Last month Amichai, our first-born son, called to say that the old car was stuck in Jerusalem and could not be moved. By his description I assumed it was something to do with the battery, so I took my loyal study partner (chavruta) Yossi and together, like Batman and Robin, we made our way to the Holy City to solve the problem.
On arriving it turned out to be more complicated than either of us had anticipated and we quickly reached the realization that there was no choice than to turn to minds with greater expertise than ours. I was all for leaving it for my mechanic to deal with the following day (Morgen, morgen, nur nicht heute, sagen alle faulen Leute) but Yossi, former mayor of Netivot among other things, insisted we go to Wadi al-Joz. He assured me that we would easily find an excellent Arab who would be more than happy to drop everything and provide a solution to our predicament for a mere pittance.
For the uninitiated, Wadi el-Joz is an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem, located at the head of the Kidron Valley, north of the Old City and is named after Josaphat, King of Judah. Today it is an Arab neighborhood (about 15,000 strong) but more importantly an area with a large number of garages, and car repair shops.
We haggled with a few mechanics before finding a quite personable gentlemen, who identified himself as just Gingy (the read haired one). In return for a couple of hundred Shekels he agreed to come with us in my car in order to get the other vehicle started. The plan was to then, if need be, bring it back to Wadi al-Joz in order to do what had to be done.
I have many friends who refuse point blank to make use of Arab car mechanics for nationalistic reasons, and others who just don’t trust them. I disagree with both. To the former I answer that we are the ones who more than anyone else must prove that coexistence is still possible. The latter I remind that even if one makes use of a Jewish mechanic, as I generally do, his workers will invariably be Arabs. If all else is equal I’ll probably choose a Jew. When it isn’t, I’ll do what suites me.
Gingy brought a few tools and a young friend and they jumped in the back. Conversation began almost immediately. Yossi has an annoying habit of talking to Arabs in Hebrew with what he thinks is an Arabic accent. He also inserts an occasional “shukran” (thank you) or “ya habibi (literally ‘you my beloved one’) to make himself better understood. I find the practice patronizing and embarrassing, as apparently does his wife. Clearly, Gingy’s Hebrew was fine and if there was an occasional word he didn’t understand it wouldn’t be “thank you”.
Still in Wadi el-Joz and looking out the window I saw a young Arab woman, very modestly dressed. It was a truly sweltering day, but the lady was wearing, among many other things, a coat. Testing the extent of Gingy’s open-mindedness I asked him why she was wearing that garment in such warm weather. Gingy explained that it was for religious reasons, taking care to clarify that not all Moslems dress in such a way. Yossi helped him out explaining that some Jews dress similarly. Conversation continued and it transpired that we had much in common. Gingy used to work in Machon Lander, the college where I teach, though we had never noticed each other. He lives in El Azaria which is two minutes from Maale Adumim. He is also a good friend of a certain Ibrahim who recently did some building work for Yossi.
Having established our mutual acquaintances etc everyone felt free to open up a little more, so I forced the pace by asking Gingy if he was married. “No” he replied, “But I have a girlfriend.” Gingy is 24 and in my fatherly way I jokingly advised him to hang on as long as he could. “Don’t give in!” I said, “Take advantage of your bachelorhood! Yossi got married too quickly and look at him.”
Now it was Yossi’s turn to be embarrassed by what I had said, and he subtly tried to change the subject by asking Gingy where his girlfriend lived. “She’s Jewish,” he replied, “She lives in Pisgat Ze’ev” There was an uncomfortable silence in the car as we absorbed what Gingy had said. I quickly returned to my theme of not rushing into marriage and though Yossi said nothing he now seemed to disagree less.
We arrived at my wife’s (Anglican International) school where the car was parked and within minutes it was running. However, Gingy explained that we’d need a new starter. I asked him if he wanted to take the car back to Wadi el-Joz that I might pick it up the next day, but he confessed that he couldn’t drive as his license had been suspended. There was no choice but to return in both cars. “I’ll take Gingy” I said to Yossi when our new friends were out of ear reach, “You take his friend”.
“Maybe, you’d rather me take them both” replied Yossi and intimated at the pistol he was carrying. “Don’t be absurd,” I replied, “I’m not scared of Gingy. He used to work in Machon Lander. Besides, I still have a few questions I want to ask him.”
– To be continued.