A Shining Light in a Pool of Darkness
A few weeks ago there was quite a tragic day for Israel. We experienced a rainfall so intense, several teenagers on a school trip were swept up in a flash flood. Ten of those teens did not return.
I want to tell the story of a small, shining light in the darkness of those day’s events.
I also got caught up in the storm. My life was never at risk. I was just extremely uncomfortable and more than a little bored.
And the Rain Begins…
Walking back from the grocery store, it started to rain. As the rain intensified, I looked for a place to stay and wait until the rain stopped.
I found myself standing with a small amount of cover next to a closed parking area. I hoped to be there for a short time, but just watched as the rain continuously strengthened over the next half hour. And my day of darkness was just beginning.
The street in front of me was flooded and I looked on in awe as around four inches of water smashed its way through the street in front of me, like some miniature white water rapids. I also watched nervously as the water that started off several feet away from me was getting rather close to my feet. At the rate the water was rising, it wouldn’t be long until it was up to my ankles.
I was wet, cold, tired, and bored out of my mind. My phone was almost dead. And I really, really wanted to get home.
I found myself doing something I rarely do. I prayed. For something–anything–to relieve the discomfort and tension of the situation.
And almost immediately someone parked their car across the street from me.
A gentleman got out and insisted I come stay in his home until the rain subsided. I was reluctant, because it’s my nature, but with some heavy insistence, I took him up on his offer.
I needed to leave all my groceries behind, since the only way we were able to safely get to his homemade carrying anything impossible. We had to climb up on the side of a wall, push our way through some trees and bushes, and finally trek our way down some stairs that looked like a violent waterfall was pouring over them, just to get inside his front door.
And that’s where I spent the next hour.
I sat, comfortable and warm. They gave me delicious, hot soup and a refreshing drink. They offered me clean, dry socks. For the next chunk of time we chitchatted about anything and everything, and I played with their adorable dog, the whole time forgetting how miserable I should have been.
And when the rain finally cleared up and the coast was clear, they drove me home.
Who were these angels in the darkness?
Now, even a cursory glance at my blog will tell most people that I struggle with my Israel experience. I struggle with appreciating the people and the attitudes and many aspects of the culture. Every day is an adventure where I’m trying so hard to be happy and stress-free despite dozens of elements popping in all the time to interfere.
But these two angels, these bright lights in what often feels like a sea of darkness, make me question my view.
You see, they were full-fledged Israelis. We spoke the entire time in Hebrew. They’re not children of immigrants nor itching to get out of the country. No. They are 100% Israelis, and proud of their country and culture.
And despite all of the negativity I’ve expressed about Israel, I think what they did for a perfect stranger was not incidental to their being Israeli, but a product of it.
I’d like to explore three aspects of the Israeli attitude that I think cause folk here to be incredible at just the right moments.
1) Actions matter, words don’t
If you’ve been in Israel and no one has walked into you and not apologized, you haven’t been here long enough. Just wait a few moments. It’s bound to happen.
It took me forever to realize that whereas this drove me crazy, it was completely normal for Israelis. They were not bothered by it. It’s just how they move.
Now, I will forever teach my children to use the pleasantries of life. “Please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” are very important to me. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are objectively of far less importance than the actions to which they are related. Doing someone a favor is more important than the recipient saying “thank you”.
Israelis know this instinctively. In fact, to them, the actions are the only parts that matter.
I wanted to shout from the rafters what this amazing couple did for me in my moment of darkness.
But they just wanted to be good people; my gratefulness was not factored in.
2) They are aggressive… for better or for worse
Israelis are intense, aggressive people. And this goes for their method of kindness alongside their everyday manners when walking down the street.
If an Israeli sees someone struggling to park a car in a tight area, they say, “Get out.” They enter the car, park it, walk off looking angry, and are never heard from again.
The couple that took me into their home wasn’t about to take “no” for an answer. They were doing me a favor, whether or not I liked it or wanted it.
I’ll never forget the TWO times in my life where an Israeli refused to give me directions, because in their opinion it was too far to walk and I should take the bus.
Yes, they were being a giant pain in the ass. But in their estimation, they were trying to do me a favor.
Israeli aggressiveness is loaded with faults. But when it works out, it’s amazing!
3) Ultimately they recognize that we are all one big family
Living through an Intifada in Israel taught me an important lesson: Israel is one giant family.
Please understand what I mean by that. Families are often loaded with complications, as is the Israeli population. Older siblings are infamous for tormenting the younger ones. But when push comes to shove, the love between them is palpable. They understand when times are tough, and they understand when they need to band together.
These angels and I may have been perfect strangers, but in their eyes their brother was stranded outside, wet and cold. What self-respecting person would not take their suffering brother into their home?
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