Sunday, March 15, 2015

Jerusalem's everyday kindness

Today in Jerusalem riding a very slow bus through Shivtei Yisrael/Haneviim through to the centre of town had plenty of time for people watching:

1) Bus couldn't pull in to the stop due to parked cars, older Hareidi man was getting off the bus and noticed a frail elderly lady having trouble walking from the bus shelter to the bus, he stretched out his hand, offered her physical support and let her lean on him to get off the curb and up on to the bus and into a seat.

2) Heavily pregnant lady was having trouble getting on the bus with her heavy bags. Young Hassidic guy walked up to her and lifted her bags on to the bus, took them to his seat near the front and offered her his seat while he moved to the back of the bus.
3) Pair of tourists dressed in skimpy vests and tight jeans buying falafel at a kiosk, Hareidi man behind the counter serving them with a smile and good humour.
4) Man in a large knitted kipa, peyot and beard guiding a blind Arab man on to the bus.
5) Young Hassidic couple walking in the street, she in pink blouse and headscarf and light grey skirt, their similarly attired young daughter between them each holding one of her hands and swinging her while the three of them walking down the street laughing and chatting together.

Every time I go in to Jerusalem I see scenes like this and I feel like dropping a note to the world, not because the problems of this city aren't just as real, but to remind folks, especially those outside of Jerusalem and Israel that this is also part of the reality of life here, it is far from just modesty signs and disputes and tensions. Gmilut hassadim, loving kindness to one's fellow human being, is still very much alive and part and parcel of everyday life and coexistence in the city and that is what gives me hope for our nation, our future and the Middle East.

Alone in this crazy, combustable region of the world Jerusalem still manages to keep Isaiah's vision of peace and brotherly love real and tangible. Not through great projects and initiatives and politics (though there are many worthy individual engaged in such work), but through the simple practicality of throwing so many different people together in a patchwork city and creating a situation where they have to mix and mingle and cooperate in order to keep their city functioning, in order to live, and through the simple act of everyday living even the most polarised ideological foes have to experience the humanity of the other. I am not so naive as to believe that this will bring real peace tomorrow, but I do know that it is a great deal closer to realising that dream than just about any other city in the Middle East. 

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