The Compassionate Face of Israel

Contrary to what we see in the media about Israel, here is compassion, love, and acceptance.

An illustrative photo of children playing at the park.

Just the other day I went with a friend and her little adopted African boy to the playground across the street from my home. Her son is rambunctious, adorable, connected to his mother, and very lively. His large eyes lit up when he saw the colorful playground, recently renovated with soft padding on the ground to absorb the shock of the inevitable fall. Jumping up and down, he took off his shoes and scampered up the slide with big grin on his face.

There were other children there. I noticed a family with two girls and a boy, and another family with two little boys. Our little friend is three—agile and excited. Though he didn’t pay very much attention to the others, they certainly noticed him. It is not common to see a very dark little boy with a fair mother and another older woman with him.

Presently, as is the custom here in Israel, the children approached our little boy and offered him some apple. He took a slice and then politely and quietly said, “Thank you” as he gobbled it down. He then asked his mother to tell them that he wanted another slice, and she wisely said that he would probably be offered another if he played with the kids. He was shy and did not, so continued to play alone, every now and then returning to his mother to ground himself.

Within a few minutes, he said he was hungry and wanted pizza. Smiling, his Mom said that there were no pizza places in sight, but that soon they would stop somewhere and get a slice.

An older man came into the park and wanted to speak with him. Asking us if he understood Hebrew and told he did not, he switched to English, speaking to him gently and sweetly.

We enjoyed the warm sun and cool breeze for a few minutes, when suddenly the mother of the two girls and a boy approached us and wondered if he would be interested in having a slice of pizza, and sitting with them on the grass. We were astounded! Certainly, she hadn’t heard his quietly voiced request, being situated on the far end of the park. We laughed and asked our little friend if he would like a pizza, and that the nice lady with her children had invited him. He was shocked and he grinned and said that, indeed, he did! They invited him to sit with them but he preferred to dance around, eating his slice and smiling.

Small things matter a lot

We have an expression in Hebrew, which is “kal vachomer.” Loosely translated it means, if the little things are so, then how much more the big things are so, as well. Or, as Yeshua said, “If God so clothes the grass that withers, won’t He also clothe you?”

This rhetorical question has several intents. We often forget how many blessings come our way and how much God cares for every detail of our lives. He gave this sweet little boy a slice of pizza, in a supernatural/natural way. It was an encouragement for both adults, who struggle as adults do, with weightier issues than pizza.

It was time to go and I found myself walking out of the park with the generous woman and her children. She lives nearby and she asked me if my friends were local. If they were, she said, they could set up a time to get together.

This was a matter of fact and obvious, to her. It was less so to me. However, as I pondered the extraordinary encounter in the park, I was heartened. This attitude is not unusual here. This is a country where, if you can’t find your kids, you can be fairly sure they are at someone’s house, eating schnitzel. When it’s bath time, any child under eight is bathed, and when there is food brought to the park, it is shared.

When there is a stranger, he is welcomed and when there is someone lonely, they don’t have to be, because they are included.

We have been bombarded by negative media images and rhetoric. What I saw that day in the park was a lovely truth. I saw the compassion evident in the population. I saw a very typical example of love and acceptance. This is Israel. This is my home.

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, October 14, 2015.