Arts & Culture, People

My Israel Story #49- Alice Zalon

by JCPConnect-

We’re marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel with a year-long celebration! Keep an eye out for “Memphis Celebrates Israel at 70” branding at your synagogue, at events around town, and online. In this My Israel Story series, we’re asking Memphians to tell their personal Israel stories. Do you have a story to tell?


Photo above: The writer’s son Avi, right, poses with his Ethiopian-Israeli friend, also named Avi.

I began writing this story in an examination room of Josephtal Hospital in Eilat waiting for my son, Avi Fisher, to be brought back from x-ray.

We had been rear-ended on the way to pick up the kids from school and nursery. Luckily, the accident occurred before the first pick-up stop, as the whole rear window of the station wagon had shattered, glass covering the back seat. Tough old bird that I am, I felt fine, but Avi took the brunt of the impact. I was really impressed by the caliber of care he received on the part of the police and EMTs, even though there was another incident happening nearby and siren-blasting vehicles raced past while we waited.

Speaking of Israeli hospitals, as we left Nahariyah, the home of Avi’s in-laws, the previous evening, it was pointed out to me that The Western Galilee Hospital had taken in casualties from the Syrian conflict and that Israeli hospitals had treated over 3,000 wounded Syrians as of last summer. Groups like Just Beyond our Borders, Israeli Flying Aid, and Operation Good Neighbor are testaments to Israel acting compassionately.

On arriving at Haifa airport, Saturday evening, Avi introduced me to a co-worker (also named Avi), an Ethiopian-Israeli. This reminded me of Operations Moses, Solomon, and Joshua and the earlier Operation Magic Carpet, without which Avi wouldn’t have his Yemenite-Ashkenazi-Israeli half siblings. More examples of Israel acting compassionately.

In the years after the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese ‘Boat People’ were rescued by Israelis.

The day after the accident Avi was feeling O.K., although the car was totaled. That day we ate at a Vietnamese restaurant in town. Does anyone remember the seventies, when Israel compassionately picked up hundreds of “boat-people?” There are Asian restaurants all over Israel due to that rescue operation and they’re kosher too.

Later, Avi took his son, Yonaton, to the local Kupat Cholim clinic to be checked for possible strep-throat. While we waited, an African couple brought their baby in to be examined. The mother wore a crucifix around her neck. This family may have been displaced Sudanese or Eritreans who had entered Israel through Eilat, but they received the same high level of medical care as my grandson. The clinic personnel exemplified Israel acting compassionately.

A Druze friend of Avi’s, a fire fighter who works in Haifa, made a special trip to the Haifa airport to say hello to Avi. Avi’s neighbor in Eilat is an Arab. When we arrived home that same evening, he had a welcome home present for us: a beautiful box of pastries from Nazareth. A Muslim woman in a hijab walked into a café in Ness Ziona and was served a coffee by an observant Jew, identified by his yarmulke and tzitzit. When she turned towards me, I saw her scrubs-type jacket with a Magen David and some Hebrew writing on the pocket.

It can be easy for some to find fault with a country that is attempting to maintain its Jewish character, while trying to protect its citizens and keep its enemies from “pushing her into the sea,” as they have openly vowed to do. But these compassionate incidents and relationships I saw first-hand are part and parcel of every-day life in My Israel Story.

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