Finding the Right Fit

by

Elana Jaffe

 

Itís a blustery Saturday night in Jerusalem and it's pouring. Iím standing under the awning outside of my hostel with my bulging suitcase, waiting for the sheirut (airport shuttle) to pick me up.  Itís been raining for a couple days already and were I anywhere else, Iíd be fed up with the thunderous clouds, cold air, and wet Jerusalem stones that Iíve been slipping on. But Iím not anywhere else- Iím on the corner of Rechov Agron -- disheveled, sleep deprived, and wet, but Iím pretty satisfied. For starters, the rain is what weíve been praying for, is what we need, and that leaves us without reason to complain. Iím ending my visit to Israel to return to school in New York. As I wait for my sheirut, I try to digest all Iíve done over the past weeks: the day I spent in Shaíare Tzedek Hospital, singing to - Arab and Israeli alike- recovering from heart surgery, walks down narrow alley ways in Jerusalem with my friend Elana, conversations over Big Apple pizza on Ben Yehuda Street- and I feel a tug on my heartstrings. I know Iím leaving home and leaving the place where you most belong is never easy. So I distract myself until I hear the sheirut honking. I take my suitcase and run to meet the broad dark skinned driver, who seems oblivious to his rain soaked shirt- and hand him my luggage, which is quickly shoved into the van. He rushes me to get inside the van because weíre holding up traffic and I sit behind two seminary girls.  ďThe van tonight is full, eh, so one seat for a person, ok?Ē

The driver continues to the next stop. A young guy, about my age, clad in black hat, white shirt, black pants, and paot seats himself next to the driver. Following him, an Israeli couple, reeking of cigarettes, squeeze themselves next to me. Empty seats are disappearing, the trunk is tight with luggage, but the driver seems undaunted. We pick up two more American students; a recent oleh [immigrant]; a middle aged Israeli woman who crowds into the last open seat in the van. The driver begins to push luggage under our feet and in between the seats and the vanís sliding door. So here we are a most unlikely congregation of Jews, with our awkward seating - legs propped up against suitcases and elbows tightly pressed into our bodies- hoping the cramped ride will soon end and that the bumpy roads will leave our luggage in tact. To our disbelief, the van stops again. An old religious couple appears with a tremendous number of suitcases and incredulous expressions as to where they will sit. The driver seems unaffected by what is to the rest of us to be an insurmountable problem. He climbs out of his seat, shifts luggage here and there, asks someone to sit on top of the suitcases he has piled and tells the couple to climb right in. And so they do. Slightly uncomfortable at first, but someway, somehow, it works. We all fit.

I look around to survey where I am and it hits me- where else would this motley crew assemble? Here is the answer and here is what I like most about Israel: Despite everything- whether secular or religious, left-wing or right-wing, native or immigrant, American or French, young or old, Likud, Labor or another of Israelís many political options- we are all home, maybe for a visit, maybe for good. Sitting together right now proves that ďOd lo avdah tikvatenuĒ- our hope is not yet lost, and we will return to Israel even in tumultuous times, because you donít abandon your home and you take care of family. And so we sit in the van, quietly and take the lesson our sheirut offers, realizing that despite how different we may be, how seemingly implausible such a gathering is, we, because we all want to be at home, somehow make it work.