Yesterday, Karen and I made a trip to a local mall.
On our way to the Apple store we passed a skin-care salon. Standing in the doorway was an elegant young man who handed a free sample to Karen. We said thank you, and the young man, an Israeli who spotted my yarmulke, said, “Shalom.”
I said: “Shalom, shalom, ve-ayn shalom.”
Rosetta Stone: The Hebrew word shalom has three meanings: Hello, goodbye, and peace. Thus, my response roughly translates into: “Peace, peace, but there is no peace.” An ironic phrase with biblical origins (Jeremiah and Ezekiel) that is common in Israel.
The young man spoke to us in rapid-fire Hebrew, explaining that he had just returned from Israel.
Karen and I responded in Hebrew, asking about the national mood.
The young man, a secular Jew from Tel Aviv, said: “Things are bad, but everyone agrees that the IDF must deal a death blow to the terror tunnels and rocket fire. The matzav (situation) is impossible. We cannot live like this. We have to finish off Hamas once and for all.”
We nodded our agreement, shmoozed for a few more minutes, and then bid shalom (goodbye) to our new friend the Israeli skin-care salesman.
Karen and I were profoundly moved by this chance encounter. I confess that when I first spotted the young man with his free samples, I judged him harshly as a standard, shallow Los Angeleno. But here was a fellow Jew, worried sick about the Jewish state and grateful to meet two like-minded Hebrew speakers. In ordinary times, Karen and I, Orthodox Jews, would have little to talk about with this secular Israeli.
But these are not normal times.
There are no normal times for Jews — not in this world.