Allen and I just spent two heavenly weeks in the Canadian Rockies. The scale of the place is the best argument you can throw at an atheist. It is almost impossible to be dwarfed by these gargantuan peaks, and not believe in a Creator. The mountains looked as though a giant hand pinched the land into peaks, the way we pinch an I-phone screen to change the dimension. The scenery is just breathtaking – the colors, the waterfalls, the wildlife. And the fragrance – took me right back to my Grandpa’s sukkah with its pine schach. Mmmm. (I kept looking for pine needles in my soup.)

Only July and August are hospitable enough in terms of weather to attract tourists in droves. The days were sunny and warm; the evenings were breezy and mild. Everywhere we went we saw busloads of Asian visitors, mostly Japanese. So much so that the vendors put out bi-lingual signs in English and Japanese. But the other large group we saw were Israelis.

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There is always a thrill of recognition when you hear Hebrew somewhere in the crowd. You crane your neck and try to identify the speakers. We have been fortunate to travel a great deal during our 44-year marriage, and we invariably run across Israeli tourists. I am not sure why this is so. I have heard it suggested that because life in Israel is so fraught, Israelis treat every moment as precious, and will even go into overdraft in order to grab moments of pleasure – like world travel. Eat, drink and travel, for who knows what tomorrow will bring.

I was sitting on a bench one Friday, staring at the unearthly turquoise color of Lake Louise, when I heard, “Rehgah – ani ba’ah,” “Just a minute, I’m coming.” I sat quietly for a while, eavesdropping, and after a few moments, I said, “Shabbat shalom lekulam.” “Good Shabbes to everyone.” The group I addressed broke out into huge smiles and started chattering at me. One lady stayed on and spoke to me for about ten minutes while her husband stood by, tapping his foot. By the end of the conversation we were exchanging email addresses and invitations. As they walked back to their bus, the silent husband turned back to me and said, “It’s always exciting to meet other Jews.”

He had looked thoroughly bored and maybe even a little impatient while I was talking to his wife, so it was nice to hear that his muted demeanor did not reflect his thinking. It was delightful to know that he was feeling the same “sympatico vibe” I was.

This encounter was a little different from the time we ran into Israelis in Aruba. There, an entire hotel swimming pool emptied out in an instant when a mother screeched, “Joey! Lo laasot ka-ka ba’brecha!” (“Joey, no making poop in the pool!”) All the swimmers, Israeli or not, seemed to understand the Hebrew in that one short sentence.

There is a frisson of familial recognition when you are in a far-flung corner of the globe and you come across a “landsman.” Because Israelis seem to be everywhere, it makes our huge, cold planet a little smaller and a lot warmer.
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