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Monday, April 18, 2011

Of fudge and complicated politics

I was once in Union Station in St. Louis when I heard singing. I followed the sound to a fudge store where a half a dozen young African American men and women were making fresh fudge while singing and encouraging the gathered crowd to join in. When they were done making the fudge they began cutting it into big chunks as the crowd applauded and lined up to buy the fresh confection.

I was standing behind a young blond girl who, when her turn came, handed her friend her camera and motioned for one of the fudge factory workers to join her for a photo. Once the picture had been taken, she took out a notebook and started writing the name of the place and the date. Amused, the young man blurted out, "Girl, you gonna have one picture with a black man in your whole photo album... you gonna tell me you won't remember where you were?".

I've shared this anecdote because in my entire cell phone memory, among more than 100 entries, is only one Arab. It is the number of a highly skilled handyman named Awad. And as much as I knew he'd instantly know why I called him, the moment I heard that my parent's wayward dog, Humphrey, had somehow found his way to Ramallah, I knew that I needed to get an Arab I trusted involved... even if it was the only Arab I knew.

I had initially called the person who had left the message for my parents, but despite my gentle prodding to have them bring the dog to one of the Jerusalem checkpoints Thursday evening, the young woman insisted that the soonest they could get us the dog was Saturday. She also indicated that they no longer had the dog, having given him to relatives in Nablus for safe keeping.

Alarm bells started ringing in my head, So I called Awad and asked him to speak to her and determine if they were really going to return the dog, and to find out why the dog had been handed over to a third party, and why the delay.

After a few minutes, Awad called me back and I could hear in his tone he was smiling. He explained that the people were Palestinians who had lived in the US for many years and had only recently moved back. A friend of theirs had found the dog dragging his leash along a rural road that connected Hebron and Ramallah... bypassing Jerusalem. But for the leash he probably wouldn't have stopped, because feral dogs are quite common. But once he had Humphrey in the car, the first thing that came to mind was this quirky American family in Ramallah who had three house dogs (a relative rarity in their culture), so he brought Humphrey to them.

Once the woman (her name is Miral) had Humphrey, she checked his collar and saw the US rabies tag. Having lived in the states she made a couple of long distance calls and was soon talking to the Fairfield Animal Hospital where Humphrey had been vaccinated. They checked the records and gave Miral my parent's phone number. Miral called the US phone number and left a message, but assumed that some tourists had lost their dog. So, having a house full of dogs and no idea how long it would take my parents to get in touch, she contacted some family members in Nablus who agreed to look after the dog for however long it would take.

What Miral didn't know was that my parents have a VOIP US number that rings in their Jerusalem apartment. So when they got back from a day in Herzylia, they heard the message and nearly went insane with relief.

Since we couldn't got to Nablus or Ramallah, and they couldn't come to Jerusalem, I asked Awad if he could go pick up the dog and bring him back to my parent's home. He readily agreed. I told him that even though the people holding the dog hadn't mentioned a reward, he should please give them a particular sum and that my parents would pay him back when he came tp drop off the dog. He said he'd be happy to advance the money.

In the end, Awad had no trouble getting the dog and bringing him back to my parents. For his part, Humphrey had been bathed and pampered by the children of the Nablus family, and had gained a lot of weight from all the treats and canned dog food he'd been given. Apparently they'd mistaken greed for hunger. :-)

Yesterday I called and spoke with several of the family members who had handled Humphrey. I thanked them again for going to such lengths to find us and for taking such good care of him.

Before getting off the phone I told Miral of my initial suspicion. She laughed good naturedly and said that if someone had called and left a message saying one of her dogs was in Efrat she would have been just as suspicious. I told her that it was a shame politics had made two families of pet lovers so suspicious of one another. She agreed.

In the end I told her that she should save my phone number, and that if I was ever able to do a favor for her or anyone in her family, I owed her one. She laughed, thanked me, and said she hoped it wouldn't be necessary.

My parents view these events as nothing short of a miracle. Me? I see it as an important reminder that political considerations are important... but do not paint a fair picture of people with different points of view. Does this change my politics? No. But does it complicate them? Absolutely.

Posted by David Bogner on April 18, 2011 | Permalink

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So complicated and difficult it makes me want to cry.

I'm glad Humphrey's okay.

And most importantly, I'm glad I found out what happened before I turned my computer off for yom tov.

Chag sameach to the entire Trep Clan.

Posted by: Baila | Apr 18, 2011 4:36:21 PM

What Baila said. And it also just furthers my conviction that if the outside world would just leave us the hell alone, we would find a way to make things work between us.

So glad there was a happy ending to Humphrey's tale! :)

Posted by: Alissa | Apr 18, 2011 4:46:47 PM

I've always thought we have more in common than differences: we love our kids, want a safe and prosperous future for them, and apparently we also love our dogs. Now if we could just get war, politics and hate out of the equation....

Posted by: aliyah06 | Apr 18, 2011 4:54:05 PM

Geez David - how in the world do these things always happen to you? I have re-told some of your stories but always start them with..."You'll never believe this story, but..." So glad to hear that Humphrey made it home safe.

(On a different note, I have to tell you that one of my numerous jobs in college was working in one of those singing fudge places. We'd make fudge and sing songs people would know but replace words to make them fudge oriented. Off the top of my head, I recall singing to the tune of "My Girl" - nothing you can do to tear me away from my fudge...) Chag Sameach to you and yours.

Posted by: orieyenta | Apr 18, 2011 5:06:02 PM

Before 1967,there were no Jews who lived east of the Green Line,but many Arabs who lived west of it.Do we want to go back to a version of this situation? Wouldn`t this be similar to the segregated Southern schools pre 1960? When people live together they have a harder time seeing the other as less than human,and see both the good and bad in everybody.

Posted by: ED | Apr 18, 2011 5:37:14 PM

I wonder if Humphrey will only answer to Arabic commands now for treats?

How wonderful that he landed in the lap of luxury. Having lived in the Arab world for many years, my waistline knows all too well that they know how to feed people - actually, I don't know who "over treats" more, the Arabs or my Jewish clan. Chag Sameach!

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Apr 18, 2011 10:21:39 PM

David, it doesn't have to complicate your politics. You and I don't agree about some of the issues, but I would be the first to rise to your defense if someone claimed your politics were a reflection of anything less than the highest sensitivity towards others, be they friend or foe. You are skeptical, and IMO sensitive to political slights, (not without justification), but that does not mean you do not fully embrace the optimism at the heart of this story.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | Apr 19, 2011 1:42:46 AM

NOW I get it, the dog is named after a famous actor also nicknamed Bogie.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Apr 19, 2011 7:05:21 AM

I'll begin by saying that the Arab-Israeli conflict is deeply nuanced, and not able to be simplified in a pithy blog comment section. Here is what I do know:

I abhor the firing of rockets into Israel. I abhor, and cannot even fathom, the slaughter of five members of a Jewish family a few weeks back. I abhor that a 16 year old was critically injured in a bus attack several days ago.

What gives me pause in the aftermath of these heinous atrocities, is when Jews, a people of morality and Torah, write about carpet bombing entire apartment buildings and that destroying 3 or 4 blocks in Gaza should even things up.

For the first time in years, the blog's author seems to have stepped back and thought about this.
Who cares if it took a feel good dog story to move along his thinking?

Posted by: MD in the States | Apr 19, 2011 12:27:25 PM

I know it's big long shot. But is there anyway that us Gush residents can use that road to bypass Jerusalem when heading up the Jordan Valley?

Posted by: Chaim Sherman | Apr 19, 2011 9:55:56 PM

the first day- actually the first minute i arrived at my residency i was greeted by the then chief -resident who clearly was an Arab out of central casting ( read; Thick mustache etc.). And indeed, he looked at me started the conversation with.. " My name is " so and so" , I am from what you call "Israel" and I am in charge for the upcoming year. That said, we will get along great if you respect me and I will do the same. Just know that i want my kids to grow up healthy and well educated and to be good citizens. I dont want them to be soldiers in some useless war.
end of story. some 15 years later we just met up at a conference and shared a drink. I always wondered if i was the only jewish person he was friendly with. he certainly is the only palestinian I know well... and truth be told- one on one... we arent that much different. it seems that you just had the same experience.

Posted by: shabtai | Apr 20, 2011 3:50:47 PM

Great story and I like the honesty of your conclusion.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Apr 21, 2011 12:59:43 AM

This is such a sweet story. The thing is that you have to remember the other side, which is that if our narrator had gone to Nablus himself to get the dog back, it likely would have made the news in a tragic way... so yes, there are fantastic good people on the other side of this political nightmare, but there are some really really bad people there too.

Posted by: LeahGG | Apr 21, 2011 12:48:19 PM

Great story.
It makes me think of the old Sting song: The Russians Love Their Children Too,(name?) from the Cold War.
Yes, the other side has a human face.
Great post, again.

Posted by: Larry | Apr 21, 2011 5:39:54 PM

O.K., the song is called Russians, and after reviewing the lyrics, it's not really the same. But you get the idea.

In Europe and America, there's a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets
Mr. Krushchev said we will bury you
I don't subscribe to this point of view
It would be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too


The idea is that the Russians have families that they care about, too.

Oh well.... Lost in translation.
:)

Posted by: Larry | Apr 21, 2011 5:44:21 PM

How do these stories always happen to you? :) I'm so glad Humphrey is back safe and sound. Chag Sameach!

Posted by: SaraK | Apr 21, 2011 6:11:39 PM

Wo, for some reason my first comment didn't go through, so the second post really didn't make sense.

Let me try that again.

Great story.
It kind of reminds me of that Sting song from the 80's-- "The Russians must love their children too..." Humanizing the "other" makes everything a bit easier.

Nice post.

OK, now read the second comment.

Posted by: Larry | Apr 21, 2011 6:19:24 PM

Amen! Nice story.

Posted by: Alice | Apr 21, 2011 10:52:56 PM

Oh, thank goodness he's home. A very well-travelled dog.

Posted by: Balabusta in Blue Jeans | Apr 23, 2011 1:10:12 AM

This was a great story .It proves that at the end of the day .....we are all human beings ,all possessing those things that make us different than the animals . It warms the heart and causes a tear for what may have been and what may be possible , but then humans begin to act worse than any animal , reality comes back , and one quickly realizes , that only G_D can straighten this mess out .

Posted by: Lou | Apr 23, 2011 4:03:09 AM

This is a beautiful story and a definite reminder that it is so easy to start seeing things in black and white, all good versus all bad, the people on the other side of the conflict as a monolithic entity, when the reality is quite different and there is good and bad on both sides, good, honest, caring people on both sides and all the shades of grey. Thank you for the reminder!!

Posted by: Yael | Apr 25, 2011 12:18:29 PM

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