Some time ago I drove with two English friends to the Sea of Galilee. I stopped to fill the car with gas on Highway 6, and as I was getting ready to exit in the direction of Afula on Highway 65, I noticed that the car was stalling. It was a new car, and this happened at the time when gas stations started positioning diesel pumps next to the regular gas pumps. I suddenly realized that, by mistake, I filled the tank with diesel.
The car finally stopped at a quite dangerous place where the shoulder was narrow. I stayed in the car with the guests, thinking about what I should do next.
Then another car stopped and soon a young woman walked toward me. She inquired if we were okay, I told her that I had to wait for a tow truck. She said that she was a reporter from Um El Fahem, and she happened to be in the area because she covered an accident nearby. She asked if she could help in any way. I thought a moment and told her that I felt bad for my guests who had to wait in the car with me. They were tourists hoping to do some sightseeing. I asked her whether she could take them to Um El Fahem so that they could walk around until I was done. She readily agreed and drove away taking my guests with her.
Apparently she didn’t believe that walking around town was good enough for the English tourists. Thus, she treated them as her guests. Since she discovered that one of them was a high school teacher, she took them to the local school where the principal showed them around and told them about the school. Afterwards she took them to lunch in one of the restaurants in town. When I finally met them, several hours later, they were with the journalist in the new community center.
Later that day my friends and I continued our day trip to the Sea of Galilee, but the short visit in Um El Fahem became one of the highlights of their vacation in Israel.
The kindness of the reporter delighted me, but did not come as a surprise. Her offer to help was genuine, and it was easy for me to accept it. I knew in my heart that she would take good care of my friends, and they sensed my confidence and did not hesitate to drive away with a complete stranger..
Now, when we are in the midst of another setback in our region, and our relationship with the Palestinian neighbors are at a low ebb, I think back on that day when I was stranded and on the young woman from Um El Fahem who came to my rescue, and it gives me hope.
Almost everyone in Israel could come up with a similar story: this is our reality, and it is also part of living in a civilized society. We should not allow extremists on both sides, and cynical politicians who thrive on hatred and revenge, to force us to live in a society with tall fences where we can no longer rely on the kindness of our neighbors