Last night a friend and I were going out for coffee in Talpiyot, an industrial area of Jerusalem next to my village–Beit Zefafa. On the way we saw a young religious Jewish woman stopped on the side of the road next to her car trying to change a tire. At first we kept driving, but thinking about the tension in the city right now and how nervous she must be outside alone in the dark–I asked my friend to turn back so we could help her.
Because of the recent violence, I asked my friend not to speak Arabic. We wouldn’t want her to be scared, or G-d forbid, think we are trying to harm her.
When we reached the woman, I got out of the car and offered to help her. She appreciated it and said she had already lifted the car and was about to switch the tire. She seemed relax and confident that she knew what she was doing. When I looked in the car to double check the emergency break–I realized two very dangerous things.
- The emergency break was not on and the car was in neutral!
- Her toddler son was sitting in his carseat in the car.
I quickly pulled the break, lowered the car and removed her son from the seat. I explained to her how grave of danger her son was in, and showed her how to switch the tire correctly.
While I was in the middle of putting on her spare tire, my friend’s phone rang and without thinking he started talking in Arabic. The woman tensed up and asked me quickly nervous if I am also Arab.
“Yes, I’m also Arab. I’m Ismat from Beit Zefafa. So what?”
“Then why did you stop for me? I’m Jewish.”
“So what if you’re Jewish. I can’t drive by any woman stranded on the side of the road without offering to help with her car. I’m good at cars. It’s dark. Everyone is nervous these days at night. Of course I would help.”
“Not of course–you are truly special. I can’t believe you helped me. Thank you!”
“Don’t worry about it, happy to help, just drive safely.”
“If I weren’t religious–I would give you a kiss!”
“No thank you, I am married!”