Backing out of an Israeli parking lot, like the December sunshine surrounding me as I write, like many other things about living in Israel, doesn’t make sense. Only in Israel does a shopping center that includes a café, pharmacy and supermarket have a parking lot with only 10 parking spaces and only one narrow opening awkwardly angled onto a busy main street. There I was, trying not to back into the car trying to push its way into the parking space that I had not yet vacated, with that familiar feeling of claustrophobic desperation: I’ll never get out of here.
I had only ventured into the wilds of the Tel Aviv Shabbat traffic jungle in order to get my daughter’s medicine at the pharmacy – another only in Israel situation – she is not yet in the IDF, but is participating in a course and comes home only for Shabbat. Everything was fine until she fell sick, could not see a military doctor because she is a civilian, and the only appointment that could be arranged for her on Friday was two towns away in Bat Yam. It was the last appointment of the day, which left me to fill the prescription on a Saturday morning, and to contend with the congested café traffic, muttering to myself: only in Israel.
Suddenly, there he was, in my rear view mirror. Middle aged, with a dark beard and kippah, holding a blue velvet tallit bag in one hand and with the other, gesturing to me in universal car speak – it’s all right, you have room, you can back out.
I had been to the pharmacy, but my knight with the blue tallit bag had no way of knowing that. For all he knew, I could have just stopped by the café for a cappuccino, on my way to a day replete with secular pleasures.
This Saturday morning, in the warm December sunshine of Tel Aviv, a man in a kippah and a white shirt, holding a blue velvet tallit bag, stepped out into the middle of the street and stopped traffic for me so that I could back out of a parking lot. I think this is one of those moments Hillel had in mind when he said, “Love your neighbor as you would yourself. The rest is commentary.” Only in Israel.