At one point or another, almost every Israeli will answer someone with the common phrase: “yehiye b’seder” – it will be okay. Israelis say this all the time – sometimes sarcastically, sometimes seriously. Yehiye b’seder.
For the last few hours, I didn’t know where my youngest daughter was. On Friday, she went to a new friend about an hour plus away in a Jewish community called Kiryat Arba… which is also Hebron. The buses that go there are bulletproof – and they need to be. Often, Arabs stone the buses; sometimes they throw firebombs. More often than not, the bus travels the route in complete safety… just once in a while you’ll hear of an incident. It was on this road that Asher Palmer and his baby son were murdered. There is a short distance on the road where you feel very isolated and threatened, where you can easily understand how a car can come within range, even lethal range, of those who hate.
Since Aliza has never traveled this route before, she went with an older girl from our neighborhood (courtesy of a dear friend’s daughter who made the arrangements). The plan was very simple. On Friday, one young lady would travel with her, get off the bus at the entrance to Kiryat Arba, while Aliza continued on for several more stops. Then, tonight, another girl from our neighborhood was supposed to get on the bus at one place; a bit later, Aliza was supposed to get on, and together make their way home together.
Aliza’s phone battery went dead. She got on the bus, but the older girl wasn’t there. At that point, unsure what to do and unable to call anyone, Aliza got off the bus. The friend’s daughter called to say they’d missed the bus, but I couldn’t reach Aliza. She had borrowed someone’s phone to tell me that she had gotten on and gotten off…by the time I called that number back, Aliza was not with that woman anymore. The other young lady got on a bus… Aliza. wasn’t there. The woman who had lent Aliza the phone knew nothing. I was too frantic to ask enough questions.
My friend’s daughter had a car and went driving around; she met up with Aliza’s friend and together they searched the bus stops in Kiryat Arba. From what they could tell; Aliza wasn’t there. The only logical explanation, was that Aliza had gotten on another bus to Jerusalem, just not the same bus as the older girl.
I was left unable to reach her, unsure of where she was and what she would do when she got to Jerusalem… if she had indeed gotten on the bus in the first place. I knew that if she took the bus, she would know to stay on until the end of the trip, when it arrived at Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station. What I wasn’t sure about was whether Aliza knew how to get from Jerusalem to Maale Adumim.
The thought that kept going through my mind was that she had no phone to call us or anyone else. I pictured her alone and frightened. She had told me she didn’t love the idea of traveling at night and so we made these great plans for her to travel with someone… only now, she was alone… and worst of all, without any way to contact us. Unsure what to do, my oldest son, Elie, and I drove to the Central Bus Station.
When we got there, Elie went to check incoming buses while I found a place to park the car. I desperately hoped he would call to say he found her but by the time I got there, but when he met me he hadn’t found her. Twice, buses came in from Kiryat Arba and I watched as people got off. Both times, I asked the bus drivers if they had seen a young girl get on the bus and get off. “Fourteen,” I told him, “long dark hair. A white jacket.”
“Thin,” Elie added…
The first driver said he didn’t remember. The second didn’t think he had seen her either but when he saw how upset I was, he said, “it will be okay; don’t worry.” I could barely talk to him because my throat was clogged with tears and fears. I asked him what time he had left Kiryat Arba. 8:00 p.m. – the other bus had left at 7:40 p.m.
“Yehiye b’seder,” he said again. I just nodded, unable to speak. I wondered if we should call the police; if the time we were hesitating was making the situation even worse. In America, you don’t wait. You raise the alarm; here in Israel it’s just not the same.
As it turned out, my youngest daughter caught the bus right before the two I met. By the time we were in the Central Bus Station, she was already on the second part of the journey. For the next 35 minutes, while Elie walked back and forth and while I waited and worried, she was riding the bus to our home. Mostly, I tried to block all the terrible thoughts out because logically, she was either safe in Kiryat Arba, or safe in Jerusalem.
Shortly after 9:30, my husband called to tell me she had arrived home. She didn’t cry once… I cried enough tears for both of us. But there is a huge difference between being scared and being terrified; a great chasm between being afraid your child is upset, and being afraid your child is being hurt or worse.
Not for a single moment did I fear she had been kidnapped. Not for a second did I experience the paralyzing fear a parent must have in other countries. All along, my greatest fear was that she was lost somewhere and afraid and without a phone, I didn’t know how to get to her.
I can’t begin to explain how much I appreciated a perfect stranger – the bus driver – assuring me that she was fine and all would be well. He said it as a comfort, but also because he believed it to be true. It was true.
Overall, she did great. She got herself home; and she did call once. She had no idea that I was so concerned. She also knows, deep down, that I’d have gone to the end of the world for her.
I can’t be upset about this evening because it couldn’t have ended better than it did… it’s 11:00 p.m. and I know where my children are. It will be okay, it is okay. It is a national saying, a promise, if you will. Tonight was about one 14 year old and a whole bunch of people who worried about her – a woman who lent her phone, three young women who tried to track her down, a friend who sent her messages she couldn’t receive, asking her where she was. A bus driver who took a moment out of his busy schedule to assure me all would be well; an older brother who took time from his wife and baby so that his mother wouldn’t go somewhere alone. Another brother and sister who stayed tuned to find out what was happening.
Yehiye b’seder. It will be okay.