I can’t tell you the number of times I have been delayed or changed my mind about doing something…only to find that tragedy crossed the path where I would have been or the thing I would have done. A few days ago, Elie and I drove to Shmulik’s base to pick him up. It’s north of Jerusalem in an area very close to Ramallah and there are several bases there.
Shmulik wasn’t sure how to describe how to get there…and so we ended up stopped at 3 out of 4 bases before actually finding him. On the way home, as we came down a long hill, we saw that there’d been a head-on collision on the road. Elie slowed, realized that we were there before any ambulance, and pulled to the side of the road, just behind a police van that had also just arrived.
Elie grabbed his medic vest and went off to see if anyone was hurt. As I waited for him in the car, I realized that had we not taken those wrong turns to check out the other bases, we might well have been on this road when the accident happened, perhaps even involved in it.
This happens to me quite often and each time, I know that I am feeling fate’s timing, God’s will. Tonight, we went to my parent’s house to spend some time with my brother, who is visiting from abroad. It was a special evening – all of my children were there, though my son-in-law was working and couldn’t come. Two of my sister’s children were there, along with a very special friend of my niece, and my brother’s oldest son joined us as well.
We got a late start, spent quite a bit of time eating and socializing, and then took longer to clean up and move things down from their roof balcony, longer to get back on the road coming home. It was close to midnight, much later than I had planned, until we were heading back home in two cars, Elie driving one, me driving the other. A sign indicated that there was work on the main highway. Elie was driving ahead of me, already in the left, planning to take the main road. The second road was Route 443, heading off to the right. I read the sign and quickly dialed Elie’s telephone number. “Their doing road work on Route 1; I’m taking 443,” I told him..
“Me too,” he said and watched as he quickly moved to the right, following what I planned to do and avoid the main highway. Route 443 is an interesting road – incredibly scenic during the day, fast paced, usually not to busy.
Route 443 is a bypass road. It was created several years ago to have a new access road to Jerusalem other than the roads that led into, around, and through many small Arab villages. During the first intifada, Jewish drivers were stoned in these small villages and so Route 443 was built and used by Arabs and Jews alike.
At some point, Jewish drivers were being stoned on the road. This escalated into drive-by shooting attacks, some ended with no injuries, others ended in hospitalization. The worst, ended in death. The bypass road was no longer safe – many drivers avoided it; some remained in principle. After a multiple, brutal murder, Route 443 was closed to Arab traffic by the army [NOTE: Thanks to a comment, I stand corrected. Route 443 was never closed to Arab traffic – it was limited to Israeli traffic, which would include anyone with Israeli citizenship – which includes Arabs (10% of the population or more, Christians, etc.)]. Years of petitions and fights ended in May when the courts ordered the army to once again unlimited traffic flow.
The army did what it could to heighten security and make it safe. It was an absurd attempt at an impossible task. It’s a beautiful road to drive. The mountains open before you as you climb to Jerusalem and there are plenty of opportunities where the road was carved from the mountain and anyone can stand a few meters from the street, higher up, and throw things at the travelers. Firebombs. Stones. There are many strategic locations where someone can open fire on your car. You drive with an eye on the mountains, and an eye on the hill near you. Last week, a father saw a group of Arabs about to throw stones at his car and was able to avoid injury.
Within a month of the road’s being re-opened, the first attacks began and continue – some end with no injuries, others end in severe damage to property and lives. It’s the Muslim month of Ramadan now – it coincides with our month of Elul. Elul is a special month for introspection and self-improvement spiritually. Elul is about making peace with yourself and with those you have wronged, in preparation for the month of Tishrei and our major holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, etc.
Elul may be about making peace, but from all that I have experienced, Ramadan is most definitely not. Today there were more rock attacks, a soldier was nearly stabbed. And I stayed to help clean my parents’ balcony upstairs where we had enjoyed our family gathering and so left later than expected. Having alerted Elie that Route 1, the major Tel Aviv – Jerusalem highway had road construction teams, I followed him to the right, to Route 443.
My car is newer and stronger than the car Elie was driving. I passed him on a light and kept going. I reached the outskirts of Jerusalem and suddenly there was traffic. Slowly, I inched my way up to the intersection, only to see that soldiers were directing all cars to make a left. I needed to go straight, to go through Jerusalem and so reluctantly did a U-turn. I called Elie to tell him about the blockage. I drove another 5 minutes back and as I was about to make a left, Elie called and said the road was clear.
I turned the car around, headed back into Jerusalem on Route 443. This time, there was no huge blocking my view. I drove and within seconds, realized there were dozens of large rocks on the road. There was a unit of soldiers standing in the middle; I was amazed by the damage that could have been caused by these rocks.
These are not pebbles; these were rocks larger than the size of my hand. If thrown directly at the car, it could smash the windshield, cause someone to lose control, and so much more. And that’s when I realized once again fate’s timing had intervened. Had we not stayed those extra few moments to help my mother return the chairs and the tables, we well could have been on Route 443 this time when the Arabs decided that violence brings rewards; that peace can be achieved by terrorizing others.
No one was hurt; the rocks will be gone by tomorrow. The world will ignore the attack unless or until someone is killed and perhaps even then. But what remains in my mind, is the continuing love God shows to his people. Call it fate’s timing…or better, call it God’s but once again, we weren’t where we might have been and so what could have happened, simply didn’t.