Israel Lite: Boom! Crash!

We walked single file to the kitchen to see a disaster no one wants at Pessah time - actually, not ever.

By CARMELITA LEE
April 21, 2008 15:27
4 minute read.
Israel Lite: Boom! Crash!

lady cartoon 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

I think the sound of breaking plates and a woman's cries for help were heard all over my building. I was on my hands and knees, scrubbing the floors for Pessah. I heard my neighbor Anat in the hallway, asking me through the door if I was okay. I opened my door, barefoot, hair wrapped in a bandana and dressed in baggy Bermudas and my husband's white T-shirt. But for the fashion statement, I was fine. Rina came into the hallway as well. She thought the sound came from the floor below. We summoned the elevator and climbed in. When we got out we saw a number of our neighbors congregating at the open door of a woman I had not yet met. Our Ethiopian maintenance man was there as well. The lady of the house was sobbing, cradled within the ample arms of a woman from the seventh floor. I was glad Rina was there to translate for me, although I could see for myself what had happened. "Her dishes all fell to the floor," Rina whispered to me. We walked single file to the kitchen to see a disaster no one wants at Pessah time - actually, not ever. Her kitchen cabinets had somehow come off the wall and crashed unceremoniously onto the countertops below, scratching, marring and chipping them, and because they were all joined, the cabinets on the contiguous wall were sagging precariously, their doors ajar, dropping spices, canned goods and glass jars full of good things onto the marble floor below. It was a ghastly mess. When she realized the shelf was tearing away from the wall, she had tried to save her glass dishes, only to have the shelf give way, hitting her, scraping her arms and legs, injuring her slightly. Working together and aided by our maintenance man, broken pieces of shelves were quickly loaded into a grocery cart. We had scooped up most of the broken glass and jars of jam by the time the paramedics arrived. Like family. One of the many women gathered there had quietly pointed to the Pessah plates still boxed and sitting on our neighbor's dining room table. Comments passed through the group, some of amazement that she wasn't hurt worse, and a few "Baruch hashems" for the fact it wasn't her Pessah plates that were broken. Well, there's at least that. The maintenance man had a huge squeeze bucket and a mop. In no time the floor was sparkling again. Her immediate neighbors filled the kitchen sink with sudsy water and items that were salvageable. Others cleared the countertops. Like family. Her husband was on his way home. By the time we left, she was protesting to the paramedics that she didn't want to go to the hospital. I personally agreed with her, although a number of the neighbor women were giving her the better-safe-than-sorry speech. It was a remarkable coming together of strangers. A few years back I was privileged to visit one of my former exchange students at Kibbutz Nirim. It was in the days when I was still investigating whether or not we should make aliya, and her parents had invited me to come. It was a lovely experience. Anyone who has ever lived on a kibbutz knows the challenge. I think it would be a great life, actually, but I can't see Ari giving up control of the car keys. I'm not sure I would be that willing to seek permission to do my own thing, either. I did enjoy my stay there, however, and think if we could find a bunch of crazies like ourselves, Ari and I could create a wonderful life. But it would take a special brand of crazy. While there the kibbutzniks and I engaged in a fascinating conversation about the various enclaves of Israelis, how we tend to group together with people from our own background. I mean, you know how it is, the Russians stick together, the French stick together and the Spanish stick together. It's not even French speakers or Spanish speakers, it's French, Tunisians, Moroccans; it's Argentineans, Mexicans and Chileans. It's true even among the English speakers. Don't Americans seek out Americans; South Africans do business with South Africans? In my view, I do it because I know how an American thinks, I know what they expect of me, I know what I expect of them. It's simple, like a math equation. "They stick to themselves and don't mix in," was the complaint, although these same kibbutzniks would be the first to tell you there was no kibbutznik like a Nirim kibbutznik. Throughout the conversation one man kept silent. We laughed and talked, even shouted at one another, but I got the point. Finally the gentleman spoke. He is the father of my exchange student, and a renowned colonel in the IDF. He raised his finger into the air, indicating he wanted to interject something into the conversation, and then he said, "Yes, all of this is true, but if you threaten us, we come together like one man. Like one family." All nodded their agreement. "After all, our neighbor is our last line of defense," he said. He drew a chuckle from all the men present when he said, "Besides, no one fights like a Russian. Make him an Israeli, and he's deadly. When it's the family land you're fighting for, we're all related." I went up to my apartment and finished my task. I worked my way into the kitchen and then sat down on the floor with my back against my own sturdy cabinets, admiring the gleaming room. The colonel's words came back to me as I grinned about a group of strangers coming to the aid of a neighbor. I grinned at my clean, sturdy cabinets and thought about how it is that sometimes an ordinary, uneventful day is the best blessing of all. Happy Pessah to all.


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