The weekend train to Modi’in was crowded. I could not find a seat. I stood in the aisle and held tightly onto my suitcase. Suddenly a man in his early fifties with a tanned face told his teenage son to stand up and relinquish his seat. The son was reluctant to obey his father. “It’s not necessary,” I said. “I’m all right.” The father repeated his command. “Get up!”
Slowly the boy rose to his feet. As I sat down, I made sure that I exhaled a loud groan from my chest to justify the father’s order, sounding like I really needed a seat. This caught the attention of a young soldier standing in the aisle with one of his army shoes restraining the wheels of a baby carriage. He kept staring at me. And when the father and son soon exited the train at the airport station to catch a flight to Bucharest, the soldier immediately sat down beside me and began to relate the story of his life.
He was born into an ultra-orthodox Haredi family of twelve children, he said, but he broke away from Jewish practice and chose a military career. Then he fell in love with a young woman that he wanted to marry, but his father said, “You’re not ready to marry! You’re too young! You have no job! I won’t come to the wedding or support you in any way!”
The distraught son sought counsel from a rabbi, who unfortunately agreed with the dad. So he consulted a secular therapist who said he should marry the girl even if the father would not attend the wedding. And that’s what happened.
But thereafter his wife suffered six miscarriages, and the doctors said they should not try again. “Always use contraceptives!” they said. So the couple used contraceptives. Nevertheless, the wife got pregnant again, and this time she didn’t miscarry. They had a son, and eleven months later another son, who was now asleep in the baby carriage.
I was happy for the soldier and told him so, but why had he chosen me to tell his story. The disobedience on the train of that teenage son to his father may have triggered the soldier’s memory of his own disobedience to his dad, but I still felt there was something more to it. I felt like I was his dad now, who forgave him, reason enough for my Aliyah.