There are two terms in Israel, easily translated, but less easily understood. There is the concept of rosh katan – which translated literally, means small head. What it refers to is someone who likely does all he is supposed to do – but only what he is supposed to do. Someone with a rosh katan never sees the larger picture, never thinks beyond the narrow confines.
Once I explain the first term, the second term is likely to be quite clear – rosh gadol – means large head and refers to that person who thinks beyond, manages the big picture. Usually, this is a good thing, except when you want someone to manage the details and not over-think, not over analyze.
Israel is, overall, a country that likes the people with a rosh gadol – the army craves them, rewards them, honors them, and so does the nation. Yesterday, two different things happened – hours apart, that made me, once again, love the concept of a rosh gadol.
The first – my husband and I were driving on the highway that climbs from a valley, alongside a steep incline, towards, next to, and then beyond, the entrance of the city. For those familiar with Jerusalem, we were driving on the Menachem Begin highway from Shderot Golda Meir towards Malka.
As we entered the highway, there was terrible congestion – I thought it was because of the highway and then I saw the smoke. The valley below was on fire and the smoke and flames were reaching up the side almost to the highway…
And then we saw police flashing lights…and…a truck…driving the wrong way on the entry ramp. The police were telling the cars to move to the right; the truck moved behind the police car on the left. And then, as we inched closer, we understood. This was a large truck, laden with fuel – the last thing you want anywhere near a fire. I don’t know if it was the driver who had the rosh gadol and realized what was ahead and stopped; or the police who acted to avert what could have been a major incident.
Slowly, the truck exited the entry ramp. We climbed up the hill and passed several fire trucks and firemen fighting the fire, pouring water on the flames and pushing them back.
And later, as I was standing with Elie in a store, he got a beep on his phone. A plane was coming in to Israel; it was in trouble. Emergency forces mobilized and the call went out to all volunteers to converge on the southern airport. Eighty people on board. Ambulances were lining up. It was a bit surreal – hearing Elie; watching people shop. I was waiting for him to tell me horrible news; praying for it to be okay, for the plane to land safely.
It did. No crash landing; no casualties. How many minds went into planning what was necessary to avoid a tragedy. A pilot sending out the needed call; the control tower personnel, and the preparation, just in case.
The happiest endings are those where the extreme is not needed; where the cautions taken seem to have been unnecessary; where the rosh gadol worked and so nothing exploded, nothing crashed.
The best case scenario for resources put in place to handle a tragedy, end up being wasted. It’s a wonderful day in Israel when nothing explodes, nothing goes on fire, nothing crashes – when the call to volunteers gets answered quickly and the ambulances line up for nothing.