…with the terrorist from the Tel Aviv bus bombing still at large, the contractor working on a neighbor’s apartment in our building called me.
The contractor explained that he was stuck in a traffic jam near Modi’in (a town between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). I knew from the radio reports that the traffic jam was caused by the road blocks set up by The Israeli Security Agency and the Israeli Police who were in hot pursuit of the terrorist. The contractor wasn’t going to make it in time to collect his Palestinian workers from the apartment and he wanted to know if I could go down and put his workers in a cab.
I went down to talk with his workers, I found them sitting glumly in the dark. Hearing me call out to them, they cheerfully called back “Yah, Umi!” (Arabic: “Hey, Mom!”). That greeting was just right, because yesterday during the air raid siren, I had shouted at all of them that I was the mother. I explained to them that I was meant to put them in a cab and send them home as their boss was stuck in traffic. One of them asked me, “Do you know the driver?”
I realized that they were scared. They were scared because their boss wasn’t going to be able to drive them to their regular drop off point and they were going to have to take a cab with a stranger just hours after a terrorist attack. I am a Socialist. I am a mother. I asked them to wait a minute. I went into my apartment and asked Jay to come out for a drive to the crossing point between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Jay and I came downstairs and told the two young workers that we were driving them. “Shukran, Shukran” (Thank You, Thank you). They were tired and had a difficult time hiding their discomfort. They don’t know Jerusalem very well, so instead of driving the shorter route which was unfamiliar to them, I asked them to give me directions to the crossing point. It was a circuitous route along the main roads…to fill the time, we conversed in a mixture of Hebrew, Arabic and English. I told them about my carpenter Abu Halil from Bethlehem. And then I chatted on about the old days when I used to go to Bethlehem regularly. I described the old entry way to Bethlehem before the Separation Wall went up and spoke about the Humus Restaurant just up the street from Rachel’s Tomb. Suddenly we were sharing stories of traveling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem back in the old days (10 years ago). And then we came upon the crushing present day reality with its stark barriers and the darkened shells of old buildings which once had been a hub of co-existence.
Just as they were getting out of the car at the crossing point, the car’s radio announced that the cease-fire was almost worked out. “Allah Who Akbar” (Arabic: “G-d is Great”) they said. “Baruch HaShem” (Hebrew: “Blessed is the Name”), we answered.
Then with a very fast:
“Lilah Tov (Good Night), we’ll see you tomorrow, Shukran.”
Lilah Tov, see you tomorrow, Afwan (Arabic: “Your Welcome”).
They took off at a half jog up the road towards the brightly lit crossing point.
We turned our attention to the radio news about the cease-fire….