Israel, as I’ve discovered, is a place where absolutely extraordinary life-changing conversations happen every single day in the most mundane places. On the bus, in a restaurant, even with your taxi driver. You don’t need to go to a synagogue to learn here, you just need to open your mouth and ears.
For example, the other day I met a friend’s friend. She’s a sabra (native Israeli). We’re eating at an Indian restaurant and as we’re chatting, just casually mentions she’s a third-generation Holocaust survivor from Poland.
I can’t really remember anyone saying something so profound, personal, and shocking over naan and chana masala in the U.S. And she didn’t look visibly upset- more just like she was sharing a fact about herself. I’m from Washington, D.C. and like sushi and she’s a third generation Holocaust survivor.
She told me how her grandparents, even after years in Israel, would eat every last scrap of food off their plates at every single meal. Even when they weren’t hungry anymore. She told me how she and her siblings would “sneak” food off their grandparents’ plates so they wouldn’t over-eat.
She told me how her parents didn’t want her to go on her school trip to the concentration camps in Poland (because yes, that is something every Israeli teenager does as part of the national curriculum). Her parents were angry that their tourist dollars were going to a country that sadly still is home to many anti-Semites.
She told me how her grandmother could forgive the Germans for the Holocaust- they were from a foreign land killing foreigners. But she couldn’t forgive the Poles who aided them- because they betrayed their neighbors and many did so willingly and joyfully.
We continued the conversation for a while, but then slipped into other topics like her job, the Reform Movement (incidentally she studied with a Reform rabbi I know here in Israel!), the food, and other things. We laughed, we joked, we ate.
She rode the bus home with me and got off at her stop. On her way to her boyfriend. To chat, to watch TV, to drink tea, to go to bed.
Just another Israeli day.