According to tradition, the Holy Temple, the destruction of which we mourned
intensively this week on the anniversary of its destruction, Tisha Be’av, was
lost to us because of literally unbridled hate. A seminal story records an
incorrectly delivered party invitation, a host who humiliated the mistakenly
invited guest and leadership who sat silent while the guest was humiliated. This
wasn’t an ideological dispute, but a question of basic niceness.
doesn’t get much press. Hence, I want to pass along a few examples of exemplary
behavior in everyday life.
The first comes from a letter from reader Leah
Hakimian, who was kind enough to pass along her personal story: “In honor of our
50th wedding anniversary, my husband and I spent Shabbat with our children and
grandchildren at an Israeli resort hotel.
Our oldest grandson, a soldier,
arrived at the last minute with a duffel bag full of dirty clothes. We had
organized the trip well, but hadn’t thought about having to find a laundromat
We weren’t at home, so we didn’t know what to do other than
to ask at the hotel for information.
We called the hotel reception, and
spoke with Mrs. L. She asked if the clothes were for a soldier, and I told her
that they were. ‘Then I insist on taking them to my own home and washing them
myself,’ she said.
“Of course, we resisted. But she insisted. And so we
brought her the clothes. We asked her to accept payment for this wonderful
service, but she refused. ‘It’s my way of helping the state. My son will be a
soldier next year, I just want to help.’ The next day, when we picked up the
clothes, they were beautifully laundered and folded. She had done a perfect job
and she still wouldn’t accept any compensation from us. We salute you, Mrs.
THE SECOND story reflects the initiative of a busy Jerusalem working
mother, who was inspired by Mayor Nir Barkat’s call to enhance the
While the Hakimian family was out at its resort, my husband and I
were invited as “locals” to join young people making Shabbat dinner at Beit
Yehudit (formerly the International Cultural Center for Youth) on Rehov Emek
Refaim. We joined 135 young people, 25-35, under the auspices of a new
initiative called Jerusalem Challenge.
The idea is to bring together the
many young adults who arrive in Jerusalem in the summer, and to emphasize the
excellent services and programs available in the city.
The good person
behind the dinner was Lisa Barkan, a marketing executive and mother of two.
Exceptionally outgoing, Barkan and her husband Jeremy, who made aliya from the
US 23 years ago, had made a practice of inviting young visitors and newcomers
they met on the street in the German Colony to Shabbat dinner, but that wasn’t
“I was surprised at how many didn’t have plans for Shabbat, and I
knew that as much as they were glad to meet us, young people would be even
happier to meet each other,” said Barkan.
So two weeks ago she organized
a communal dinner, found someone to subsidize it and charged NIS 50 a plate. She
advertised with flyers and through social media on the
“Frankly,” she said. “I was astonished how fast we sold
Jerusalem Challenge is a project of community centers Ginot Ha’ir
and Beit Yehudit, Lev Ha’ir and the Jerusalem Center for Young Adults, but
Barkan brought on board Nefesh B’Nefesh, ROI, Livnot U’Lehibanot, SPNI, Pardes,
Presentense, Merkaz Hamagshimim-Hadassah, Volunteer Jerusalem, Hitorerut,
Ma’agalei Tzedek, Ruah Hadasha, Mahanayim, Michael Levin Center for Lone
Soldiers, Beit Morasha, Moishe House, Jewlicious blog and the Answers.com Web
site – in itself an impressive act of pulling together. Participants received a
list of welcoming nearby synagogues of different denominations, but no one was
coerced to go. A listing for Shabbat day also included yoga and a historical
walking tour of Rehavia.
Young Jewish adults from Israel and abroad found
seats at long tables where ice-breaker games of dominoes and pick-up
plus Shabbat songbooks with transliteration, were spread out on white
tablecloths. The two young men sitting to my right were brothers from
Australia – first trip to Israel. Back at home, they rarely had a
dinner, and they were delighted to take part in one. They were
an immigrant from Boston, a social worker, who had made aliya three days
Across from me was a married couple, sabra plus one-year
immigrant, pregnant with their first child. Next to my husband was a
couple that was simply interested in meeting people – they’d picked up
the flyers. About a third of the diners were sabras.
It was sort of an
old-fashioned mixer around a Shabbat table, with good wine, light Torah
good and plentiful kosher food. Pardes rabbi David Levin-Kruss’s talk
the challenge in the wilderness of our biblical foreparents working
being together, and how important finding common ground is. Afterward,
people stayed around to play games, and – most important – for what
called networking and what we used to call schmoozing. Soldiers,
immigrants, sabras sitting around tables, not sending e-mail messages
phone or computer screen, making friends without the suggestions of
They seemed to get along just fine.
Doing a soldier’s laundry, planning a
dinner for 100-plus young people to mix and feel at home in Jerusalem –
aren’t earthshaking activities, just small acts of kindness. Anyone who
lived here for a while knows that there are abundant acts of kindness
unnoticed. Even plain folks like us can do them if we take the time and
Let’s remember: Unbridled hate brings down Temples. Unbridled
love summons the divine presence.
The author is a Jerusalem writer who
concentrates on the wondrous stories of modern Israel and its people.