Realizing that I had entered the wrong street number in my Google phone app, I slumped against a shop window on Yaffa Street under some shade on this hot Jerusalem day, taking a moment for a deep breath. My husband, Baruch, had already reached his limit of patience due to our ordeal of taking two wrong buses, and now I feared that when he discovered we had been walking in the wrong direction, it may very well send him flying into the twilight zone! What should have been a 15 minute bus ride from our apartment to Mahane Yehuda market, had turned into a 6 hour tour of Jerusalem!
We were now late to meet our good friends at a restaurant and were still lost. My phone battery was about to die, and we were in need of a bathroom. My husband appeared to be scanning the universe for inner strength, looking like a bull, fuming in anticipation of a full blown explosion; while I was desperately searching to relocate our whereabouts on my phone app.
In my peripheral vision I noticed two young men a short distance away, peering into a store window. They were very well dressed in their wide brimmed hats and suits of black. Normally, I would not approach two seemingly religious men, as the culture sometimes prohibits males from talking with unknown females, however, glancing once more at my husband, now foaming at the mouth, then back at the men at the window, I decided to go for it! What did I have to lose? The most they could do was scowl and walk away. “Excuse me” I said, in my most grandmotherly tone, “We appear to be a bit turned around, would you be so kind as to help us with an address?” turning my phone towards them to show our destination. A moment of silence followed as they looked at the address on my phone. They inspected me with a long and serious eye, then noticed my burly husband, who had moved in a bit closer. Suddenly, a transformation occurred as our two strangers took pity on us and broke out in wide smiles. A wave of reassurance descended upon us as we exhaled in relief. Our desperation was apparent, plus our senior-bewildered appearance may have tugged on their hearts a tad. We burst forth in thankfulness (I wanted to kiss their polished black shoes, but figured that if just talking to them was a risk, my gesture may be overboard, so refrained). In an attempt to excuse our lost predicament, we shared our recent aliyah just a few short weeks prior, which I am sure was probably no surprise to them.
With sudden exuberant energy, they insisted we follow them as they escorted us to our destination! “It’s on our way!” they chimed cheerfully. Their swift strides steered us seamlessly through busy narrow side streets, as we increased our pace to keep up. Amid the hustle and bustle of afternoon traffic, they managed to engage us in conversation — curious to know our stories. With exuberant joy they both exclaimed “Mazel Tov!” at the top of their lungs, wrapping their arms around Baruch with zealous man-hugs. “Welcome to Israel” they shouted, as everyone on the street spontaneously joined in! Their sudden joy was contagious as a dramatic change was imparted into our attitudes. Just a few minutes prior we were ragged, dusty, wanderers — lost in the sea of downtown Jerusalem. Now, suddenly, we were infused with a mega dose of relief and joy which lifted us out of our desperation like a magic potion. As lively music blared from shops along the way, our two friends shouted hello to merchants within, kicking up their heels and snapping their fingers in the air to the tunes, as if in celebration! One of our new friends stopped for a moment to buy a lollipop, saying with a tender glimmer, that he must bring home a treat for his little girl waiting for him at home.
Our short walk had turned into a magic carpet ride of emotional transfusion, renewing us and giving us hope that we would survive living in a new place and culture, — in our seventies no less! Baruch’s frothing had melted into the tender old man within, and I, although exhausted, was finding myself actually smiling. As we approached our destination, we felt overwhelmingly blessed and honored by the kindness offered to us by two complete strangers.
Saying goodbye to our rescuers was like departing from close family, not people that we had just met a few minutes earlier. Then it dawned on me —- Israel was our family now.