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(Not So) Silent Allies: Tales of Support from My Journey to Germany

The little gift
The little gift

During the war, I am hesitant to travel abroad, especially with the massive anti-Israel rallies and sentiments spreading across the globe. Leaving Israel felt daunting and uncertain. However, to my surprise, I encountered many kind individuals who, despite being the silent minority, were thrilled to meet someone like me. These encounters, whether in a Starbucks in Bonn or on a train from Cologne, revealed a genuine warmth and eagerness to speak openly and offer support to someone from Israel. Here are the first two of quite a few memorable stories from my journey.

Starbucks – Bonn, Germany

“Would you please watch my cellphone for a moment while I use the restroom upstairs?” I asked an elegant German lady sitting with her teenage daughter.

“Sure,” she responded.

When I returned, I thanked them and explained that while I wasn’t sure such requests were commonplace in Germany, I had to charge my phone. I was in the area for work for a couple of weeks, and my own teen daughter would be very upset if she couldn’t reach me.

“I get that,” the mom said, smiling and winking while her daughter smirked, a bit embarrassed. “Though, it’s me who is usually nervous when I can’t find her,” the mom added.

“Where are you from?” asked the girl.

I hesitated, then looked down at my black tee shirt with the prominent, hanging gold Star of David necklace. “Israel,” I responded. “I am from Israel.”

Their faces changed, but not as I expected. Their eyes widened with surprise or some other emotion I couldn’t identify. Despite being well-traveled, this was my second time in Germany and my first time outside of Berlin, a city many consider to be in a category of its own.

The mom spoke. “Oh, wow. How ARE YOU?” She continued in a way I imagined was not very typical of German culture. “I mean really, how are you? After October 7th, and your family? Children? WHERE were you on October 7th? How are you all dealing with what you need to deal with?”

I was dumbstruck by the depth of the questions and the genuine compassion I felt from them both. I started talking but then looked at the mom and said, “Perhaps, you don’t want your daughter to hear?”

“No, no,” she encouraged. “We both want to hear. She is fifteen and she should hear.”

I continued. Afterward, we bid farewell and they left. I remained, waiting for my phone to reach at least 50% charge and for my German colleague to meet me.

About five minutes later, the girl appeared beside me. She tapped my shoulder and I looked up.

“Excuse me,” she whispered. She was holding a small plastic flower, some sort of craft. “My mom and I just want to give you a little something.”

I stood. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“Zara, like the store,” she replied.

“And your mom’s name?”

“Judith,” she said.

“Thank you both,” were the only words I could manage. “Can I give you a hug?” I asked.

“Yes, I would love that,” she responded, and we hugged—a middle-aged Jewish Israeli woman and a 15-year-old German girl in the middle of Starbucks in the center of Bonn.

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The Train from Cologne to Bonn

To my surprise, the trains in Germany are definitely not always on time. In fact, they are often even canceled.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was returning from Cologne to Bonn after visiting an Israeli friend who lives there. He dropped me off at the station, where his adorable two-year-old son waved goodbye to both me and the trains.

I looked up at the schedule board and noticed that the fast train for which I had purchased a ticket was repeatedly delayed. So, I waited.

As I stood there, a man, about my age, in his early fifties, approached me. He stood quite close, looked straight into my eyes, and said something in German.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand German,” I replied. “Do you know English?”

“Yes, yes,” he said. “You are very brave. I admire and respect you,” he continued.

I stared at him blankly.

“The Star of David,” he said, pointing.

“Oh, okay. But brave?”

“Yes, I have never seen anyone wearing it openly here, so you are indeed brave.”

My eyes darted left and right and then right and left. I took a deep breath and said, “I debated whether to wear it or take it off during this trip. I chose to wear it. Thank you for your support.”

He then suggested I get on the local train instead of waiting for the express, which is often late. We sat near each other and chatted for the entire 40-minute ride. As it turns out, he was a well-known playwright living in Bonn. My first inclination was that he was a Christian—some sort of Evangelist since many Christians strongly support Israel. I took the risk of overstepping my boundaries and asked.

“No, I am part of the left,” he responded. I must have looked surprised, so he explained that he was part of the minority German left that had split off from the larger, anti-Israel German left around the time of the Gulf War. He knew about Israeli politics and appreciated nuance—he was an artist, after all.

As we reached Bonn, we exchanged contact information, and I put my friend living in Cologne in touch with him. Perhaps, they can collaborate on a project or just connect.

About the Author
Zimra was born in Budapest and grew up in New York City. She immigrated to Israel in 1994 and for the past two decades has worked with diverse for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Currently, she serves as a resource development expert on the Civics and Shared Education team at the Center for Educational Technology (CET) in Tel Aviv. Zimra is mother to 4 children, ages 12 to 21. Inspired by her 16-year old son Amit, a lower limb amputee, she is passionate about competitive wheelchair basketball and spends much of her free time rooting for her favorite teams. Today, she and her family are living in the Negev.
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