I think I figured it out: to be Israeli is to go out of your way to help strangers. It’s other things too, like yelling and saying nuuuuuuuu when someone in front of you doesn’t move up a millimeter in line at the grocery store. It’s using capitalism as a vehicle to live life, rather than as a goal. But more than that, it’s to yell and to push and to consume in order to help.
I’ve been misplacing things lately. And by that I of course mean that I’ve been losing things. Sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently. Most notably of my recent misplacements has been my wallet. My wallet, containing my credit card, perhaps a state and/or military ID, and rav-kav (aka my access to public transportation when I am without a military ID). To say that losing something like this is a “big deal” seems like an understatement. Losing this is the deal of the century.
Thankfully, I didn’t lose my wallet. I just misplaced it. On my way to base, Sunday morning, as I entered the train station and began searching for my wallet to flash as my fast pass through train security, I became acutely aware of my wallet deficiency.
I had to flash my dog tag and recite my ID number in order to enter the station, and then began the calls. First to my commander, who told me that I couldn’t come to base without my wallet. Then to half my kibbutz. Then to the bus company, which oversaw the particular bus on which I had evidently left my wallet.
I left the train station and retraced my steps. I checked the crosswalk and the sidewalk and every place I had walked in the 20 meters from the bus stop to the train station.
It was nowhere. I began to desperately depart for the bus company’s lost & found hub with my duffle packed for two weeks (the duffle I use to travel across the Atlantic).
Then it happened. My phone rang.
“Hello?” I said, not caring that it was an unfamiliar number.
“To whom am I speaking?” said the person on the other line.
“Sophie,” I told the man.
“Sophie, I have your wallet.”
Great, only my wallet was at a yeshiva on the other side of Sderot. So I began to walk, with my duffle (wheels, no worries) until I reached the Sderot library. (I didn’t even know that Sderot had a library until this experience).
I got my wallet back, ultimately because a stranger had found it on the bus and instead of entrusting the driver with it, he had taken responsibility for returning it to its owner. Luckily I had also taken responsibility and written my name and number on it, making his job slightly easier, but regardless I was touched that a stranger possessed the kindness to give me back my identity.
I may or may not have also misplaced my beret days after reuniting with my wallet. I wasn’t as lucky with the beret, but my boyfriend bought me a new one, which was just as kind as the stranger, yet also an obligated kindness.
In this karmatic world, things come in threes. (The third could be me misplacing my army bucket hat on my first day of my course, but I’m not counting that right now).
I went to Haifa* today for a doctor’s appointment (medical bureaucracy is also a topic I’m not exhuming right now). On my way out of the train station, I saw a beret. It was on the sidewalk, by a parking lot, dotted with pins. I picked it up, wondering what to do with it. Should I leave it and let the owner retrace their steps? Or should I take it to a secondary location (John Mulaney would not approve) and hope the owner checks? As a soldier who also recently misplaced her beret, I felt a certain responsibility.
Inside the beret was a smudged name. All I could make out was Eden. Eden lost their beret. I found Eden’s beret, and I wanted nothing more than to return it to Eden. The best I could do is ask multiple windows in the Haifa train station where their lost & found was located. I ended up giving the beret to a man with an important-looking lanyard, hoping that Eden retraces their steps and gets it back. I felt like I had to get the beret back to Eden, a stranger. I felt Israeli.
*Every time I go to Haifa, I hate it more. This time I went to the Azrieli Mall of Haifa. It was terrible.