This story could happen anywhere but usually doesn’t. The first part is about coincidence, a dime a dozen in this tiny country where size does make a difference, and the second about something a lot bigger and distinctly characteristic of life in Israel.
It started with a text message from my son. He was somewhere down South on one of those mysterious bases I’ve heard about but will never see.
"Hi babe!" I love getting any texts at all from my two soldier sons, even if they’re as short as one word.
"That guy that bought our bikes."
"Do you remember that guy that bought our bikes?" He was probably rolling his eyes; why did mothers always need things spelled out?
I searched through the deepest recesses of my mind. Bikes. All of the bikes were parked in our garage. Some guy? Hmmm. I couldn't figure out what he was talking about but feared this admission would cause him to abruptly drop this so-called 'conversation.' That's what they do these days: a run of texts and then, just, nothing: air.
There was a flash of recognition, albeit partial. "Your bikes from back when you were little?"
"I don't remember his name."
There was no answer. Uh oh. Again, the threat of losing even this tenuous connection loomed large. I was going to have to work a little harder. I dug deeper, frustrated by how difficult it is to remember details these days.
I started to flip through my phone's address book, trying to find a trigger, something that would help me retrieve the kernel of information I sought. Simple enough! I typed in the word 'bike.' There were several entries (we’re a biking kind of family) and one seemed familiar.
I typed a quick text to my son: "Kobi?"
There was a long pause. It had taken too long. He was already off line. I waited a little bit longer eager to tell him I’d found the golden ticket.
And from there, with an exchange of short texts, came the details behind an amazing coincidence.
My son N. was one of a group of young soldiers (considered old-timers as they are all nearing the end of their three years of mandatory service) that spent a week in March running the try-outs for the elite recon unit within their brigade; the very same grueling try-outs they themselves had undergone almost three years back. They were the guys with the clipboards noting down how well the newbies handled crawling through sand, climbing ropes, hanging off monkey bars and what-have-you. Supervising this whole process and eventually making the final selections, on the recommendation of N. and his team, were a few reserve soldiers, mostly middle-aged men fulfilling their annual duty.
One of these older men heard my son’s surname. It rang a bell.
“Is your mom’s name Caroline?”
My son was very surprised by the coincidence but was absolutely floored when Kobi showed him a photograph of his daughter riding a bike (innocent enough, right?) that turned out to be, drumroll…..N.’s bike!
Well, as I said at the start, coincidences happen anywhere. Nevertheless, this one was a pretty far stretch. I am still in wonder of Kobi’s ability to put it together based on such a tenuous connection.
But still, stuff happens.
Pretty good story on its own, right? But I’m most amazed by part two.
About a week later, after the two had parted ways, Kobi sent me a message reminding me who he was and expressing how lovely it was to meet, and spend time with my son. The message was one of those that parents love to receive. There was a nice exchange of messages and that was that. Coincidence acknowledged, message conveyed, chapter closed.
Or so I thought. But just a few days later there was another message from Kobi. This time he wrote that he didn’t want to pry, but that he knew Noah was waiting to hear from colleges in the States and just wanted to know how it had all gone, where he would be. He was genuinely interested in the future of a young man with whom he’d spent just a handful of days and, most likely, would never meet again.
I started to text back and then, instead, gave him a call. By this time, after all, we were almost family. Our conversation stretched on for a half an hour and ended with the promise of an update as N. hit campus.
Coincidences happen everywhere, but the development of a fragile connection into a genuine concern that will no doubt lead to a future association, does not. This is precisely the kind of thing that distinctly sets Israel apart, that makes life here forever involved, intense and distinct, something for which I am eternally grateful.
Coda: I’ve made a mental note to send Kobi a picture of N., in situ, come September. After all, he’s family.