Monday, February 10, 2020
Changing Tires. Changing Minds.
It’s been cold in Israel this winter. I know if you’ve never been to Israel, you probably imagine it’s hot here all the time, but it’s not. It’s been really cold. Uncomfortably cold. And rainy. Very rainy. And did I mention cold?
So last night, when I noticed that one of our car’s tires was low, I was happy that my husband was willing to get out of the nice warm car at the air pump and fill up the tire.
As we pulled up, we saw that a young man was helping a woman in the car in front of us and my husband hoped a few shekels would convince this young man to put air in our tire as well. So when it was our turn at the air pump, we were both delighted that he, who was A) much younger than us and B) already out in the wet and cold night air, was willing to help.
A few things became obvious very quickly. One, the lack of air in the tire was due to what Israelis call a puncher, which is the endearing way Israelis say puncture. Turns out we had a nail in the tire. After dark. In the cold and rain.
The other thing that became obvious was that this young man was an Arab. He spoke to us in Hebrew, but he spoke much louder to another man in what sounded to me like angry Arabic. So I was apprehensive. Because we were in a difficult spot. The nearby “puncher place” was closed and, together my husband and I have been given many gifts, but tire changing skill is not among them.
The young Arab man indicated that if we pulled over, he would take off the bum tire and put on our spare. This kind of situation can make a person feel vulnerable. Besides the fact that he spoke no English, the language in which I can best express myself under all circumstances, my people haven’t always had a, ahem… neighborly relationship with his people.
Frankly, I was prepared to get ripped off. That was the best possible outcome I could imagine.
I had left the house without any money at all, and my husband only had big bills in his wallet, so he went into the convenience store to get change. While my husband was a hundred yards away, inside the convenience store, getting coffee and change, I asked the young man, in broken Hebrew, what this little adventure was likely to cost us. I was sure I misunderstood his response because I thought he said, “I just want to help.”
It was dark. It was cold. It was wet. We were strangers. Not only strangers, but English-speaking Jewish immigrants from America type of strangers. And he was a local Arab, the exact age and gender of the majority of those who carry out terror attacks against my people.
When my husband came back, holding a steaming cup of coffee and smaller bills, I asked him to employ his significantly better Hebrew to ascertain how much we were going to get ripped off for.
What actually happened: After the pump and punctured tire were put back in our trunk, my husband gave him 50 shekels (about $15) and asked if it was enough. The young Arab man replied that it was more than enough because he really just wanted to help.
You’ll never see harmonious exchanges like this in international media report about Israel. I’ve been told that they actually happen here on a regular basis, but I was skeptical.
Now I have an image of a young Arab man changing our tire by hand, in the dark and cold, just because he wanted to help.
In truth, he didn’t just change our tire.
He also changed my mind.
Posted by Rivkah Lambert Adler at 2:30 PM