Is this Mine?
Racheli S. is the daughter of a friend of mine. She told this story to her mother, who told it to me. Only in Israel….
Racheli was sitting behind the Egged bus driver one day when two little boys who live in our neighborhood got on after a hard day at Cheder. She overheard the conversation, and observed what happened, and was happy that she did.
The bus driver had a full head of long, very curly hair — the kind of hairstyle that one often sees on carefree young women. That was the only item on his head, though he did wear a very small earring.
Our two young neighbors boarded the bus: one, an 8-year-old Yemenite boy with very long peyot, and his friend who is from a standard Ashkenazic Yeshivishe home.
As they were paying the bus fare, boy number 2 tilted his head towards his Yemenite friend and bragged to the bus driver, “He got a 94 on his Chumash test!”
The long-haired, curly-headed bus driver responded with words of praise, and then gave the ‘hero’ 2 shekels as a prize for doing so well on the Chumash test.
Almost immediately, the driver called the two boys back and, at the next red light, he wrote a note to give to the mother of the Yemenite boy “So that she should know that it is ok where the two shekels came from.”
Amazing, isn’t it?
But then, as the “cash-prize recipient,” his friend, and Racheli disembarked from the bus, Racheli noticed that the little Yemenite eight-year-old looked very troubled.
Asking him if something was wrong, this eight-year-old cheder student responded: “Do you think that this is my money? Maybe it really belongs to Egged” [the bus company].
Makes you proud, doesn’t it?!
I’ll Take You Home
One of the things that I like best about living in Eretz Yisroel is the fact that one often gets the feeling that people, complete strangers actually, really care about you. No, it may not be all the time, but it certainly is often enough to be worthy of note — and it certainly deserves being commented on, and appreciated, each time it happens.
Take the time that I was a young student, freshly arrived in Israel, many, many, many years ago. It happened in the middle of summer, on a very hot, very dry, day, and I was riding on the bus going somewhere or another.
Suddenly I began to feel woozy. I guess my face turned particularly white or something, because a middle-aged woman sitting across the aisle from me, a woman who was a complete stranger to me, asked me if I felt all right.
When I answered that I felt woozy and a little nauseous, this complete stranger commented that I probably had not been drinking enough, because it was very hot outside. (Please note that I was speaking in pidgin Hebrew, due to the fact that I was not particularly fluent in the language — so she needed extra patience and concern to figure out what I was saying.)
Another woman, seated farther along the aisle, turned in her seat to look at me. She then reached down into her sal [a plastic basket for carrying packages], took out an orange, and tried to hand it to me, commenting, “Eat this. It will be good for you.”
Feeling quite woozy by now — so much so, in fact, that I only barely registered the fact that a complete stranger was handing me an orange and urging me to eat it in a variation of “es mine kind” — I refused, as I really didn’t feel that I had the energy to peel it or eat it.
At that point another woman, who was sitting behind the original “she needs water” woman, said that I needed to eat some salt, since it was really very, very hot outside. Everyone in the vicinity seemed to agree with this assessment.
Our bus was approaching Machane Yehuda, the Jerusalem outdoor shopping Market which is filled with various small food stores.
At this point, the “she needs salt” woman stood up, rang the bell for the bus to stop, and said to me, “Come. I’ll get off with you. We’ll buy a begaleh [a big pretzel with salt].”
Though I was “out of it” enough so that none of this interplay between strangers seemed strange or unusual to me, I was cogent enough to realize that I wasn’t going to allow a complete stranger to disrupt her day by getting off the bus with me at the very busy Machane Yehuda outdoor Market.
So, after assuring this stranger a few times that I really was well enough to buy a begaleh all by myself, and that she really didn’t need to get off the bus, I got off, and she bought me a begaleh. I don’t think I paid for it, and I know that I never thought to ask her for her address in order to thank and/or reimburse her. But, after watching to be sure that I had started to eat the begaleh, and seeing that, B”H, I really was feeling a lot better, she got on the next bus that came by that was going her way.
And I, I don’t think that I ever saw her again — nor would I even recognize her if I did. But the memory of that bus ride, and the public discussion on the bus regarding the state of my health, has never left me in all these years.
Nor the kindness of that ‘stranger’ who got off the bus to help me.
Reprinted with permission from ON BUS STOPS, BAKERS AND BEGGARS, by Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein, Feldheim Publishers, available at all Jewish bookstores or online. Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein is author of ON CAB DRIVERS, SHOPKEEPERS AND STRANGERS (Feldheim), ON BUS DRIVERS, DREIDELS AND ORANGE JUICE (Feldheim), A CHILDRENS’ TREASURY OF SEPHARDIC TALES (Artscroll), HAPPY HINTS FOR A SUCCESSFUL ALIYAH (Feldheim), and the newly released ON BUS STOPS, BAKERS AND BEGGARS. Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein writes for The Jewish Press and various publications in Israel, England, and the U.S.A. and has edited several books including SALT, PEPPER & ETERNITY (Targum) and TO DWELL IN THE PALACE (Feldheim), an anthology on life in Israel. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.