Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ordinary Kindnesses

In the midst of so many high profile issues that absorb our attention in this troubled land, it is easy to overlook acts of ordinary kindness that occur in the course of everyday life. I think of my young Jewish seatmate on the flight to Tel Aviv who, when I looked bewildered, stopped what he was doing to show me where to plug in my ear phones; of the Israeli man at Ben Gurion who stopped to explain to my companion how her cell phone worked; of the airport bus driver from who phoned an anxious passenger’s companion in Jerusalem to tell her where to meet her friend. None of these extraordinary, but they are the kinds of civility that constitute a viable society. The tragedy for both Israelis and Palestinians is that they are now so isolated from each other by walls, curfews, bypass roads and Jewish Israeli-only neighborhoods that they have little or no contact. And that which they do have is almost always accompanied by weapons and enormous power differentials.

This morning’s adventure was to make my way from Jerusalem to Ramallah and the Quaker Meeting for Worship by way of the #18 bus. When I arrived in Ramallah a fellow passenger observed my opened map and asked if he could help. By the time he had walked several blocks with me, I had learned of his years in New York and Chicago and been invited to his shop for coffee. Despite this kind man’s help, I lost my way and approached a Palestinian policeman. Big smile, no English, but eager to help. Lost again, I entered an office building, found a lovely young woman who escorted me to the president’s office who did his very best in Arabic and many gestures from his large window. Recalling that the Meeting was across the street from the best ice cream store in Ramallah, I hailed a taxi who took me there in minutes for only 10 shekels. Many ordinary kindnesses made my morning an adventure rather than an ordeal.

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