Life in Israel is close. We live close together. People stand close together. We park our cars close together. We are close.
Most of us live in apartments, with upstairs neighbors, downstairs neighbors, and those across the hall. The windows are often open, thus, we hear each other. We hear each other in the morning hurrying up our kids to go to school, and in the evening bringing home our shopping. We hear each other laughing and shouting.We see who goes into whose apartment, and we know who is home by the noise or silence.
Sometimes it feels like a dormitory, because we often run into and out of each other's homes, borrowing this, using that, getting or giving extra eggs, an onion, or a cup of milk.
A few days ago, I was making a cake for my daughter's birthday and my blender stopped working. The heavy cream wasn't whipping. What to do? I called a friend across the street. She wasn't home. I called another friend from my book club who is a walk away. She, too, didn't answer. A few more calls, and no one was home!
However, across the hall, the light was on and music was playing and I knew the neighbors were home. I had met them only peripherally as they had only recently moved in, and wasn't sure whether or not a I could impose upon them and ask for their blender. However, I was desperate. I had to get this cream whipped for the birthday cake.
I knocked on the door with my flat cream and broken blender in hand, and was immediately ushered into an immaculate and gleaming home. My neighbor asked me if I had a Kitchen Aid. What? No Kitchen Aid? You didn't bring it from the States? I was happy enough to have remembered all my children when we immigrated, much less a Kitchen Aid. So, no, but she was only too happy to dump my flat mixture into her mixer and we stood there and watched it. It mixed but my mixture did not form peaks. All at once, we realized that I had added the cheese first and that's why it wasn’t working. So, I got more cream, and she added a little sugar, and voilá! Perfect snowy peaks. Then, we could add the rest of the ingredients.
Thus it was that I discovered my broken blender wasn't broken at all, that I must mix the heavy cream first. But, I discovered something more. As we sat eating some cake after it had been made, drinking coffee, and laughing about my misunderstanding, I realized some things. I am always asking my English students to look at the bigger picture, so here goes.
The Bigger Picture
How many times have we thought something was wrong with another person or something we owned, only to discover it was our own misperception and/or we have done something wrong? I once almost called the computer repairman before I realized the thing wasn't plugged in!
It goes deeper. How many times have we been sure that we knew something, only to discover we have been wrong? Or called upon a friend to find them unavailable, and help arose out of an unlikely source, and a new friendship was formed? How often have we been frustrated by what seems to be a problem, only to discover it was the beginning of something else?
Yes, people in Israel are close. We have to be. We have to stand together and help each other and open our homes. We have be able to laugh at our mistakes and form friendships, so that when things get rough, we can support each other. The problems of "broken" blenders, missing eggs, and lack of milk pale in comparison to real illness, war, terrorist attacks, and a world that seems to be increasingly hostile and unfriendly.
We recently had a guest from abroad in our home. I made dinner, and as we sat eating and getting to know each other, this almost forty-year-old told me he had NEVER been a guest in someone's home!?! He had been taken out to dinner, but never hosted. How sad that was to hear, but how glad I was to have been doing something so natural, giving a cup of water (and a meal) to a fellow traveler.
Be careful to show hospitality to strangers, because in so doing, you may be entertaining angels. Hebrews 13:2
I believe Father Abraham, and the LORD himself, would be pleased with my neighbor, my new friend.