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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Another reason I love this country

There is a very large supermarket - part of a big, national chain - within a block of my office.  Because of its proximity... and also because the prices are better than in the smaller market in our town... Zahava often asks me to pop in and do some of the weekly grocery shopping on my way home from work.

One of the things we Israelis get used to when going into stores and malls here, is finding a security guard at the door who will want to search your bags and run a metal detecting wand up and down your body before allowing you to enter.  Seeing as I'm usually armed, I simply show the guard my gun license and ID card and he/she waves me in without the search / scan.

Over time, I've come to recognize the regular guards at the stores I frequent, and some of them also recognize me... waving me in before I've even had a chance to fish my wallet out of my pocket.

Such has been the case with the regular security guard at this supermarket near my office; an older secular Israeli of Russian extraction.  In all weather, cold, heat, rain, sandstorms... he's almost always there, keeping the store safe, and invariably ready with a smile and a handshake for the regulars.

A couple of days ago I was about to leave work when I remembered that Zahava had asked me to pick up a bag of laundry detergent.  So, before heading home, I made a detour to the local supermarket.  But when I got there I saw a line of people stretching from the door to the parking lot waiting to get in... something that wouldn't happen even on a busy Thursday, much less a slow Sunday evening.

When I craned my neck over the crowd to see what the hold-up was, I saw my friend the regular security guard standing in his regular position.  But instead of his smiling, clean-shaven countenance, he was wearing at least a week's worth of beard on his somber face.  I immediately understood that sometime during the week I had been away in India, the guard had lost a close relative, and had just returned to work after sitting 'Shiva'.

As I got closer to the door, I could hear each of the busy shoppers pause to exchange a few words of condolence and support... the beard having offered the only clue they needed under the circumstances.  Nobody pushed or shoved, and there was no sign of the the typical impatience Israelis have honed to an art-form.  It was an orderly queue worthy of a shop in Kensington or Chelsea.  

When I finally reached the door, the security guard greeted me with a sad smile and a nod, and explained that his father had died.  We exchanged a few words and he told me a few details about how his father had lived... and how he'd died.  I offered my condolences and entered the store... allowing the next customer to step up and put a sympathetic hand on the guard's shoulder.

As I grabbed the bag of laundry powder off the shelf and went to get on line at the cash register, I once again realized my incredible good fortune at living in a country where even the nameless strangers we encounter in the course of our busy days and weeks... are never truly strangers.

!כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה  (All Israel is responsible for one another) 

Posted by David Bogner on May 13, 2010 | Permalink

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Very good post David. Very emotional too.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | May 13, 2010 8:28:02 AM

amen

Posted by: Risa | May 13, 2010 8:53:09 AM

I love this country.

Posted by: Alissa | May 13, 2010 10:15:36 AM

That is a bonus.

Posted by: Jack | May 13, 2010 10:28:19 AM

so true. i loved that about living in Israel. I loved that my usual stops in the shuk (I lived in Nachla'ot abot 30 seconds from Machane Yehuda MAN do I miss THAT.) would flip out if I didn't show up regularly. In the middle of the 2 years I lived there, I went back home for 3 weeks and when I came back OMG you'd have thought I died, chas v'shalom. The wives of 2 of the mochers in particular were FURIOUS that I hadn't told them I was going away for so long. They were forced to invite me for shabbes just to ream me out :-)

Posted by: Leah Weiss Caruso | May 13, 2010 3:43:58 PM

Kleenex alert!
Beautiful....

Posted by: SaraK | May 13, 2010 5:12:13 PM

Wow. Serious flashbacks to going to the Supersol.

Thanks.

Posted by: Tzipporah | May 14, 2010 2:59:35 AM

Another sweet story from the master. Thank you!

Posted by: Elisson | May 14, 2010 5:12:13 AM

You are the best! I think that Jess and I need to talk to you about making Aliya.

Posted by: Nir in London | May 14, 2010 6:08:31 PM

Thanks for the nice story. It reminds me of something nice that happened to my late mother, an olah.

Posted by: Shira Salamone | May 14, 2010 8:29:11 PM

A truly civilized society.

Posted by: Titan Mk6B | May 14, 2010 11:15:42 PM

I must be getting sappy in my old age. I almost started crying when I read this entry. I went to Israel for the first time in October 2009 and I miss it so much. I really do. I did NOT expect to have such a connection, and when I read things like your post, it just makes me miss it even more.

Posted by: Kimber | May 16, 2010 5:48:42 AM

this was an absolutely *beautiful* post! you exemplified so very much by saying so very little. thanks for the tear-jerker In the best possible way!).

Posted by: Minnesota Mamaleh | May 18, 2010 7:08:03 AM

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