The Greatest of Days; the Busiest of Weeks

The greatest of days may well be those we didn’t plan or those that ended differently than we expected. Last week was to have been one of those killer weeks where nothing could budge to ease the schedule. I knew going into the week…it was going to be a hard one. Sunday was our anniversary; meetings and dinner out. We were both so tired, it was hard to enjoy it. Not a good way to start the week.

Monday was all day at a client in the north, with a trip back to Jerusalem, a quick change of clothes (and shoes) and on to the wedding of a friend and former student of ours. Beautiful wedding…a few hours sleep, and I was back at work with another day of meetings.

Tuesday was long – a meeting in the morning, deliver a project and then home to cook for a few hours…and then another wedding back in Jerusalem. This one was one where we were connected to both the bride and the groom and we stayed to the end.

Wednesday was to be my hardest day. A filled-to-capacity seminar at our Training Center, a mad dash home to get my two youngest. A drive up north to Chaim’s Tekes Kumta with the hope of bringing Chaim back to our home for a few hours to catch up on his visit with his family. In the evening, Sheva Brachot (a festive dinner celebrating the newly married couple; where you have a minimum of ten men – and typically at least that many women).

Thursday was to be up early and another full day onsite at a client in the north, followed by another Sheva Brachot – this one at the home of the second groom’s parents.

Friday was to be guests from the US that we haven’t seen in a few years.

And with all the joy from start to finish was the knowledge that it was an impossible week and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through it. Usually, when these weeks come about, something gives in the schedule – a meeting is canceled, a clients asks to postpone, something. In this case, I knew there would be no “out” because the hard part of the week wasn’t actually work – but all these happy events.

We went out for our anniversary; we went to the two weddings. I cooked for the first Sheva Brachot at my house and went to the seminar. I rushed home to pick up my two youngest and as I was driving, I calculated the best way to get to Afula. There are two roads north that I could take.

One is through the Jordan Valley – almost never traffic, a bit of speeding allowed. It means going a bit further east than I have to, swinging along the border with Jordan, a drive north, north, north, and then a swing to the west, into the city of Afula, where the ceremony would take place. Second choice was driving back into Jerusalem – always the risk of traffic, across the city and out the other side, more travel to the west, a zoom up north on Israel’s only toll road, and then a bit of a trip back east.

It’s probably about the same, but I decided to go through the Jordan Valley…we drove down, down, down, to the plains of the Judean Desert and just short of the Dead Sea before making the left turn to head north. It’s open land there, desert surrounding you. In the distance to the right are the hills of Jordan; west high above the mountains, far in the distance, is Jerusalem and few cars…and a noise.

A flat tire…

I pulled quickly to the side, calculating several things at once. Plenty of water – no danger there. Phone service working – another important element considering that there to my left was the Palestinian city of Jericho and not to far off, Palestinian shepards with their sheep and goats. You stay there, I thought to myself; and I’ll stay here.

I put on the emergency vest – part of a law that was passed a few years back and took a look. I guess before I admit the next thing, I should confess that I believe myself to be talented as a writer. Yes, my strengths are in my words…not in my engineering skills. My husband and I have a firm arrangement. I’ll write whatever has to be written; he’ll fix whatever has to be fixed. That includes tires.

I pulled out the jack. I know what a jack is; I know what it is supposed to do. I don’t really know how you magically secure it under a car so that this rather flimsy piece of metal suddenly decides it is strong enough to lift a whole car.

I pulled out the spare tire. I know what it is; I know where it is supposed to go. I know that a whole bunch of screw-like things have to be taken off the car, the bad wheel removed, this spare tire put in place and those screw-like things put back on really tight.

I was not going to let my 14-year-old change his first tire without someone competent to watch him doing it and I quickly admitted to myself, I didn’t qualify. The Palestinian shepards thankfully stayed with their sheep; I called home.

It is belittling to realize that there are times when all your skills amount to nothing in the face of a simple mechanical procedure. No, I told Elie when he answered the phone, I wasn’t sure what to put where.

Elie set off from our house, intending to come help me change the tire. I told Davidi to call Chaim – we would be late at best, and I wasn’t sure we would even make it. We looked around us – this is the desert, quiet, so quiet.

And then a car stopped – a wonderful Israeli man and his teenage son. He offered to help; I explained about Elie. He told me he could change the tire so I called and we calculated it was best for Elie to turn back. The man began a lecture to his son and to Davidi on how to change a tire.

It was an exercise in parenting, in patience, and I was enthralled. He had the boys loosen the tire, jack up the car, remove the screw-things. He removed one tire, put the spare in place. In minutes, the task was done.

He asked where we were from, where we were going. He asked if we had water; if we wanted to stop by his village – a short distance away for a few minutes to rest. When all was said and done, when all was cleaned up, he cautioned me about continuing north and when I realized the time had flown and agreed it was too late to go north, he said it was smart to go back home because this miniature spare tire wasn’t really meant for distances and speed.

He told me to be careful when turning around on the road – people tend to speed on this road (I didn’t tell him that had been my intention in choosing the Jordan Valley road in the first place). He told me his village name and his family name and invited us to stop by if we are ever passing along.

He bid us a safe trip after checking the tire again and went on his way. I finally go through to Chaim and told him the sad news that we wouldn’t make it up in time to see his ceremony, to videotape it for his mother as I had planned.

But as much as I felt a bit cheated by missing Chaim, I felt enriched as well – I’m sure that people stop to help others around the world, but there was something so Israeli in how he told us his name, offered us water, told us to come to his home if we needed anything.

I returned home, finished cooking for that evening, welcomed 25 people into my house for dinner. The next day, as expected, I drove north and then returned for the final events of the busy week I had planned from the outset. I was sorry to have missed Chaim’s ceremony (pictures have been promised and will be posted), but there by the Jericho road, I met Israel again and once again remembered why I love this place so much.

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