Last December I posted a few paragraphs on my Facebook timeline about a fellow Israeli who lived down the street from me. It went like this:
“The other day I was walking along the promenade, going to work out at the gym. I saw an elderly Ethiopian man who lives just down the street from us. He’s about my age +/- 10 years; it’s hard to tell. In four years we had never exchanged greetings except for waves of hands. He is a well-groomed dapper fellow, sports an ebony walking stick, sunglasses and a white leather cap. I on the other hand am a little scruffy; the beard needs some serious trimming, and I am dressed as if my welfare benefits ran out some months ago. We started to wave as is our custom, but something changed; instinctively we both broke out in broad smiles, advanced towards one another, shook hands, exchanged “Ma nishmas?”, and wished each other “Shabbat shalom”.I immediately had a wave of emotion come over me, not from sadness or negativity, but from a sense of achdus, brotherhood: Two Israeli brothers had just exchanged greetings and good wishes for a peaceful Sabbath.Achdus Yisrael is the term used to describe the reason why one Jew can truly love another "as yourself," because in essence, they are one”.
A week ago, my wife Yosefa and I moved down the block into a new apartment, and at Yom Kippur services I saw my old Ethiopian friend. After services we exchanged greetings and it turned out that we now live in the same building. The exchange was indeed a warm one.
While waiting in the lobby for the elevator we were joined by a young man who also happened to be a fellow congregant and fellow apartment building resident. By his blue eye color, fair complexion and general appearance this man probably emigrated from the former Soviet Union. The small elevator arrived immediately. We got on together. The two men, old neighbors, but new immigrants from very different parts of the world faced each other and hugged. And with a mutual blessing they wished that each other be inscribed in the Book for a Good Life. There was no question in my mind about our mutual brotherhood, and that “Am Yisrael Chai” – the nation of Israel lives and is a gift from God.