A Hug Out of Nowhere

A Hug Out of Nowhere

Yesterday my daughter had an appointment in a quiet, remote neighborhood overlooking the Malcha Mall. The appointment was an hour long, so I looked around for a place to daven and chose a bench by a walking path sandwiched between rosemary bushes and grass on both sides. The freshly-mowed grass made it smell like Baltimore in the summer, I thought. Not Jerusalem. And the neighborhood itself felt not Jerusalem-like, more like a northern Tel Aviv suburb.

I felt distinctly out of place in my head covering and siddur. But there was nobody around except for the occasional resident walking a dog and a team of Arab gardeners who seem to work full-time just mowing the grass and manicuring the rosemary bushes.
I stood up to recite Shemonah Esreh, feeling a bit embarrassed. Could I possibly be more out of place? And then I noticed 3 older women with golden hair walking towards me on the path. Were they speaking Russian? Portuguese maybe? They smiled significantly at me when they walked past me. As though they knew me? And I smiled back.
And then one of the women walked back to where I was standing and said in accented English, “Can I hug you?”
This happens to me occasionally when I meet Jewish Mom readers, but this woman didn’t look like one of my readers. But she had such a beautiful smile that I agreed and entered her open arms.
And then she said, “We are from Finland. And we want to tell you that we love Israel, and we love the Jewish people! The Jews have suffered so much. But God loves you so very much! You are,” and she searched for the correct word, “in God’s eye, inside of it there is an apple…”
“The apple of God’s eye?”
“Exactly!!” she repeated, rolling with joy, “the Jewish people are the apple of God’s eye!”
And I smiled and thanked them. And they went on their way.
And I opened my siddur, the discomfort I’d felt a few minutes before completely gone. And in the afterglow of the Finnish woman’s love and blessing I recited the words with new clarity and conviction, “May it be favorable in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel.”


  1. How beautiful! What an empowering interchange. Where you once felt maybe a bit timid…after the exchange you felt more confident in your mission as a Jew!

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