If we pay just a bit more attention to events in our lives, we will often find that many of them, especially the noxious ones, are actually telling us something
Originally, I was going to submit a piece about the many ways that we in Israel violate Hillel’s dictum of not doing unto others what is hateful to us. Some of these are really annoying, but some can be lethal. In light of the present situation, I actually see things in a more optimistic light.
The offenses include: taking up two parking spots, extremely reckless driving (where the likelihood of injuring a person or damaging a vehicle in order to move ahead are high), interrupting people in middle of a conversation, pushing ahead in line, hijacking a conversation, destroying or damaging public property out of carelessness, to name just some of the irksome behaviors that we Anglo expats instinctively notice. Those of us who have tried to do something proactive, like talking to the offending party or the police have unquestionably come face-to-face with the culprit behind the scene- fear of being a “freier”.
At first I thought that they were pulling my leg, but I learned quickly that here in the Middle East, being made a frier is seen as a huge deal and almost anything will be done in order to avoid this state of affairs. It put me in mind of something that happened years and years ago when I was just beginning my child and family therapy practice and working in the Baltimore City Public School System. All middle schools were dedicating one week as Volunteer Week and had a list of things that the students could do in the community to “give back”. I thought it was a lovely idea. But I have always been a middle class, white, Jew for whom “giving back” and charity were a basic part of life.
The African American fathers of African American children refused, in adamant terms, to allow their children to participate, telling them that they were, once again, being taken advantage of and subjugated. I was stunned when I heard this. Then I realized what they were saying. I could never have seen things through this lens. I understood why they were so sensitive to the notion that their offspring would be taken advantage of. That is what a frier is. It means somebody foolish or weak enough to allow him/herself to be taken advantage of, to be mocked. I came to understand and respect this fear in Downtown Baltimore; it does not apply in in Israel.
People actually felt that they would be a frier if they let someone get in front of them in line. Not cut in front, just get there. This was also true if the two happened to be behind the wheel of their respective vehicles. Thinking ahead was not applied. The thinking brain was overpowered and overwhelmed -the main thing was not to be a frier. And then came the Corona virus…
Most people in Israel, including the heretofore mentioned frierphobes, not only listened to directions, but did so on their own volition! They inconvenienced themselves so that others would be safer It’s wonderful to see such altruism.
As of this writing, weddings have been pared down to 10 people, schools and many stores are closed. Everyone seems to be taking it all in stride. Teens are posting that they are willing to do tasks for the sick and elderly. Some even say they are beginning to see the positive changes that they can make in their lives, like spending more time with family. What is going on here?
This lack of frier fear means, to me, that people have managed to change their thinking pattern. This leads to changing behavior. It is the technique used when working with trauma victims. Maybe if we can continue this new cognitive pattern we can truly become worthy of the moniker “a light unto the nations”. And it all started with a virus…