Israeli Postcards 2017: Jewish Stories

2nd in a 3-part series. Part 1. Part 3.

In the Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem at the craft beer stall the bartender’s accent gives him away. “I’m from Baltimore,” he says, and he’s lived in Israel for 7 years. I ask him what brought him to Jerusalem. “I wanted to be part of the Jewish Story,” he says, then adds looking at the Wife and me. “Everyone can be part of the Jewish story. Even those who hate Jews, they are part of the Jewish Story too.”

The Machane Market May 8, 2017

We find a grocery store as Shabbat looms and closes the local restaurants. As the clerk struggles with my worn-out credit card, the woman waiting behind us cracks a joke about it. We get to talking and she says, “You don’t need to eat with Arabs,” and invites us to shabbos dinner at her apartment. Over dinner preparations she tells her story, about converting to Judaism after leading a dissolute life in the American Midwest and finding freedom and comfort in her adopted religion. Her daughter, American born, now volunteers with the IDF and studies to become a medic. Like so many Israeli youngsters I find the uniform she wears makes her look taller and stronger than American girls her age. “I wish you could meet my son,” I sigh, and I tell her about the looming responsibilities waiting him. She nods politely but clearly the two have their feet in completely different worlds.

Prayers in the Kotel wall, underground tunnels May 11, 2017

Our guide is ex-Israeli intelligence. As he drives us back to our hotel we are stranded for an hour in a traffic jam outside of Jerusalem. For two days I’ve avoided asking him much about his background, but with our employment of him drawing to a close the Wife and I ask him about it. He tells the story of being hired as a consultant for the Mexican government. The Mexican police official who hired him wanted him to examine the police force and come up with a package to create a completely corruption-free force. For a year our Israeli guide alternates between Israel and Mexico City. He comes up with a plan and the police official signs off on it, asking him to begin implementing it immediately. So he spends several weeks teaching his plan to three Mexican police officers with the intent that they would then teach others, and within a short time the police official would have a core of corruption-proof police officers he could build an entire force around.

One day while the Israeli guide is back in Israel, the three Mexican police officers he had trained are confronted by a large group of police officers from other divisions. Their guns are taken away and they are stood against a wall at gun point. But instead of shooting them, the officers take their pictures with cell phone cameras. The officers get the point and resign on the spot.

Our guide is told his services are no longer needed since the report had been accepted and would be implemented “in due time.” Our guide says, “I had created a completely corruption-proof plan, but it turns out it wasn’t implemented the way I demanded.” Evidently the official who had hired him had trusted one of his own people instead of maintaining secrecy our guide had required.

The traffic jam frees without reason and we are soon back on our way, the guide expertly driving the car through the freed up blocks of cars and trucks on the highway with lampposts festooned with Israeli flags, the horror of the scene he described hanging in the cool night air.

A 900 person Delegation of Canadian Jews Parade to the Western Wall near the Zion Gate, May 11, 2017