This happens. Serendipitously. In this vast world, you bump into someone, unexpectedly. The timing is so perfect that you know, if you had arranged the meeting, it would not be as exactly on time. Sometimes I feel like a chess piece, being moved in a certain direction just so I will meet someone I know, precisely at a particular time and place. Here’s what I mean!
You walk, on the streets, anywhere in the world, and suddenly, in a flash of confusion, there is someone you know, from somewhere else.
Let me say that for reasons unknown, it seems to happen more in Jerusalem than in other places.. I don’t know why. Sure we’re probably all Jewish English speakers. But so are all my friends and acquaintances at home in West Orange, New Jersey. Yet, I hardly ever bump into someone I know, even in the Shop-Rite, a short drive from home. Does this happen to you? I’m betting that it does.
And so it was with Liat, a beautiful young woman from West Orange, who I bumped into twice in recent years, in Jerusalem, not in West Orange. We’re more than fifty years apart in age so it wasn’t as if we were socializing at the same party. It was, each time, completely unexpected, a delightful surprise, but surprise indeed! Just a few days ago my husband and I were eating a delicious meal in the Mahane Yehuda Shuk. We were at a small outdoor place on a quiet corner but we were there because we had heard that the food was exceptional, which it was. Sitting there, inhaling and imbibing, and raving about the outstanding sweet and sour meat borscht, like my mother used to make, I glanced up and there was Liat. Just like that! She was giving a foodie tour to some tourists. Olam katan! Small world.
We met Liat a day or two before she announced her engagement. Her fiance Reuven is a mighty lucky guy! And, on this esteemed forum, I want to wish them both a hearty Mazal Tov.
And just a bit further into serendipity, Reuven is a former room-mate of our grandson in Jerusalem, Josh. Is all this even possible?
But that was not the only surprise meeting we had with Liat. A couple of years earlier we were celebrating a New Year at a Jerusalem synagogue which was packed for Rosh Hashana. Standing a few rows in front of me, there was Liat, in a sanctuary packed with unfamiliar faces. The words and melodies were sacred and familiar but seeing Liat there was totally, as they say, out of sync! And very special.
Meetings in shul are usually unlikely in far-flung places. Like Krakow for instance. I read my husband’s lips as he peeked into the women’s section and mouthed, Connie is here. Connie has been a friend of my sister for many many years and we know her well. To meet her in the synagogue which was packed with a touring Israeli youth group, was extraordinary! And then to be invited to the tiny home she shares with her husband, a renowned British historian, for cholent was simply unprecedented. Their other guest was a Jewish author, a life-long resident of Krakow who filled the afternoon with fascinating stories about his life.
Back to Jeruisalem, a few days after we met Liat at the shuk, we were strolling on the famous Emek Refaim when we bumped into Jean. These meetings have become so common that it feels dishonest to label them as serendipitous. Jean and Richard, her husband, a long and committed philanthropist who has spent his life supporting worthy Jewish causes, now live in Jerusalem, where they followed their two sons who’ve provided them with loads of grandchildren and do more than their share to earn the title Yerushalmi, Jerusalemite. Both young men did army service and are a tremendous source of pride to the community we lived in and a shul known as Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah in Clark, New Jersey.
Jean is an energetic walker and we have accidentally crossed paths with her three times in the past year. I kid you not. Three times in a large urban city where we are mere visitors. How is that even possible?
But, as we left Jean, marveling at the coincidences, and literally less than a minute later, Amos greeted us with a cheery hello. Amos is a young adult nephew of one of our daughters and for sure he’ll be famous one day as he pursues the American dream (or is it an Israeli dream?) of founding a start-up company with his training from the University of Chicago. We wound up crossing the street at the corner of Emek Refaim and Rehov Rachel Imeinu simultaneously with Amos, whom we’ve hosted in New Jersey and have known since his childhood. But, this was an unplanned and very pleasant surprise. A few days later we broke matzah together at a Baka family Seder. That was no surprise.
And then let me tell you about Ira. We met Ira a few years ago on a plane heading towards Israel. He and his family had been living in Jerusalem for many years and he is, among many other things, a talented Shakespeare lover who acts and does many other theater production activities. Jerusalem is known for the extraordinary talent of its Anglo ex-pats, of which Ira is a leading star. Of course, sitting on the original plane-ride where I had the aisle and Ira the window, we barely acknowledged one another as I argued my way across the ocean and continents with a fierce Trumpist who sat between us. It wasn’t until the final few minutes of flight that Ira and we discovered a common acquaintance, our daughter, who could write this blog with a blindfold since this is something that often happens to her. So, Ira and I exchanged Facebook invitations and went our separate ways. Until last night! We were out on Rehov Betzalel sharing a birthday dinner when Ira passed by and recognized everyone else at our table. And then he realized he knew us as well. Unlikely, yes. But maybe less unlikely in Jerusalem.
As I write these anecdotes I realize that I’ve got many more similar tales to share. And I’ll bet so do you. I’ll write more soon. Feel free to send me your stories of unexpected meetings. In an insane world with horrors of war, disease and political insanity, it’s nice to have some fun so feel free to tell me who you’ve met in the street, at email@example.com