Some Acts of Kindness Can Only Be Found in Israel
A male passenger on a train in Israel recently saw a young female Israeli soldier crying into her cellphone as she tried to talk the Israel Electric Corporation out of disconnecting her electricity due to an outstanding debt of around 2,000 shekels ($500). The electric company was merciless. But the man went over to the girl and paid her bill on the spot with his credit card. Another female soldier saw the whole thing and posted the story on Facebook, along with a photo of the man, and The Algemeiner picked up the story.
Although this is an amazing story, it is not an exceptional one. On the contrary, these acts of kindness are the heart and soul of this country, and one of the main things that make it so beautiful, unique and frankly wonderful to live in.
A bystander who witnessed the mass shooting in Tel Aviv on Jan. 1 tweeted: “As soon as shots were fired on Dizengoff, everyone on the street ran toward — not away from — the scene, to help. Men jumped out of cars. Real courage.”
She later tweeted that she was “humbled by Israelis’ courage and strength as they all ran toward the Dizengoff shooter. Not one person ran away. I stand amazed amid sirens.”
In most cases, human instinct prompts you to run away from a scene of terror and save yourself. But not in Israel. We are all family here, and family members do not abandon each other.
In a social experiment conducted recently in Israel and publicized on Facebook by StandWithUs, a man posed as a blind student and asked strangers to break a 20-shekel note that was actually a 100-shekel note. Every single person stopped by the “blind” man pointed out that he was, in fact, holding out a 100-shekel bill. One man even gave him an additional 20 shekels. When the same experiment was conducted with a 200-shekel bill, other passersby behaved in exactly the same way.
As reported by The Algemeiner, StandWithUs said the idea for the experiment was borrowed from an American TV show in which an actor pretended to be blind and asked strangers to break a $5 bill that was actually $100. Unlike in Israel, many Americans took advantage of the situation.
In an unrelated recent incident, a mother complained in the British Daily Telegraph that no one helped her son on the London Underground when he faced a barrage of anti-Semitic abuse from a stranger. Everyone “buried their heads in their free newspapers or peered in fascination at their laps,” she wrote.
Although the victim was Jewish, there was nothing unique about the public’s failure to help. When I lived in London and traveled on the Tube, I had no doubt that it would be a very bad place to be in need of any kind of help. “Every man for himself” is an understatement when it comes to London or other north European capitals, where a person can fall on the street and few, if any, will notice or care.
There are countless stories in the media about bullying, harassment and actual murders happening in front of witnesses in the street or on public transportation without anyone helping. One such atrocious incident occurred on the metro in Washington, D.C., in July, when a young man was punched, stomped on, kicked in the head and stabbed repeatedly in front of 10 passengers who “huddled at both ends of the car and watched in horror,” according to The Washington Post.
One witness, a 52-year-old woman, said that she and the other passengers told one another that it was too dangerous to intervene.
“I think we were all trying to stay away from him, considering he had a knife,” she said. “I did not want him to think that he had to hurt us because we would identify him. I wanted him to think that he could walk away from this, and that’s what he did.”
It is inconceivable that 10 passengers on a train in Israel would watch a fellow Israeli citizen being stabbed and stomped to death without intervening. It just wouldn’t happen.
I am not trying to aggrandize the moral stature of Israelis at the expense of others. I am recounting these stories here because what we have here in Israel is so precious and so rare, especially in comparison with so many other places in the world, which we look upon with the feeling that the grass is somehow greener there. It is not. Because what we have, right here in our hearts and in our souls, is not something that can be bought for any amount of money. This love for our fellow Jews should never be taken for granted or belittled — it is a virtue, one we have managed to retain throughout the centuries, and that is a cause for celebration and gratitude.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.