I as feeling great and it probably showed. I had just ridden eight kilometers into Jerusalem's city center on my bicycle, so I felt that surge of energy and joy that can come from physical exertion. I went into my favorite felafel stand near the top of Ben Yehuda Mall, where the felafel is especially deep-fried on an individual basis. There's always a crowd of people waiting to be served, but it's worth it.
So I'm standing there waiting. Two nice-looking middle-aged women are standing next to me. One of them says to me: "Hello, I sometimes see you here." Now, I'm at that age where in my eyes a middle-aged women is really a youngster. I don't recognise this particular lady, but we begin to chat. She tells me that she's from Fort Worth, Texas. She introduces her companion to me. She's from a small town in Western Australia. They've been in Israel for about a year and they love being here.
I try to sum them up. New immigrants? I wonder. Naah, they're too enthusiastic about Israel! Ordinary tourists, maybe? But ordinary tourists don't stay for a whole year. They ask me about myself. I joke a bit and ask them about themselves. "Oh we are here to help people," says the lady from Fort Worth.
Immediately I have them pegged as part of those misinformed contingents that come to help the hapless Arabs in Gaza or Judea and Samaria. They look the type--kind-hearted, concerned, middle-class Westerners. I enjoy verbal sparring with people like these--apologists for the Palestine cause. Most of them have a one-sided view of the Israel-Arab conflict and minimal knowledge of its background, and for me personally, meeting such folks is always a good opportunity to help set the record straight.
So, I prepare the stage for an interesting conversation while we wait to be served. I ask how they help people. "We give food parcels and clothes," is the smiling answer.
"Yeah, that figures," my mind registers. "Do you work for some organization?" I ask.
They hesitate. I can imagine their minds wondering who I am. Can they trust me, they ponder? Am I in the Secret Service, perhaps? Their permanent smiles freeze somewhat. I take another tack. I talk about the Arabic language and how similar it is to Hebrew. I talk about the Arab skills as stone masons and builders. I talk sincerely because I have always admired Arabic as well as the hardy …