uploaded : Wednesday 31st Jul 2002 at 15:39
by : Andrea Simantov
As we drove away from the hilly neighborhood of Mitzpe Nevo in the town of Maaleh Adumim, the heat was still surprisingly strong.
It was, after all, ten o’clock at night and, even for late July, there should have been a respite. Happily succumbing to my daughters’ complaints, I turned on the air-conditioner, full force. At least there was a way to cool the car. I knew that our Jerusalem apartment would be unbearably hot and the ceiling fans I so arrogantly installed the previous autumn would provide little relief.
Although I’m ordinarily hesitant about picking-up hitch-hikers, lately I’ve become more relaxed about sharing the trip with a soldier or two, especially on the longer rides which take me through back roads. So, just before we made the final turn onto the highway which would lead us back to the city, a lone soldier caught our eye and Yael said, ‘Mom, let’s take him.'
After I quickly cleared the back seat of an accumulation of beach towels, newspapers and food wrappers, he opened the door and, at the same time, asked where we were going. When we answered, ‘Jerusalem’ he hopped in and asked if we’d be passing the Central Bus Station. No problem.
But before I could completely pull out into the left-hand lane, a big, black jeep cut directly in front of my car and honked. A handsome man of about forty-five jumped out of the vehicle and came directly to my window.
“That’s my boy you’ve got there! Thank you. Really. Thanks.” He then ran to the passenger side, opened the door and, leaning in, gave his
son a powerful embrace. I was faintly aware of the mingled odors of shampoo and after shave and, for some reason, felt suddenly sad.
“Bye, Boaz. Be careful.”
Yael and I had lots to talk about and, from experience, we know that most soldiers don’t go for our garden-variety chit-chat. And yet,
after a while we did learn a thing or two about our passenger.
His father lives in Maaleh Adumim. His mom has a home in Tzur Hadassah. He has been in the army for a year-and-a-half and has a year-and-a-half to go. When eight-year-old Tehilah asked him if he’s “scared of his gun” he answered, “It’s become my best friend.” When she continued, “But I’m scared of your gun,” Boaz smiled (he’s very handsome!) and said, “That’s because you are smart. Always be scared of guns. They’re
supposed to be scary!”
We also learned that Boaz was on his way to Gaza. Not for the first time. Not for the second time. He had come to visit his father in
Maaleh Adumim for only four hours so that he could sleep in his bed and tell some jokes with his dad. He was returning for his fifth time to Gaza and didn’t expect to return alive this time. We were stunned.
“How can you talk like that?” I ask, valiantly trying not to reveal my personal horror at such an ugly-premonition being voiced by a young boy.
He said, “Everyone talks about ‘five’ being the number which you can’t pass. Even the commanders. It’s like Russian roulette. My best
friend was killed two weeks ago. Fifth shabbos in Gaza. Now it will probably be my turn.”
Yael stared out of the front windshield as I spat out familiar platitudes relating to ‘making your own mazel’; having a responsibility to your family and other loved ones; to stay alert and ‘believe in our God-in-Heaven’ and He will believe in you; how important it is to know that
we appreciate everything he is doing for us, how terrific and brave he must be.
“Really? I’m beginning to think I’m an idiot.”
The awkward silence which filled the car was less uncomfortable than the weight of Boaz’s honesty. After all, he wasn’t saying what we wanted to hear. He was turning out to be less of a poster-boy than we would have liked. He wasn’t mouthing the belief-system which I would have ascribed to him. He was, in articulating his simple fears, forcing me to explore other truths which will certainly, in time, prove very uncomfortable
should I choose to explore same.
Pulling up in front of the Israel Convention Center, across from the Central Bus Station, we waved goodbye and blah-blahed the rest of the
drill. “B’Hatzlecha!” “Nice meeting you!” “You’ll be fine!”
The door slammed shut and we couldn’t even follow-him with our eyes. Instead, both Yael and I began to howl. Real tears, meaty and fast.
Our cries, although separate in origin, blended as we shared a moment which we couldn’t define. It was, perhaps, just a release of sadness, a key to our own fears, and an outcry due to the impotence we experience as we remain mired in seemingly hopeless conflict with an inexhaustible enemy.
His name is Boaz. Boaz Ben Yosef.
Certainly he’ll come back. Five is only a number. I told him that there is nothing to worry about. I did. Wouldn’t that make it true?
Shouldn’t that make it true?
If only it were true . . . . . . .
Andrea Simantov lives with her children in Jerusalem. Originally from New York, she made aliyah in 1995. She is a beauty-consultant and free-lance writer.
JewishComment is grateful to Naomi Ragen and Imre Herzog for sending this article.