A Flat Tire as a Demonstration of Israeli Unity
In Israel, this past week was complex. Families gathered together to celebrate the Passover seder, parks were full of picnics and beaches overcrowded with people taking time off from work, and everyone seemed to be talking about the unseasonal rains the last couple of days. But amidst the celebrations, our thoughts, prayers, conversations, and social media have also been consumed with the tragedy that occurred one week ago as a family from Efrat was shattered due to terrorism.
At a press conference, the patriarch of the family, Rabbi Leo Dee, called for unity as he asked people around the world to post an Israeli flag on their social media as a symbol of the power of good over evil. He also noted that this year we have the rare occurrence of Passover, Easter, and Ramadan all coinciding, holidays that focus on the themes of redemption and making the world a better place. After months of political protests dividing our country, and a number of recent terrorist incidents, Leo Dee’s words reminded us of something truly special about our country. Within an hour of his speech, flags were flying all over social media and everyone began to feel connected to one another again regardless of their politics or religious practice. I recall a similar phenomenon in the summer of 2014 when Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali z”l, were missing and the entire country prayed together for their safe return. Their parents too turned tragedy into a call for unity. As Israelis, we also feel this sense of connection on our national holidays as well – as we all stop what we are doing and stand in silence as the sirens blare on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), and the sense of unity we experience alongside our joy and celebrations on Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day.)
These “big moments” actually happen quite often but on a much smaller scale, the challenge is actually noticing them. Two days ago, while I was at work, my twenty year old daughter borrowed my car and got a flat tire. A good samaritan helped her put on the spare and a half hour later, she got another flat tire on the highway just outside of Jerusalem. This time, she was really stuck since the spare tire was already in use, so as folks stopped to offer her help, there was little anyone could do while she waited for a tow truck. One young religious man, with his tzitzit flying in the wind, offered to use a compressor to try to fill up the tire. Then an Arab man offered to take the first flat tire, punctured by a nail, to a nearby village to patch it up for her. As he drove off with the tire, a soldier put the car up on the jack and took off the second flat tire. When the man returned with the patched tire my daughter asked if she could pay him for fixing it. He asked her, “Did you do any mitzvot during your holiday?” She answered, “I certainly tried to…” To which he replied, “Ok, that’s good enough for me. Just do good for someone else. You don’t need to pay me.” Over dinner my daughter reflected on her day and shared with me that with the backdrop of all that has happened recently, the many people she encountered during the day who offered her help, representing the variety within Israeli society, truly renewed her faith in all that is good in our country.
If a flat tire can bring people together who are so different from one another and don’t even know each other, than think about the power we have as a society to demonstrate our unity every day.