Being a good neighbor shouldn’t be so difficult

Israelis are no different than any other people when it comes to having a mix of the very best and the very worst.  But just having come off of a 12-day bout with Covid, it’s only fitting to start off with “the best” of our people, and, in that regard, my hat goes off to two neighbors, in particular, who were willing to do just about anything while my husband and I were both out of commission.  Running to the drugstore, supermarket or whatever we needed was not too much for them.  They both made it clear that they were willing to serve us – and so they did – with all their hearts.

With our children spread out throughout the country, the proverb, “Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away.” Proverbs 27:10 was never truer!

But in a hi-rise apartment, neighbors come in all shapes and sizes, and today proved that, yet again.  Although, thankfully, it hasn’t happened to us often, someone from a higher floor decided to pour a bucket of window wash over their balcony, predictably spilling a fair amount onto our own balcony.  The steady stream of dirty water stopped with the loud shrieks of my husband who got doused while sitting outside reading his newspaper.

A trip to as many as four floors above ours proved fruitless in finding the culprit.  With an additional nine floors to go, I abandoned the search, but there is no doubt that someone, surely, heard the screams of my husband!

While this was not the first time such a thing happened, we apparently are blessed by the fact that it was only, perhaps, the second or third time in the three years we have lived here.  Other sides of the building have been plagued with neighbors who, not only do this regularly, but dump trash or lit cigarettes, over the balcony, causing much disgust and even danger by their careless disregard for those who inhabit the same space along with them.

So what does it take to be a good neighbor? 

According to the Torah, Leviticus 19:18 admonishes us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  To do so would, without question, put an end to the kind of endless stream of complaints that are registered on our building’s WhatsApp group.  In fact, it would probably cut down the amount of texting by a good ¾, because we’re constantly inundated with a myriad of regular complaints – everything from visitors parking in someone’s designated spot – to loud music being played at all hours – to kids littering the elevators and hallways.

It’s clear that “loving one’s neighbor as themselves” is not a high priority on the list of those who are disrupting, dirtying and disregarding the rights of their fellow neighbors.  However, it needs to be, because we are in it together!  If we don’t look out for each other, who will?

At some point, probably in the not-too-distant future, there is going to come a time when our survival may not be taken for granted as it has been.  We always think that we can rely upon our fantastic army, our reliable police force and our leaders who claim to care for us (albeit not always as we think they should).  But there are likely very challenging days ahead when everything will be foreshadowed by the threat of war, food shortages and the loss of personal freedoms we’ve enjoyed – to the point that we may only have ourselves upon which to rely for advice, provision and assistance of all kinds.

We’ve already had a small taste of this new reality over the course of the last two and half years, and if it hadn’t been for many of our neighbors who were more than happy to share whatever they had (matzot comes to mind during the Passover of 2021 when none could be found) then a number of us would have faced even more hardship than we did!

I am personally grateful for the many Israeli neighbors in my hi-rise building who are warm, generous and caring individuals and do make a point to think of those around them before acting in a way that might violate the rights of others who live alongside them.  They are the ones who make residing together a pleasure and a joy!  But to those who seem to forget that infringing upon the comfort of others makes life unpleasant and arduous, here are some suggestions which were posted just today on our WhatsApp group.  It is excellent advice which is worth heeding:

Exercise a bit of consideration and culture; Remember that it is not your building alone; Live by the Ten Commandments; Don’t litter the elevators or other public places.

To this, I would add that we should all strive to be good neighbors to one another and take pride in the cleanliness and beauty of the structure where we corporately live, because it belongs to all of us and, therefore, reflects the values and character of each one, whether you own your apartment or pay monthly rent.

Who among us doesn’t want our visiting friends and family to secretly wish they lived in such a nice place?  That only can happen when all of the tenants make sure that the environment both within and throughout the building remains one which reflects high standards and the evidence of those who value cultured behavior!

Being a good neighbor should be chief among our goals, because we certainly can’t be a light to the nations – our calling as the Jewish people, if we can’t even be a light unto ourselves!

I remain grateful for my good neighbors who comprise the majority in our building of 163 apartments.  It is my hope that we become even more devoted to one another as the years go on and the times get tougher!  May our goal always be to inspire each other from the moment we get onto the elevator and greet each other warmly.

I will demand that of myself – first and foremost!

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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