On Friday mornings our neighborhood newspaper delivery guy leaves all of our papers in a loose, spread out, sort of pile on the floor near our building’s mailboxes.
I overslept this morning so that by the time I go down to collect my “HaAretz,” (“The Land,” center-left, secular perspective), there is only a forlorn copy of “Makor Rishon,” (“First Source,” center-right, religious perspective), lying on the floor. I collect it and take it up to one of my neighbors. We cheerfully exchange greetings. He shares that he has already collected his copy of ‘Makor Rishon’ and that this must be the other neighbor’s copy. He adds that he saw the HaAretz when he went through the pile earlier in the morning.
I knock on the other neighbor’s door. She opens up, sees the newspaper I am holding and very nearly shouts out: “That’s my paper!”
I smile, and as I hand her the paper I comment: “Our neighbor downstairs saw the HaAretz in the pile, perchance you or your husband picked it up by mistake?”
My neighbor snaps, “I haven’t been out yet. My husband went to the supermarket and he’d never take a paper that isn’t ours. Things are stolen by the Arabs all the time. They don’t respect anything. They probably took it and threw it away.”
Startled, bordering on shocked, I am seriously thinking: “…and how did we get here?”
I smile and say: “You’re right, of course, you are right! Jewish-Israelis never, ever steal, unless their names are Olmert and Lupolianski! See ya, Shabbat Shalom.”
For the sake of reader clarity, I note that former Prime Minister Mr. Olmert and former Jerusalem Mayor Mr. Lupolianski were both recently convicted of receiving large bribes to advance an illegal building project here in Jerusalem. In my book bribe-taking is stealing.
Still slightly shell-shocked, shaking my head in wonderment, I walk back downstairs just as my neighbor’s husband is returning. I wish him a good morning and ask if he’s collected his newspaper. He says: “Yes, I did, it’s right here.” We both look – Lo! It is my missing HaAretz. He smiles, hands it to me and says: “Well NOW they’ve stolen my ‘Makor Rishon!’” Holding back my blustering flustered feelings, I share with him that I collected his paper and gave it to his wife. He responds: “Oh that’s great, thank you, Shabbat Shalom.” I answer: “Your welcome, Shabbat Shalom.”
This morning, I once again learned that some of my neighbors and I, not only read newspapers with different political perspectives, we also have very different outlooks about ourselves and our Arab neighbors.
As I write this, the 72 hour Egyptian negotiated cease-fire has ended. Hamas-Gaza is once again shooting rockets into civilian areas in Southern Israel. Israel’s Air Force is once again responding to that rocket fire. It has just been announced that the Israeli negotiating team is returning home they have declared: “We don’t negotiate under fire!”
I hope that negotiations resume in Cairo post haste – right now, would be good! And when they resume, I do hope with all my heart that unlike my presumptuous neighbor, our right-wing government’s negotiators don’t go back to the negotiating table thinking “Why bother? ‘Arabs don’t respect anything,’ negotiating is worthless,” and that all that we can do is to continue blasting away at one another…