Monday, July 20, 2009

misfits in my neighborhoods

I've always considered myself, my husband, my children to be misfits of society. It was definitely more noticeable when we lived in Toronto amongst seemingly normal people. We have had a couple of "there you go" moments when we've heard the gossip from the Old Country - people divorcing, affair scandals, kids on drugs - all from what seemed like your run-of-the-mill normal families. And of course, I felt much better afterwards.

And here, of course, I continue on with the misfit trend, having befriended tons of Arabs - both Moslem and Christian, messianic Jews and whoever else I could find who would be unpopular with the rest of the local populace. And of course, I think I have a monopoly on my "misfit" label. Until last Saturday.

I had to get to the Cinemateque in Jerusalem for the yearly International Jerusalem Film Festival. My friend and I have a standing date at the Cinemateque every year for this. It's difficult getting into Jerusalem on the Sabbath without a car and without buses running. Us seculars have to rely on expensive taxis or be at the mercy of strangers who will happily give us non-car-owners a lift into town.

It's hot around 11:00 am, and I found a spot in the shade where I tried to flag down cars. One car stopped, and said he'd drive me to the entrance of Maaleh Adumim where I'd find more cars traveling to Jerusalem. Fine.

He stops off at the entrance, by the police station, and there's this guy standing in the shade.

"Are there taxis coming through here?"

I thought - that's a strange pick-up line. He knows damn well there are taxis riding through here.

"If you want to pay 120 shekels, go right ahead" I told him.

In typical Israeli-he-man fashion he tells me "I never pay more than 50 shekels."

"Even on weekends?"

"Even on weekends. And do you know that taxis in Azariyah (an Arab town near us) charge only 6 shekels for a ride?" He doesn't know me from Adam, but I'm sure he wanted to get a reaction, but my reaction was far from what he expected.

"Oh really? So why don't we go?"

Then he began to tell me his experiences when taking these taxis.

"I'd be traveling until the checkpoint, and the soldiers would stop the taxi and ask the passengers to show their ID. So I'd show them my ID and they'd scream at me, 'you're Jewish? Why are you taking this taxi?' and I'd say to them 'ma zeh meshaneh?' (what does it matter?). I hear them asking for ID's by yelling at the passengers. I'd tell the soldiers, 'why can't you just ask for their ID's nicely. Like - 'please, can I see your ID?' Why must you yell and scream? Just one person can change the way they think of you, as a Jew, as a soldier. Why all the hate? Why all the racism?"

I looked at this man and thought - Oh My God. My twin brother is living right here in the same city as me.

I was so excited, and told him about my interfaith groups and gave him my number thinking he'd be interested in attending. I knew nothing about him personally, other than he was quite good looking, about my age, renting an apartment and doesn't have a car, which led me to believe he was divorced and paying child support because he couldn't afford a house/car. But my hunch wasn't confirmed. I never bothered to ask.

He flagged down a taxi, paid the guy 50 shekels, said the ride was on him, and we spoke about our intercultural experiences together. He was on his way to the Old City just to walk around and invited me for knafe and coffee. But I had other plans. He got out of the cab, and I got out somewhere where it was walking distance to the Cinemateque.

Next day at work, I get a call from this guy. I tell him, "it's so rare for me to find a person who is so tolerant and open-minded, especially where we live. It was so nice to meet you yesterday."

"Same here. Look, the Dead Sea is hot during the day, but they have night swimming until 1 in the morning. Would you want to come swimming with me tonight?"

I almost blurted out - "Of course I want to go swimming with you at the Dead Sea tonight" - but didn't.

Instead, after a few moments of silence at the shock of being asked out on a date, I told him that I was married, and that I couldn't go with him. But if he was still interested in coming to my interfaith meeting next week, I'd love to see him there.

He muttered something like "Have a good life with your husband. If I'm interested, I'll call you." Then - click.

No comments: