Last week, I was driving through the machsom, or checkpoint, between Beitar Illit and Tzur Hadassah. When I say ‘driving through,’ I mean that literally: I slowed for the speed bumps, waved at the soldiers on duty, and sped up to get home.
But not before noticing the driver in front of me, who had also slowed at the speed bumps. And then stopped next to the soldiers. Rolled down his window, stuck out his arm, passed his blue-coated (Israeli) identity card. And drove on a few meters to pull over at the side lane. I caught the sight of him stepping out of his car, deep blue button down shirt, neat hair, honest face.
Speeding up past him in the main lane, I was swept with a sadness. It’s unfair. It’s unfair it has to be that way. That a normal guy has to do that every time he passes through. It’s unfair that the reason is complicated. It’s unfair that there are way too many people exclusive to making it not unfair. That those people are all so different. That it mostly seems there’s no chance.
I’ve been thinking about that guy since. I’ve been doing that drive over five years and something about this guy struck me. I’ve thought about him a lot.
Yesterday, I was at Hadassah hospital for a low-key follow-up with my son. The doctor was beyond late, and everyone in the waiting area – which could be broken down to charedi, Arab, and me – was growing impatient.
More impatient than the kids, who were content to stare at each other with curiosity, were the parents. I was unwillingly pulled into a threesome of speculation with two other mothers. They didn’t hide their displeasure at the waiting period, which happened to take place in a modern first-world hospital where in the scheme of everything, the doctor was an hour and a half late.
When the patient before me went in, the other two mothers looked at me with an urgent excitement – you’re next, their stares implied. You better be ready and you better be quick.
When my predecessor came down the hall, I hustled my son to get ready, but the doctor never came to call our name; instead a nurse gestured at a mother and son in the corner. The older teenage boy was on crutches, and they passed between us to make their way into the office.
“We’re next after them,” I said, eye level to my son.
“What happened?” One of the other mothers cried. “Why aren’t you in? You’re NEXT!”
I looked up at her.
“They were first.”
“What do you mean, who?” said this mother #1. “You were after that woman before.”
“The Arabs,” said mother #2. “They went in.”
“They were first,” I said from my son’s eye level.
“Oh,” mother #1 replied to the other woman, giving her a knowing look. “They just slip right in.”
“They were before us,” I said again, standing up.
“No, YOU were next.”
“They were before any of us, and got called back in. We’ll go in soon.” I bent back down to my son’s height. His was the only company I could stand.
His, and the boy of mother #1, who was chasing after my son like a puppy, his soft, yellow payot bouncing up and down the hospital corridor.