Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Arab Knight

More than a quarter of a century ago I stood catty-cornered from Ammunition Hill waiting for a bus in Jerusalem. It was fall and we’d already begun reciting the prayers for rain. The previous year had seen a good rainfall so I wasn’t as anxious then, as I am now, for precipitation. In truth, at that point in time I rather preferred the sunny skies so I could keep on top of the constant laundry that needed to be hung to dry. That morning, without a cloud in the sky, I’d hung two loads, dressed in a light-weight, cotton dress, and headed to town without even a sweater. As I stood at the bus stop, though, the temperature dropped and dark clouds began rolling in. Before I knew it the skies opened and we were in the midst of a heavy downpour. I huddled in the corner of the covered bus stop with nothing to protect myself from the rain blowing in. An Arab teenager, probably about seventeen-years-old, pulled his jacket tighter around him and glanced at me. Without a word he moved closer, positioned himself in front of me, to keep me from getting wet, and stayed still until my bus arrived.    

From time to time I think about that Arab teenager and his chivalry. What motivated him to protect me from the elements? Was he really an Arab or an angel? What was his reaction when the first Intifada began later that year? He must have been in his thirties for the second Intifada. Did he support it? Now surely he’s a father. Are his children among the Arabs throwing rocks, wielding knives, and threatening Jews in what is called the “Silent” Intifada?

I don’t understand that term “Silent” Intifada. There is nothing silent about gunshots. Nor is there anything silent about the screech of metal when a car ploughs into a train station. Mourners’ wails are not silent. Neither are cries of pain.  The only silence of the “Silent” Intifada is the silence of apathy from the world.

Last week, some twenty-seven years after the Arab teenager looked out for me, I stood at the train station in front of Ammunition Hill. Before 1948 it was the northernmost part of Jerusalem and following The War of Independence it became the border between Israel and Jordan. In 1967 it was the site of fierce fighting when Israel succeeded in uniting Jerusalem once again. Now, there are scores of Jewish neighborhoods spreading out northwest of Ammunition Hill. There are also a number of Arab neighborhoods to the east. So a mixture of Jews and Arabs are always waiting for the train together.  

The sign at the station informed me that I had five minutes to wait before the train would arrive. I spent the time visiting with my neighbor who had traveled to Jerusalem with me, but I wasn’t relaxed. Three Arab teenagers had come to the stop and were standing near me. There was something in their manner I didn’t like. I couldn’t really describe what it was. They were talking loudly as many teenagers do. They were dressed sloppily, also like many teenagers. My discomfort was just a feeling but I didn’t think I was foolish to have it. As I spoke to my friend I kept my eye on the boys.

How I wished I knew karate or had a gun. Both thoughts were pure fantasy. It would take years to learn karate to such a level that I could protect the world. At age sixty-one it was too late to begin. As for the gun, I tried learning to shoot years ago and didn’t hit the target once. As much as I admired her, I’m not an Annie Oakley. Suddenly, I had another thought. Mace! I could carry mace with me. Mace is silent, a perfect weapon for me to carry in The “Silent” Intifada.

Again, I don’t have any idea what happened to my Arab knight. If his children are, indeed, part of the “Silent” Intifada I know it’s not because of the education he gave them. It’s because of the silence of the world. 


Shelly said...

I've had a couple stories of such chivalry. Once was about 5/6 years ago when I came to my parked car in the center of Jerusalem and found I had a flat tire. I started pulling out the tools to change it. A lot of people passed by, but no one offered to help. As I was starting to change it an Arab man stopped and helped me. And in 2000, just a couple weeks before Rosh Hashana and the outbreak of the 2nd intifada, I was returning to Pduel from Mevoh Yericho, around midnight motsei Shabbat, and had just turned off Chotzei Shomron, after Ariel, into an Arab village, when my lights shorted out. So as I drove through this village, late at night, with two young girls, rather than just passing through unobtrusively, I honked every time a car came near me, afraid they wouldn't see me. As we reached a t-junction where I was turning to Pduel, a car coming in the opposite direction did a u-turn after passing me and pulled up next to me, gesturing for me to pull my window down. I did, figuring whether or not my window was cracked open would make no difference, and he asked where I was going. I told him Pduel, and he drove behind me up to the gate of the yishuv with his brights on so I could see and be seen. Just two weeks before the 2nd intifada started...

Batya said...

I've also had nice experiences like that. Arabs have given me their seats, and other things but I'm older than you.
And don't forget; I work with Arabs. And when I worked in the bagel place I had an Arab assistant/driver for awhile.

Cindy said...

I commend you for thinking of a positive experience with Arabs on a day where there has been another terrorist attack. It's a reminder to remember that there are good people in every race and religion.

Rickismom said...

If the children of your "knight" are involved in the intefadah, it could also be due to the education they get in their school.

Ester said...

I was away for a few days and didn't get to respond to all the comments. Shelly and Batya, like Cindy said, there are good people in every race and religion. Unfortunately, though, these wonderful stories about Arabs aren't as frequent as we'd like. You're right, Rickismom, the Arab's educational system encourages the terrorism and the apathy of the world keeps it going.
Thank you, Jennifer Tzivia for including me.
I thank all of you for your comments.