Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I had an interesting? strange? experience this afternoon. It shouldn't really have meant anything, after living in this country over a year already, but it was a first for me.

We live side by side with Arabs. To leave our yishuv and head to Yerushalayim, or pretty much anywhere, we share the road with inhabitants of many other settlements on all the various hilltops surrounding us. Some of those settlements are Jewish and some are Arab. The grocery store where Miryam and I shop once a week always has Arab shoppers, although they've gotten stricter about not letting in non-Israeli Arabs. Today I had a doctor appointment in Pisgat Ze'ev, the most northeastern suburb of Yerushalyim, and the first part of the city we drive into from our yishuv. Our kupat (HMO) has a large office there and it's the easiest place to make appointments.

Many physicians are located in the various kupat's clinics. One waits in a chair outside the specific doctor's office one is waiting to see and when a patient comes out, three or four people will try to rush in at once, knocking everyone else out of the way, in order to be next. Okay, that was a slight exaggeration. Actually, posted outside each office door is a schedule of appointments for that day, so people always politely ask each other what time their appointment is and wait very calmly until it's their turn. Hah! Gotcha on that one, too! Actually, the truth is somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios on any given day at any given office.

So today I was waiting to be seen for that once-a-year-unless-you're-pregnant really fun exam (NOT). You know, with the doctor who only sees female patients? when an Arab family came over and sat down next to me. I've never exactly been that close to a Semetic person who wasn't a Jew before.

The family consisted of a young couple with a toddler. They were both wearing jeans and stylish tennis shoes, although the wife, who sat down in the chair right next to me (we were elbow to elbow), had her head covered. The father sat across from us while he played with the baby. I literally didn't know what to think or do. My first impulse was to get up and move to another seat. But I didn't. I watched the Abba hold his son's hand and walk slowly with him across the room and back. Then he held him on his lap and bounced him while the child laughed. They looked like any normal, happy family. Then the baby, a beautiful child, turned towards me, smiled, and waved with his fingers opening and closing as babies do. I couldn't help but smile back at him. And I wondered, do his parents hate Jews? Will they teach this child to hate or to love? Will he grow up confused to be a citizen in a land that has a different G-d from the one he'll be taught is the true one? How old will he be when he learns about evil and terror and fear? Will he be part of it, or will he try to foster peace between his people and the other people they live among? Or will he be part of the majority who do nothing, who will live his life hoping he won't have to get involved?

I never met his parents' eyes. The door opened, and I went in to my appointment.

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