As I turned from the highway onto the Shilo access road I spotted a soldier standing at the bus stop shelter with his finger outstretched.
“Where are you going?” he asked as I stopped to give him a lift.
I can never understand why anyone hitchhiking at that particular spot asks that question. The access road goes straight to the security gate before Shilo and the neighboring villages. After that there are several options but, in my opinion, waiting anywhere on the other side of the gate is safer than loitering on the highway.
The soldier wasn’t too impressed with my opinion, though. He told me he depended on HaShem to protect him.
“Great idea,” I responded. “But there’s no need to make Him work overtime.”
That comment didn’t get much of a response. A few meters later, though, when I asked my passenger if he thought I should stop for three more soldiers he became quite gregarious.
“No, please don’t stop. I’m not supposed to be hitching. I can get in a lot of trouble.”
Worries that soldiers will be kidnapped by terrorists have changed army rules. For decades our IDF protectors depended on the kindness of strangers to get them to their bases and back home again. Now they are instructed to travel only with someone they know personally or wait for buses. Sometimes, though, there are very long waits for those buses.
“Don’t worry,” I reassured him. “If you get stopped you can just say I’m your aunt.”
“Right,” he was scornful. “You’re an American and I’m a Yemenite.”
“So what? My daughter-in-law’s a Yemenite. We’re related.”
A generation or so ago I know there were many Jewish families who were upset if their child married across cultural lines. Actually, upset is too gentle of a word. There were some who acted almost as if their child had married out if an Ashkenazi married a Sephardi, a Sephardi married a Yemenite, a Yemenite married a Ashkenazi, and anything in between. Now, it’s commonplace. My neighbor, a nurse, hails the change in attitude. A larger gene pool means less birth defects and that is a blessing for all of us.
More than that, though, it’s a blessing that more and more of us realize cultural differences and birthplaces have little to do with the essence of a person. As we focus on what we have in common instead of what divides us I’m sure HaShem will look upon us with favor. Then our soldiers, indeed all of us, will be able to stand and hitchhike anywhere we want in the Land of Israel without fears of kidnappings or terror attacks.