A Light Unto the Nations: And Two Nice Ladies at a Felafel Stand
Dobrin, Ralph, Midstream
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 diligence of Arabs engaged in building construction. But the two ladies just listen politely and there's no smile on their faces now.
So, what are they doing in Israel I wonder, and with which organization are they connected? So I ask them outright. "Do you distribute food and clothes to people living in Gaza or the West Bank?"
"No!" they both blurt loudly. Then quietly, the Fort Worth lady says, "We help mostly new immigrants."
"Gotcha!" I say to myself. Obviously, they are missionaries. Not that I care. What counts for me is common decency and national loyalty of my fellow-Jewish Israelis and not whether they have two separate sets of dishes for meat and milk or whether they believe in the divinity of Jesus or whether they are agnostics.
Anyway, I say "That's interesting. So, you help new immigrants? Who else do you help?"
I can see on their faces that they are wary of me. They know about Israel's concern regarding the erosion in Jewish loyalty that missionary work might cause. The Aussie says in a low voice, "We are not missionaries. We are connected with a group that has no interest in missionary work We just love the Jewish people and want to help Israel."
"That's great," I say sincerely. "Which group are you connected with?" They tell me. It's a very pro-Zionist Christian group that takes great care not to spread the Gospel among Jews. I won't mention their name because there are people who mistakenly lump all Christians in the same missionizing mold. I have known this particular group for about twenty years now. …