smiled to me as I thanked him.  It was not difficult for me to
smile in return.  I just found one of my cousins.

Sara Brownstein


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