Fridays in Jerusalem are hectic. In the half day before everything closes down for Shabbat, people want to squeeze in a full day’s activity. Our local gas station becomes a flash point – people honking horns and yelling – whipping up impatience until it becomes a frenzied lack of consideration. This morning, after successfully surviving the cacophony at the self-service gas pumps by maintaining a disciplined silence, I join the line at the air pump.
Slowly, carefully, the old man in the car in front of me gets out of his car. He leans down to look at his back tire, gets up, leans down to look at his front tire, gets up. He walks over to the chart next to the air pump…
Fingers drummin’ against the steering wheel, with my patience is a virtue at the edge of frayed exhaustion, I remember a favorite saying of my mother’s: “the truest form of altruism, is based in total selfishness!”
I get out of my car, walk over to the old man who is STILL studying the chart, smiling: “Shalom. Let me give you a hand with this. What do we need to find?”
“I can feel that one of my tires is low on air but I don’t know how high to set the air pressure on the gauge,” he says.
“Ok, let’s have another look at your tires and at the chart – we’ll figure it out together.”
Easily I find that the correct air pressure amount for his tires is 30. I set the gauge, pull out the hose and lean down to begin filling his tires. He asks: “Why are you helping me?”
Not wanting to share “the sooner you’re done, I can get done and be on my way.” I respond “In helping one another out we create the Garden of Eden here on earth. Do me a favor, listen for the air pump’s ‘ding,’ so we’ll know when to stop.”
He takes a deep breath: “I don’t hear so well, I was in artillery on Yom Kippur. You see back then, they didn’t know to give us ear plugs and today I am paying for that.”
I hear “ding,” I move on to the next tire and ask: “So what front did you serve on?”
From a distance I can not fathom, he whispers: “Golan Heights.”
Finishing, I stand up – look him straight in the face and say: “No worries, 40 years ago, you saved ‘the eyes of the nation*,’ today I’m happy to be your helping hands and ears.”
The old man stands straight as an arrow and with an “I am right here” lilting laugh says “Kol Israel Aravim ze le ze!” (“All Israel is responsible one for the other.”)
*The nickname given to the military listening station on Mt. Hermon on the Golan Heights.