Monday, September 21, 2009

A cause for hope

Although I blog fairly regularly, I don't think I've ever posted an entry of a personal nature here. Last week, I attended the Nefesh b'Nefesh International Jewish Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem (read my report for the Jerusalem Post here) and one of the speakers mentioned that while blogs often have specific topics, it's still nice to write those "slice of life" entries and share your experiences with others. The speaker went on to explain that for a person living in Efrat, for example, it might not seem all too interesting at first to describe one's daily commute, but to someone living on the other side of the world the idea of waking up and facing the Judaean hills, driving through biblical landscape on the way to work in the knowledge that the only traffic jam one might encounter would be from a wayward flock of sheep - well, that might be almost exotic to some. With this in mind, I've decided that it's high time that I share some of my experiences.

The first thing I want to relate is an event that occured last Monday. I had locked my bike outside the Shuk and after retrieving it, noticed that somebody had touched my gears, as they had been reset from 21st gear (3 and 7) to something like 8, as the numbers were lower around 2 and 4. I was a little bit annoyed, but I soon became genuinely irritated when I saw that the gear chain had been knocked off, too. For those readers who haven't had to put a bike's chain back on the gears, I should explain that you get your hands dirty and oily from touching the greasy chain. After realising that I had no option, I set about fixing the bike.

Just as I was about to get started, an elderly man stopped to ask me if I could help him by taking his heavy bags as he walked to the bus stop on the other side of the road. I told him that I needed to fix my bike, but that I would be with him in a second. The man was rather insistent, but I explained that I would need a little time first.

Putting a bicycle chain back in place (illustrative)

After fidgeting with the bike's chain for a few seconds to no avail, an Arab teenager, almost certainly one of the many Arab workers in the Shuk, strode towards my bike, took it from me gently and in a split-second had the chain back on. Hugely impressed and appreciative of his kindness, I thanked him and shook his hand. It was truly heartening to see that despite what the media makes out to be total disharmony between Jews and Arabs, there's still co-operation between the two groups and away from the media spotlight, there are still instances like this that give you hope. But the boy, unaware of my goofy smile, then turned round to the old man, took his bags and walked him across the road. If there's one thing I can take from this it is that while we can never work with extremists, there will definitely be people "on the other side" who are not extreme and who want peace too. It is up to us to find a way of working with them and alienating terrorists and those who incite hatred and violence against us.

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