Hila Bar
Writer, translator, editor

An Israeli Evening of Giving – 28.11.2023

Michal Sela - Galilee Bakery, image courtesy of author

The smallest, simplest acts of giving are just as important as preparing 2,000 lunches or raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. Each act counts immensely.

Last night I was jotting down some notes in answer to the question, “How do you cope and what gives you joy during the current times?” asked by a writer for their article submission to a Jewish magazine. So I wrote about finding joy in the small things – a flower, a pattern on a leaf, a gnarled stick, a baby’s smile, the beauty of the landscape, the perfectly baked biscuit, the earthy crunch of an apple –  and yes, the release of a hostage and the love for our incredible country; engaging in activities that lift my spirits such as dance and writing, music and spending time with those who instill the soul with positive, warm energy; and finally, laughter – those video clips that leave you clutching your sides and catching your breath as the tears stream down your cheeks: the pure, deep energy of release.

As I completed my notes, I received a WhatsApp from my neighbor. Do I have some cat food for her cat? Just one cup. Thanks to our band of foster street cats, we have a plentiful supply. Chicken is the flavor of the month.

“You can have five cups, six cups,” I write. “Come on over.”

But in my endearing, childish little way, I don’t have the patience to wait. I grab two disposable cups, fill each with the cat food, and head along the wet pavement in my pyjamas and socked feet to Sigal’s house. The air is biting.

I approach the entrance and thump twice on the door, then gingerly open it. It’s just the end of November, but Sigal already has the heating on in her home.

“You didn’t have to come to me,” she says. “I would have come.”

“I know, but do you know how crisp and cold it is outside? It’s magnificent.”

“Stay for a cup of tea.”

“I won’t object,” I reply, “but just a minute. I need to rush home for something and then I’ll be back.”

I race back home and jot down: “Giving brings me joy.”

And I hop back over again.

But bringing over some cat food was just the start. It led not only to an invitation to tea; it gave way to a shower of gifts.

I suddenly received a message from the writer of the magazine article saying that the editor decided each contributor would write their own article instead of consolidating all responses into one. I got to write my own article, and I got to talk to Sigal in her cosy, heated home. Sigal is a joy. She is warm and wonderful and our conversation flows like a mellow stream. She made two large cups of steaming tea, and laid out special bread, butter, jam, and cheeses.

“I came for tea,” I said, “not for dinner.”

She told me where to get the freshest greens, and that there is a free dance chug for women every Sunday evening at the yishuv club house. We talked about growing up with our parents and about work, about dance, different kinds of food, and about being Jewish.

And as we sat and spoke and tried the cheeses, the heavy cloud that had been hovering above me for weeks burst into a puff of gold dust and mingled with the bliss that filled her home.

Then Udi came home from his guard shift at the entrance gate to the community, and I greeted him as I sat cross-legged on the dining room chair, in my lightly damp socks and dressed for bed.

And when I was about to leave, she asked me whether I like ginger, because the homemade ginger biscuits she had were a bit spicy and no one will eat them. I took a bite. They looked like the South African ginger biscuits my mother liked – but they tasted a whole lot better, and I showed her a picture of the South African biscuits on the net, how they look exactly the same.

“I’ll take them,” I said.

So I got to take home delicious ginger biscuits, extra special biscuits because they had been baked by an evacuee staying on our yishuv.

˜In giving there is beauty, compassion, and joy, which are constantly around us. It is an expression of the Divine, and all it takes is a smile and our greetings of “Good morning,” no more. With our actions and our mindset – and a smile as well 🙂 – we can raise beauty above cruelty and compassion above evil. Our mission is to rise mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – and to do so with joy. So seek the Divine, which is everywhere, savor it, and infuse our world with it.

About the Author
Hila Bar is known for her penetrating commentary on people and society, as well as her deep, insightful poetry and prose. She studied English and Hebrew language and literature at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and works as a translator and editor. Hila made Aliyah in 1996 and currently resides in Srigim, in the Ela Valley region of Israel. Hila can be reached through Facebook or via email -
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