Today in downtown Jerusalem, I saw a point of light.
A handful of concerned Israelis came together to put up a small tent and a couple of tables in a busy square in the center of the city. They hung up an Israeli flag and unrolled a banner: “Help Our Soldiers Help Our Boys.”
Passersby were invited to contribute food items to be taken to Hebron, which is currently hosting thousands of Israeli soldiers involved in the search for the kidnapped Israeli teens. Though the soldiers have field rations, the local community has mobilized to provide them with snacks and comfort foods to thank them for their efforts and give them a taste of home. Today in Jerusalem, those who didn’t have food to donate were invited to give cash, and paper and markers were made available to anyone who wanted send the troops a message of support.
I came late in the day, but I nevertheless saw so many acts of kindness — a small drop in the bucket compared to what the organizers told me they’d seen all day. Immigrants who could barely understand Hebrew heard the word hayalim (soldiers) and immediately opened their wallets. Children (and some young professionals) sat and drew cards for the troops. Teenagers and the elderly, secular and ultra-Orthodox, Israelis and tourists — all came together to support the soldiers in their search for three boys whose names everyone now knows. Boxes overflowing with packages of cookies and bottles of iced tea accumulated on the paving stones, and plastic containers filled up with coins and bills of every denomination.
The most remarkable individual I encountered there was a nearby panhandler who decided to donate half his proceeds from the day to the soldiers. “Love thy neighbor like thyself,” he told me, quoting scripture. “I have nothing, but when I give to them, I feel as though I’m giving to myself.” Every so often he would get up from the spot on the ground he’d claimed as his own and bring over a few precious coins.
When I later tried to give him some money to help him recoup his losses, he adamantly refused. I found myself in a bizarre reverse negotiation, each time offering him less and less money and being rejected every time. I finally gave up and he blessed me and my family with health and happiness. “My blessings are fulfilled more than anyone else’s,” he told me with a twinkle in his eye.
A former U.S. president once spoke of “a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” As I look up at the sky here in Israel, it seems dark and foreboding. But today I saw one point of brilliant light in downtown Jerusalem, and I know I’ll see more in the days ahead.
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