This Must be Israel

 
 This Must be Israel 
 
Jan. 12, 2015
 
camels grazingIt was dark, cold and wet when I caught the 6:20 train to Beer Sheva, but as the sun rose and a new day began, I caught glimpses of Israeli life that I normally don't notice.  I wish I had a video camera taped to my forehead to film all the different scenes I witnessed today – things that you really only see in Israel:  
 
As always, people spoke (read yelled) on their cell phones, in both Arabic and Hebrew, totally oblivious to the passengers around them.  I heard a soldier get angry at his mother for butting into his life,  a man yell at a company representative for not reimbursing him and a young woman break up with her boyfriend and then call and cry about it to her mother and girlfriend.  
 
In the seat in front of me was a man who was davening (praying) covered in a Talit (prayer shawl) and laying Tefillin (you'll have to look that one up :-).  As I saw him, I thought of the Jews in France and other countries around the world that would never dare do this in public for fear for their lives.  I also can’t imagine Jews elsewhere in the world who would pray on a train (remember someone was almost arrested for laying teffilin on a plane because they thought he was a terrorist with explosives!)   What was even more surprising is after the young man finished praying and took off his talit, I realized that he was an officer in the Army, a Captain.  I think this scene really summarized for me what is  Israel – the freedom to be a Jew and the need to be strong to keep this freedom. 
 
Sitting on the seats next to me were 3 well dressed businessmen/women speaking in Arabic.  What can I say - it made me happy to see young Israeli Arabs as part of the white collar workforce and more so to see how all of us are free to speak in the language we want (in the Ukraine you can be arrested for speaking in Russian today), pray as we want and even give very personal information while talking on the phone with no fear of retaliation.  All this on one train ride! 
 
I went to Beer Sheva to teach a Hands-on-Dementia workshop to a group of retirees.  The participants had a party since it was the last day of their course. Everyone brought food, mainly homemade goodies to share. Suddenly I heard yelling and a woman getting very upset.  One of the male participants had taken food from the party table and put it into his bag.   Years ago taking food from public places and putting it into personal bags was a known phenomenon.    I actually saw this happen at my own wedding 33 year ago!  Anyone who is the child of Holocaust survivors is probably familiar with their parent(s) hoarding foods and supplies.  It comes from that fear that at any moment there may be  periods of scarcity so one must be prepared.  In my parents' basement we always had supplies of canned food. 
 
At the Beer Sheva train station I saw the real melting pot of Israel’s populations: Many soldiers male and female, in all colors, shapes and sizes carrying their heavy bags on their way to their desert bases.  Bedouins, desert nomads, bringing back goods bought in the city; the women totally covered in black burqas .  New immigrants from Russia and Ethiopa still dressed in clothes from their native lands and the Sabras or locals who may have immigrated very long ago that they no longer stand out .  As the train passed out of the station, I smiled as I saw a herd of camels including small white baby camels grazing in the desert.  Yup – I must be in Israel. 
 
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