The Infuriating Palestinian Sitting Next to Me

The Infuriating Palestinian Sitting Next to Me

On the way to the prayer gathering at the Western Wall last week, I decided to take the light rail. Problem was tons of other people had the same brilliant idea as me, so the light rail was so packed I almost couldn’t make it on.

But then some teenage girls made room for me, and I squeezed into the crowd standing since there were absolutely no seats left on the entire train.

And then I noticed something strange. I noticed a Palestinian in his 20s sitting with his legs at an angle so none of the Jews surrounding him could sit in the empty seat next to him.

How infuriating!

In Israel, religious women usually don’t sit next to men. In fact, just that morning I had stood for about 15 minutes on the light rail instead of sitting down next to a man.

But that night last week, I felt a flash of anger in my heart, and before I knew what I was doing I was sitting next to that Palestinian who was so determined that none of us Jews should sit next to him.

But even after I sat down, he wouldn’t move his legs. So I had to sit on the edge of the seat.

But I wasn’t budging. No way.

On the other hand, I didn’t say anything to him either. A bit too scary with all of the recent events and the widespread rioting in East Jerusalem (where my seatmate was headed) to call him on his obnoxious behavior.

I got off at the next stop, and started flowing along in the river of hundreds of Israelis carrying flags and signs supporting the soldiers streaming down Yaffa Street on their way to the Kotel.

But I couldn’t get over the defeated feeling in my gut.

Not only had I been too afraid to tell him to move his legs—every single Jew on the train had been too afraid to tell him to get his act together as well!

But when the river stopped flowing, and we stood together before Hashem at the Kotel, I felt a forgotten flower of strength opening up inside of me.

I remembered that we Jews have seen far, far worse than this.

We have faced so many enemies over the millennia. Among them: the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Spanish Inquisitors, the Ukrainian Cossacks, the Nazis, and now the Arabs.

The faces have changes. The languages have changed. The reasons why they claim they want to kill us have changed.

But one thing has not changed, and will never change.

Hashem is with us. Every step of the way.

So no matter how weak and hopeless I feel at times during this decades long conflict that seems to have no end…Truth is, I’m not.

And can never be. “Because You are with me.” Thank you, Hashem:)

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6 comments

  1. Lo ira ra, kee attah emadi.

  2. Will it make you feel better if I tell you that I go through this all the time (or did when we lived in Jerusalem, here it’s much less crowded B”H) and 99% of the time it was Jews and I did the same thing you did? If I was feeling gutsy, I just made room for myself, sheyikfitzu. Otherwise I just got mad, like you, and didn’t say anything…or I called my husband and spoke about the idiot sitting next to me, right in front of them.
    Jew or Arab, some people are rude and stupid, and it’s infuriating. I’ve had more experiences with Jews, so if I’d been you the fact that it was an Arab probably wouldn’t have meant anything to me, except that instead of just being mad, I’d have wished the guy would drop a rocket on himself.

  3. I’m currently reading Golda Meir’s autobiography. I keep on thinking that she lived through much more trying times than we are now. Hashem has done miracles in our lives in front of our eyes. It is a difficult difficult time, but I think articles like these remind us that Hashem is with us and that our nation has been through much worse. I was speaking to someone and they put it in perspective. Of the thousands killed in all the terror attacks and wars since the beginning of the state – that was about 1 day in Auschwitz.

  4. Esther S.

    I really think it’s commendable that you find meaning and decide to grow from difficult or frustrating situations in day to day life. However, this piece did not sit so well with me for a few reasons. First of all, I think it needs to be pointed out that this guy was in all likelihood an Israeli Arab and not a Palestinian if he was riding on the train.

    The “us versus them” mentality whereby we assume we know what someone from the other side thinks and feels about us is arguably necessary in a time of war, but was it necessary in this situation?

    Maybe he was a pro-Israel Israeli Arab, who supports the country in which he lives? Even if he was a Palestinian, maybe he is not happy about his people being controlled and de-legitimized by a terrorist entity? Perhaps this all sounds too apologetic. But you just don’t know. How would you feel if it turned out this guy was more similar in his views to Mohammad Zoabi – an Israeli Arab who received death threats for posting a pro-Israel message on Facebook – and you’d just written this article about him?

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in extending mercy to murderers, and on the battlefield halacha says we do not distinguish between guilty and innocent.

    But whoever he was, it’s a stretch of the imagination to believe he was making a political statement by spreading his legs out on the seat. Yes it’s a socially uncouth and irritating habit, that has a damaging effect on those around him, but honestly a lot of men and even women do this, regardless of their nationality or religion!

    To emphasize my point, how would you feel if the roles were reversed and you saw an article written by an Arab called, “The Infuriating Israeli Sitting Next To Me”?

  5. I wanted to share this story from the Midrash which shows how we can never judge another person.
    Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ailam was a holy sage. He received a message by Ruach Hakodesh, that Nanas the butcher would be his equal partner in the world to come. Rabbi Yehoshua was dismayed. He had always worked to fear Hashem, study His Torah, do His mitzvos and had raised 80 disciples to become great Torah sages. How could it be that a butcher who was so ignorant in Torah and a plain working man could be his partner in Gan Eden?
    Rabbi Yehoshua sent his disciples all over the land of Israel to search for Nanas, his future eternal partner. They finally found him – a simple man in a small and undistinguished town. Rabbi Yehoshua asked him, “Tell me, what you do and with what do you occupy yourself?”
    Nanas replied that he is a butcher and that he works as little as possible because he has two elderly and infirm parents who can neither stand up nor manage on their own. Every day he dresses them, washes them, feeds them and takes complete care of them.
    Rabbi Yehoshua stood up in honor of Nanas and kissed him on the head. He told Nanas that he was fortunate to have such opportunity to honor his parents, and that he, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ailam, was fortunate to be the partner of Nanas in the eternal world. (Midrash Seder HaDoros 3:19)
    As we go about our lives interacting with others, often forming quick impressions, we never know who they really are – we don’t know their challenges, their pain, nor their secret triumphs. That is why we can never judge another person. We really never know who’s a better person. That’s a judgment only G-d Himself can make.
    Today, look at every person as unique and special, and that there is something to learn from everyone. “Aizeh Chochum? Halomed mikol Adam.”

  6. For me this story highlights something else: how many Jews could have been the only Jew on a train full of Arabs and come out alive?!?! Even in France this would be a problem. And they call US the brutal occupiers…… Grrrrr. Arabs move freely without threat in our malls, parks, government offices: while we are at war!!!
    Am Israel Chai, we can be proud of the difference, I just wish the major media outlets would report on the freedom of Arabs under Israeli rule as opposed to their oppression under their own.

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