Yesterday, it was warm enough to open up all of the windows to the gift of Springtime and the early Shabbat (Saturday) morning quiet of our six day a week highly trafficked and noisy street. As I was listening to the chipper chirping of the local parrots, sparrows, and hummingbirds and appreciating the Shabbat morning urban Jerusalem quiet time, I heard a car engine sputter out and grind itself to a halt. The car’s starter whined in winching complaint as the engine attached to it refused to fire up and move on up the street. Impatient slamming car door followed by the creaky opening of the car’s hood and trunk, then more winching whining from the car’s starter. Then a slightly louder than necessary slow driving Hebrew speaking voice calling out: “Do you need jumper cables?” Followed by a quieter Arabic accented Hebrew voice responding: “No thanks, Inshallah (By G-d’s will), it will start up in a minute!” The loud Hebrew voice drove away.
At that point, I stepped out onto the balcony with my freshly brewed (thanks to the Shabbat-timer) cup of coffee and saw that the source of the noise was a stalled-out driver’s ed. car. Our neighborhood’s streets are one of the designated driving-test routes. During the week there are always student drivers getting ready for their tests on our street. The ones that turn up on Shabbat morning are from cross town, generally students on their first road lessons taking advantage of the less trafficked main roads looking to get used to another one of the driving-test routes. Since this is a mixed (secular and religiously observant) Jewish neighborhood, no one openly objects to the occasional Saturday morning student-driven cars making their way along our street.
I watched as the driving instructor brought out some tools from the trunk and fiddled under the hood. The car’s starter whined again but the engine still didn’t turn over. Now the student, a woman with a headscarf wrapped in traditional Moslem style, stepped out of the car. Her body language communicated a slight anxiety as she looked up and down our street. I decided it was time to share a Jerusalem welcome standard – black coffee with two teaspoons of sugar in paper cups – with the stranded driver’s ed. instructor and student. As I walked towards the two of them, another neighbor just back from his morning tennis game stopped and in Hebrew said, “My car’s right here!” Gesturing towards me he said: “She’s observant, but she won’t mind if I use my car to give you a jumpstart. You’ll be on your way in no time flat.” Smiling now, with the cup of coffee warming him up for the task at hand, the driving instructor calmly shared with my neighbor that it wasn’t the battery but rather the alternator’s contacts that needed to be wiped down and then the car would start. The female driving student and I nodded at one another, smiled and from behind our coffee cups in conspiratorial Hebrew simultaneously whispered: “Men are all the same, they can fix anything!”
I suggested that they finish their coffee and give the car a bit of a rest and then with refreshed hands and eyes the driver’s ed. instructor could get back to the car repair. We drank our coffee as we had a short chat about how it is that oft times G-d is happiest when He plays with us, his creations. Meantime another neighbor returned from his Saturday morning bike ride and he too offered to help out. This time the driver’s ed. instructor took up the offer. Between the two men they managed to clean the alternator contacts and with a final “Baruch HaShem” (Hebrew: “Blessed is G-d”) from me and “Y’allah Imshe” (Arabic: “With G-d’s help we continue!”) from the driver’s ed. instructor they were on their way down the road. My secular neighbor shook his head, smiled and commented: “Baruch HaShem! Y’allah Imshe! Now there’s a bit of Shabbat morning driver’s ed. co-existence for all of us!”