So, here’s the deal.
I was downtown. When I finished with my errands, I headed down to Jaffa street to wait for the 13 bus. At that point, I hadn’t yet had my morning coffee and I was very hungry. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself how some people live on a regular basis without knowing where their next meal will come from. The thought passed through my mind and as quickly as it came, it left.
By the bus stop a man was giving out the “Jerusalem Hayom” newspaper. People seemed to know him and would stop to chat with him and pat him on the back as they passed. One bus-driver even slowed down and opened his doors. I watched with curiosity and intrigue as the man folded up one of his newspapers and threw it 10 meters, right through the door of the bus, landing in the bus driver’s lap. They gave each other a smile and thumbs up and the bus continued on.
Suddenly, I noticed a woman coming across the street with a cup of coffee in her hands. She hands it to the man and wishes him a good day. The happiness from this single cup of coffee showed on the man’s face. What an amazing act of kindness she did by remembering someone less fortunate than her. This aroused something deep inside me. I was inspired!
It was there that the beginning part of my day made sense to me. My downtown visit has started with me walking down Ben-Yehuda. It was still early and most of the stores hadn’t opened yet. In the centre of Jerusalem, even early in the morning, there is always activity. I enjoy that feeling of the fresh morning air that has settled over the streets, not yet polluted by the soon approaching traffic. And that little bit of mist in the air, which is a leftover from the dew.
Many people are in a hurry to get where they are going and very few have a chance to slow down and take a look around them. That day, I was not rushed and I was enjoying just strolling and looking around me. Unfortunately, I had left the house without eating, and I was starting to feel hungry. No matter. I would wait until I finished my errands and would eat when I got back home. The fact that I was a little hungry and I was not pressured to get anywhere that day I feel somehow contributed to what happened next.
I noticed the people around me who were homeless or struggling and looking for a handout or kind word from the people passing by. It pained me greatly to see a person lying on the floor, without anyone to lift him up and to comfort him. I have great respect for the music street players, who play with enthusiasm in order to earn some money for their lunch or dinner. There are many other people who are just sitting around. Maybe they are waiting: waiting for something to happen, waiting for the soup kitchen to open and give them something to eat or maybe they are waiting for Godot (but God knows he never comes!). I don’t know who they are or why they are there. They just are.
Especially after witnessing the act of kindness by bringing a cup of coffee to someone who was working and struggling in the heat of the day, I couldn’t help but be conscious of the fact we have a definite void in Jerusalem, a city where there are so many charitable organizations and social organizations. We may have health care. We may have soup kitchens We may have multiple charities. But there is something still missing.
A few years ago my dear Uncle Avrum filled that void in Toronto. And I think the time has come for us to fill it here in our holy city of Jerusalem.
The Mobile Jewish Response to the Homeless is a way for us to reach out to the homeless and those in need without forcing them to be exposed or to leave their comfort zones. It helps us be able to connect with people on the streets, around the city and offer them food, drinks, and a comforting word.
To be continued!