A siren just sounded in Israel – even before it did, a motorcyclist stopped across the street and took off his helmet. Across the street, workers came out of a building to stand and wait. People were walking up the street. All stopped when the siren started. Cars stopped and people got out and stood at attention.
All…all but the Arab worker from downstairs. He walked out smoking a cigarette with a cup of coffee in his hand. He looked out at the street, leaned insolently against a car for a few seconds as we all stood there. He turned and walked back towards the building, and then again out to the street. This was all in the two minutes we stood there in silence – all a show of disrespect for our silent, frozen moments of mourning. You could see it in the smirk on his face, the slouch against the car compared to those in the street standing at attention.
No, there was no innocence here, no attempt to be anything but what he was – contemptuous of what we are, of what we were doing. I wondered what he thought when he watched us. Actually, I think I know. I think he thought we were weak and perhaps even a bit pathetic. His people don’t seem to mourn this way. To stand out in the street for all the world to see our pain. He doesn’t, I think, really understand us, and he never will. but I have to confess, I don’t understand him either. I don’t understand the disrespect for life that is prevalent in a culture that encourages children younger than him to strap explosives on themselves and explode.
I have to admit, I was angry at him. It is our sadness, our anger, our pain all there on display, out in the street, where no one can miss it. And, as I thought about it, my anger went away and pity came in its place. I pity that Arab who does not understand, who can show contempt to our suffering, our mourning.
Let him enjoy his cigarette and his coffee. Let him feel a small sense of triumph and superiority. Let him.
Because I know, I know that I would rather mourn today than be part of a culture that does what his culture does. We do not celebrate death as they do. We do not. There is one bit of comfort in watching the disrespect shown by the Arab worker…and that is tonight.
Tonight…in a few short hours, we will do the unimaginable – as we do each year. Now, to the depth of our souls, we mourn…tonight, to the heights of the heavens, we will celebrate. Tonight begins Israel Independence Day and as deeply as we mourn, that deeply will we celebrate.
He can smoke and drink his coffee now…in silent victory that we mourn. Tonight, we will answer him with our greatest response. All that we lost was so that tonight, we could dance!