It’s the day before Pesach (Passover) and we are all crazy busy trying to get ready. And, as usually happens right before the chag, there is no food in the house. Well, none that we can really eat at the moment.
So, when I came home from work today, we gathered the kids into the car and headed to the bakery up the street. We were calmly figuring out what to order and looking around the empty store when a huge crowd suddenly descended onto the bakery. It was a madhouse of tourists and we quickly ordered and ran out of the store. The clerk mentioned, however, as we left, that there was extra seating behind the store if we wanted to eat there.
So, we turned the corner and enjoyed the quiet location and the beautiful rolling hills of Gush Etzion for a few moments. And then, the tourists found us! They had, as well, been told to go to the tables behind the store and to enjoy their lunch there. So much for peace and quiet.
But, as so often happens in life, something that we assume will be inconvenient or annoying can, possibly, open our eyes and our hearts.
Josh started talking to one of the tourists and it turns out that they have arrived from Norway. They are part of a church group that comes every single spring and travels the country for 10 days. Our country.
Why, we asked, do you come here? Is it to see churches and to see where Jesus was? ‘No,’ he replied. ‘We come to give you support and to see what your lives are really like. We also want you to know that not everyone in Norway is like what you read about in your papers. We love Israel, support Israel and want you to know, despite what some in our country say, that you have friends in Norway.’ He mentioned, with a sad chuckle, that they were the only groups around during the Intifada in 2001, 2002…that no one else was coming, but that they still made their yearly trip.
It’s not always the same people who come. It depends on the year and the finances of the people. ‘For instance,’ he said, pointing out a family of four. ‘They had to decide this year whether to build on a garage to the house, or to bring the family to Israel. And you can see,’ he said with a twinkle in his eye, ‘what they decided.’
As I watched this group, I have to say that I felt incredibly grateful to them – even in awe – and embarrassed at the same time. These non-Jewish tourists spend their money and their time each year coming here – to our country – to experience our lives and to show their support.
I was all too happy to smile for their pictures and to have them point at our cherry-cheeked Norwegian looking children.
At the same time, I couldn’t help but marvel at their priorities, their commitment and their interest.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if every Jewish group in America were as similarly committed to Israel? And if I couldn’t get through the bakery every time that I walked in because another eager Jewish group had come to show their support to Gush Etzion on their way to Hebron?
We waved goodbye as they thanked us for our time and got ready for their bus. And then, one person came running back for that last picture of Zeli. “Smile Zeli!” we gently prodded. “These pictures are going back to your friends and supporters in Norway.”