Our Messed Up Family
This past Tuesday morning. Gorgeous deep blue skies. An early hint of spring after all the snow and cold.
I boarded the light rail with Yoel and the baby, and maybe on account of the weather, the atmosphere was festive and friendly. Chol HaMoed January.
Yoel and I found two seats, but not together. So the Russian woman between us switched seats so we could sit together and flashed us a kind smile.
Then an elderly man hobbled onto the light rail with his cane. And a 60-something woman with bleached hair got up to pay for him.
Then a very pregnant French-speaking woman boarded the train followed by her soldier husband pushing their year-old son in a stroller.
I called across the train to her, “Geveret, would you like to sit down?” But she looked over at me and shook her head. Then another woman sitting next to her stood up and offered her seat. Another head shake, and she turned back to her baby.
What a magical train-ride, I thought. Ahhh, I love Israel. The feeling of togetherness. Of unity. Of family-ness, even with complete and total strangers.
Then a grandmother with reddish hair called over to the soldier, “Soldier, your gun is sticking out a bit far. Be careful, someone could take it!”
The soldier flashed her a quick ironic smile. “Let’s see somebody try…”
The magical train-ride continued humming along the rails…
Then the grandmother with reddish hair called over to the soldier’s pregnant wife, “Your son doesn’t want the pacifier, he wants to sit up…”
The wife nodded her head vaguely.
Ahhh, Israel, I smiled to myself. Where every grandmother thinks she’s your child’s grandmother…
And then the couple’s son started crying.
“You see!” the grandmother’s tone morphed in a flash from bubby-friendly to angry. “We offered you a seat to sit down, but you refused. I told you about the gun, but you didn’t fix it. And then you didn’t sit the baby up, and now he’s crying! This baby knows what he needs, and that’s why he’s crying. He’s smarter than the two of you combined!”
The soldier turned slowly towards the grandmother , “Why don’t you just say what you mean, Geveret? You think we’re idiots..”
“Your baby is crying now because of you. I worked in a hospital for many years, I know!” she fumed.
“You have a lot of claims against us this morning. Why don’t we say that you’ll mind your business and we’ll mind ours?”
The magical train of just moments before had swerved off the tracks. Crashed. Up in flames.
Before I knew it, the seats all around us emptied out. Maybe because people got off the train? Maybe because people were fleeing the fight?
Then the couple and the grandmother got off at their stops.
And we reached our destination as well, but I couldn’t shake the bad feeling of that derailed magical train.
Israel. We’re a family. But often a messed up one.
The next morning. Wednesday. Tel Aviv. 7:20 AM.
Bus #40 was full of people on their way to work, kids on their way to school.
And then a 22-year-old terrorist took out a knife and stabbed the driver, 62-year-old Herzl Biton, a Dan bus driver for 22 years. Even though he was bleeding heavily and still remains hospitalized in serious condition (please daven for Herzl Shimon ben Farcha), Biton managed to keep his wits about him. He sprayed pepper spray in the terrorist’s face, fought him to pull him away from passengers he was stabbing, and even managed to open the doors of the bus, so most of the people were able to flee unharmed.
One passenger stopped by the hospital to bring Biton a letter. She wrote:
Dear Hertzl Biton,
Today I was on the bus you were driving. I wanted to thank you. Because of you all of us were saved. Because of you, we are alive! May you soon be strong and healthy.
And Herzl Biton was not the only hero on the 40 bus yesterday morning. 14-year-old Liel Suissa from Bat Yam was on his way to school when the terrorist drew his knife.
Suissa told Yediot Achronot, “I was sitting on the bus when suddenly I heard people screaming, I turned around and saw the terrorist stabbing the driver and I ran to the back of the bus to get away from him. The terrorist yelled, turned around and started moving towards us. I threw my backpack at him. And right then the driver hit the brakes, and the terrorist flew. I banged my elbow into the window, and broke it. And then the rest of the passengers and I were able to escape.”
Being a part of the Jewish people.
It’s not always a magical carpet ride.
We are family. And family can be tough.
But when hard times hit, who else can I truly rely on?
Through blue skies and storm clouds, who else would I want at my side?