Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ten Li HaKippa Shnia

[lit: Give me the kippa (for) a second.]
UPDATE: I thought I'd posted the second story before, but I couldn't find it when I searched for it. SoccerDad said I definitely had, though, so I gave it another look - here it is. It's more detailed (and better written) there.
WestBankMama has asked people to submit some of their "Only in Israel" stories, and - having spent two years there hitching at least a few times a week - I have plenty of good ones. Here are a couple of my favorites... and they happened within a couple days of one another.

During my second year in Israel, I was in a yeshiva that was just up the block from my charedi cousin who has seven children. (The oldest is getting married this Sunday!! And I'm missing it... :( ) I used to go over there quite a bit, and I was there the day the two older girls were getting a large new desk in their room. A couple of secular-looking Sephardi men were delivering the desk, which was huge and heavy (thankfully they lived just half a flight up), and putting the top on the desk in the room. My cousin's daughter, who was probably about 16, offered the men drinks - one was in the room, the other in the bathroom. The man in the room gave her a heartfelt thank you and drank the water before returning outside; she waited near the bathroom with another cup for the other man to come out. When he came out, he washed his hands, motioned to my head for my kippa, took it from my head, put it on his own, and started saying asher yatzar with more kavanah (lit: intention; concentration/intensity) than I'd seen most people do in a long, long time. He then took the proferred cup, said a shehakol, and handed back the kippa as he was taking his first sip. As he left, I gave my cousin a look like "Wow, that was cool!" She smiled, shrugged, and said, "A lot of them are like that!"

Later that week, I was waiting in the rain [yay, rain!] for a hitch (or tremp in Israel) from Jerusalem to the Shoresh/Beit Meir stop on the highway. After a few minutes, a nice sporty car pulled up, driven by a mid-20's, handsome, well-dressed Tel Aviv-style businessman, with the longish slicked hair and complete with a Bluetooth in his ear. He said he was going to Tel Aviv; two secular punk teens asked if he could drop them at Latrun - no problem. A charedi Israeli-American asked about being dropped somewhere else - no problem. I asked about Beit Meir, and he wasn't sure if he was passing it (most people aren't familiar with the stop, which you have to pass to get anywhere but Mevaseret), but the secular kids explained better than I could that not only was he going right there, but it's the easiest place to drop a hitchhiker. We start driving, when suddenly the two secular kids (one Ethiopian, wearing a hooded sweatshirt like mine, the other white/ashkenaz) start badgering the driver:
"Nu, we need to say tefillat HaDerech!!"
While the other religious guy and I felt a little dumbfounded that the secular kids were the ones to think of it, the driver agreed and flipped down his visor for his tefillas haderech (many people keep a small copy of it in their cars behind the glare visors). Much to his surprise, it wasn't there, but the other two were persistent:
"Do you know it ba'al peh? (by heart) Surely you do..." [Ez: I sort of do, but I always feel like I'm skipping a word or two.]
The driver responded in the affirmative, but before he started, the two teens needed something - the Ethiopian quickly put on his hood, while the other - realizing the sweatshirt he was wearing didn't have one - asked me to put mine on so he could borrow my yarmulke. Meanwhile, the driver pulled a kippa right out of his pocket, put it on, and then began. As he would say each few words, the teens would repeat them loudly after him - with intensity - and they did so until he finished. Upon finishing, they handed back the kippa, thanked me and the driver, and stuck their headphones in their ears until my stop, where they showed the driver where the pull-off was.

Only in Israel.


  1. That reminded me of a story a friend of the family told us recently.

    One time he was in Israel and saw a street gang of eight Sephardi toughs, "really rough looking" in his words.

    They went into a store and every single one of them paused to kiss the mezzuzah when they went in.

  2. Reading your stories really makes me want to be there.

  3. EZZIE: You know all those people were sfardi! I think you should mention that.

  4. Ezzie, you blogged the tefilat haderech story before.

  5. Avrom - I just saw something like that!

    Shoshana - Me too... :/

    DGEsq - Actually, only the first one was. The others weren't!

    SD - I thought so, but I can't find it! I even almost wrote that, but I thought "Na, I must have just put it as a comment once..."

  6. "One time he was in Israel and saw a street gang of eight Sephardi toughs, "really rough looking" in his words.

    They went into a store and every single one of them paused to kiss the mezzuzah when they went in."

    There's more than one way to look at this stuff. How do you think Catholics feel about movie mobsters crossing themselves? Many of these "Sephardi toughs" (there are plenty of ashekenazi criminals in Israel too) are involved in violent crime, and honestly the fact that they kissed the mezuzah doesn't really give me that warm and fuzzy feeling which some of you seem to get.

    The other stories about seemingly secular people who still have a religious connection are nice, though.

  7. Plony - I hear your point, but I still like it. As long as they're not excusing their actions with religion, any connection is a good thing, and hopefully one which will eventually get them to stop doing what they're doing.

  8. Ploney--
    He said they were really rough looking, but that doesn't mean they were criminals.

  9. Our family friend saw it as remarkable because many frum Ashkenazim are not that vigilant in kissing mezzuzahs.

    A similar thing happened to me the other day. Here in Toronto, we have a chain of variety stores (7-11 like) called Mac's. At the local Mac's I saw a Sephardi lady leaving and kissing the mezzuzah. Up until that point, I didn't even notice they had a mezzuzah! Which come to think of it, is a little odd since the owners are not Jewish (as far as I know).

  10. i refer people to my "israel for the chagim" post: