A few weeks ago, my car was sideswiped by a very large truck on the highway leading from Efrat to Jerusalem, which left long scratches on the chassis. Since it happened just before a traffic light, I was lucky to get a shot of the license plate and I noted the hour and the date.
A few days later I went to the small police station in our town of Efrat to put in a police report, but it was locked and no one responded to my knocking. I photographed the sign on the door together with my watch so they could see I was there during reception hours and sent it to the policewoman, whose cell number I got from a friend who works in the municipality (It’s who you know), noting in a text message that no one was there.
She sent back a voice message in which she said, “Hi mammi (short “a”). Yes, there was an irregular event [in the area]. You need to go to the regional police station [not our local one] and give in your report there.”
I was, inexplicably, moved by her using a term of endearment — “mammi” (short “a”) — when leaving me a message — this policewoman who didn’t even know me. In America I guess the (politically incorrect) equivalent would be to have a policewoman call you “Honey.”
It reminded me of the “Pina Chama” (“Warm Corner”), the small prefab building, at the Gush Etzion crossroads, where volunteers — mostly women — give out drinks and cakes to soldiers on duty nearby. When I volunteered there once, and a soldier called me “Doda” (“Auntie”), I was surprised and thought it was sweet. One of the other volunteers said, “Oh, they call all of us ‘Doda.’” I don’t know what they call the men. Uncle, I guess?
“Overheard at the tumultuous judicial demonstrations: A protester on one side of the debate says to a friend on the opposite side: ‘If you’re leaving now, could I please borrow your flag?’”
Wave the Flag
To Americans who have lived through eras of demonstrations and riots that brought with them the burning of the American flag, it may come as a surprise that during the recent demonstrations for and against the judicial reforms in Israel, both sides came out with thousands of Israeli flags, each claiming the flag was representing them. Barbara Sofer, a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, wrote a column before Independence Day, “75 Reasons I Love Israel.” She does this every year (last year it was 74 Reasons, etc.), and I am amazed how she always comes up with new things. One of her reasons this year was: “Overheard at the tumultuous judicial demonstrations: A protester on one side of the debate says to a friend on the opposite side: ‘If you’re leaving now, could I please borrow your flag?’”
On a more somber, but inspirational note, after the wife and two daughters of Rabbi Leo Dee were murdered, he asked everyone to post photos of Israeli flags. Our Facebook and WhatsApp pages and messages filled with Israeli flags. Am Yisrael Chai.
Sharing an iconic lyric
These words from Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva” — “To be a free people in our land” (“L’hiyot am hofshi b’artzeinu”) — have been both a response and a battle cry on more than one occasion. In 2019, after the horrific and brutal rape and murder of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher by an Arab terrorist in a forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where she went for a walk, our Raise Your Spirits Theatre troupe was performing a revival of our biblical musical on Deborah, called “Judge.” One night the girls and women showed up with a large banner on which they had written that verse in response to Ori’s murder. The whole cast photographed themselves holding up the banner on the backdrop of the audience. Ori was from Tekoa, a community in Gush Etzion, and it was in the Gush Etzion theater hall that we were performing. Similar banners were making the rounds of communities throughout Israel.
At recent demonstrations against judicial reform (not in any way oppositional to the banner in response to terror), those same words appeared on large banners hanging from bridges in Israel and on signs. Frankly, I didn’t know which side it was trying to represent until I saw who had posted the photos and I knew which side they supported. (But perhaps, like with the flag, both sides were hanging those banners.)
Whether you are responding to a terror attack, to judicial reform (on either side) or to any other crisis, we will continue to declare ourselves a free people in our land.
The message was clear. Whether you are responding to a terror attack, to judicial reform (on either side) or to any other crisis, we will continue to declare ourselves a free people in our land.
A message from Waze
Last week I needed to make a shiva call to a friend in Kiryat Arba. I have often admired the way that one can learn history in Israel from the street signs, which are usually arranged according to similar time periods or themes, for example, one neighborhood will have streets with the names of the prophets, another will have streets with the names of early Zionist leaders, etc. In Kiryat Arba, I reached a corner where Waze (an app invented by Israelis) told me, “Take a right at Yoni Netanyahu and a left at Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook.” It gave me a bit of a shiver. The heroic officer who led (and fell in) the Entebbe raid in 1976, and the son of the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine, Abraham Isaac Kook. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda was a talmid chacham (wise scholar) in his own right; I actually had the privilege of attending his classes.
So there you have it. A road named for a military hero leading into a road named for a Torah hero. One defended freedom. The other taught about its significance in our holy land.
As I was completing the writing of this column, I stopped by our local Bagel Café for a takeout latte (“café hafuch” to my fellow Israelis). A policewoman came in to pick up a bite to eat. I heard her call the counterperson “Mammi” and knew where I had heard that voice before — in her WhatsApp voice message. “Hey, I know who you are,” I said. “You sent me a message last week and also called me ‘Mammi.’” She laughed and asked if it worked out with the police report. I said it did. I told her I’d be mentioning her in a column I was writing. She agreed to take a selfie with me.
And gave me a kiss on the cheek.
Welcome to Israel.
Toby Klein Greenwald is an award-winning journalist and theater director and the editor-in-chief of WholeFamily.com