Monday, August 08, 2005

Letter to a Lady on the Bus

by Brenda Sales
Aug 07, '05 / 2 Av 5765

This is a letter to the lady I saw on the number 32 bus today. You caught my attention when you boarded the bus and complimented the bus driver for hanging up a blue ribbon on his window.

You said, "Finally. It's about time. I'm sick of seeing all those crazies with the orange all over the place."

You sat down and didn't notice me across from you, in my orange shirt and orange bracelet. An old man struggled with a stick he was carrying and sat across from you. Next to the knapsack you laid on the seat.

"Idiot!" you screamed out. "Can't you look where you are going?"

The man tried to apologize and shifted the stick on his lap so that you could have better access to the bags on the seats around you.

"You are no better than those settlers, who don't care about anyone," you continued to scream. You then began to speak to anyone who would listen. "Did you read about those kids who are so bored and spoiled that they have nothing to do but sneak into Gush Katif and make it hard for the rest of us?"

I want to tell you about one of those kids. My son is there now.

You are repeating what the rest of us read in the newspaper. About the kids who set up in the tent city and are scrounging around for food, waiting for the military.

My son was not bored, ma'am. He was scheduled to take a paramedic course at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel with his friends. He was scheduled for a counselor's course for his youth group, Ezra, something he had been looking forward to all year. He opted to cancel both courses. Instead, he spent three days in Kfar Maimon, taking part in a historic and poignant moment in the struggle over the Gaza-Samaria expulsion plan.

He left Kfar Maimon and walked for eleven hours through the desert in the heat of the day in order to avoid being detected by the army. Twice, he was caught and sent back, all the way to Netivot. Exhausted and hungry - it was late at night - he set out for the third time to Gush Katif. He finally made it, in spite of the fact that helicopters were circling overhead and 20,000 soldiers were stationed to block the entrance of anyone who wanted to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Gush Katif, who are slated for expulsion the day after Tisha B'Av.

Yehuda called me with great joy, "Ima, with G-d's help, I made it." This is a boy who is neither bored nor spoiled. He is opting to sleep in a sleeping bag and eat where he can in order to protest the disaster that is about to fall on the People of Israel.

His feeling is that if one part of the people of Israel suffers, then the rest of the nation has to find a cure. He can't sit in an air-conditioned room when someone else is going to lose their home. "Spoiled," you say.

This is a boy who came home in fifth grade from the Old City of Jerusalem, where he was learning, and told me in tears that he helped an old Arab man with his packages. "They were so heavy, Ima," he told me. "What if he was a terrorist? I didn't know what to do. He was an old man and he needed help." This is a boy who walked all over the city in pouring rain to get to a ceremony for Raoul Wallenberg, and this is a boy who collects money for Jonathan Pollard.

He is not looking for "action". He wants only to show how much he loves this country. How could it be, he once said to us at the Shabbat table, that we don't cry when we hear about Kassam rockets falling on Jewish towns? How could we not?

Of course, I worry about him. This is a far cry from the summer camps of America to which we used to send our older kids. I don't want him to live under the conditions he is in Gaza, and I can't sleep worrying about the trauma that lies ahead. Yet, I know that my son really understands what the saying of our sages means, "In a place where there are no men, try to be a man." If he can cry for people losing their homes, then my fifteen-year-old is a real man.

The young people who have joined the stronghold of Gush Katif should be admired. We should be proud of them for deciding to join the struggle for Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). We can only pray that the painful times ahead will not hurt them, but will strengthen them. We have to pray that the scars they will carry will heal and that they will know that they joined Caleb and Joshua in their love for our country and our people.

Each and every adult has the obligation to protest, to cry and to storm the gates of Heaven. No one in this country will ever be the same again. Our lives have changed in some way, even for those who have done nothing but criticize those who have done something. We will always remember where we were in the month of Av in this very painful year.

Ma'am, your words reverberate in my mind. You spoke of the "crazy settlers" - and I can think only of Jeremiah in the scroll of Eicha (Lamentations 3:48): "My eyes shed torrents of water over the destruction of the daughter of my people."

May we merit positive news.


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