I realise that I have been writing some heavier posts recently, so I am writing this primarily for myself, to remind myself that there is much to be celebrated here.
Mom and I have been doing some shopping recently. Ok. Not ‘some’, but ‘lots’. Justin and I are hoping our shipping container will arrive in the next fortnight, but during the wait, the bare white walls of the house are getting me down, especially when there is so much colour everywhere else in this country.
So Mom’s task on this trip has been to decorate the upstairs flat which will primarily house guests. She has such a good eye for unlikely colour combinations, and in a shop, she can spot the potential of things that I would just walk right past. We’ve had great fun together, and it is during our shopping adventures of the past two days that we have encountered such warmth and kindness it’s made me cry.
Tuesday we were in Nazareth looking for fabric to create wall hangings and make curtains. So. Much. Pretty.
In one of the shops, a group of women came in, looking for fabric for headscarves and dresses. And though my Arabic is very poor and they spoke little English, we all ooh-ed and aah-ed over one another’s choices, gently caressing the delicate silks and exquisite embroidery. The owner of the shop was delighted to hear how we would be using the fabric we bought and wanted to know more: ‘You’re giving me many ideas for my house!’ she said. ‘Thank you, and welcome. In my heart, I have love for you,’ she said as we left.
At another shop, the owner looked on patiently as Mom and I worked out measurements and quantities. He smiled as we had a rather lively debate about how a certain piece might be hung, and when we finally made our decision, he gave us a discount which made the already reasonable price even lower. ‘Always welcome,’ he said as we said goodbye.
Yesterday evening, we went to a shop in a shopping centre just on the outskirts of Tiberias to buy curtain rods. But as we browsed, our pile near the till grew and grew. When we finally went to pay, the woman asked if we had a member card, which, of course we didn’t, and she started to fill in the application form (all in Hebrew) for us so we could get 40% off everything. It turned out that my passport number wouldn’t work, and we only qualified if we had Israeli ID cards. Instead of giving up, she walked around the shop speaking to other customers to see if anyone spoke good enough English to explain the problem to us and apologise. One of the customers then phoned her sister to get her member card number so we could use it. And while she was waiting for her sister to find the card, another customer simply handed over hers after making her own purchases. ‘I just moved from Scotland,’ I explained. ‘We have a new house. An empty house.’ ‘Welcome to Israel,’ she replied. ‘Welcome,’ she emphasised.
These may be small things. Silly things. But when I feel so much like an outsider, when I am embarrassed that I don’t speak the languages, when I am still trying to find my way around and learn how to do the most basic of things, these acts of kindness … well, I simply don’t have the words to describe how deeply they touch me.
I don’t share the language, religion, or culture of any of the people who showed us such generosity of spirit. And in a land where language and religion and cultural identity can be held up as barriers, it makes me weep when I encounter moments such as these when our shared humanity — and love of beauty — is all that counts.