Illustration by Denis Shifrin
I almost hit a policeman in the face yesterday.
I live by the side of a once peaceful road leading from Kfar Saba to Hod Hasharon. Strawberry fields are directly to the east and south of my house. When I raise my garage door I see the pastel beauty of the Ephraim hills with Shomron settlements nestled among them.
When I first moved to this idyllic place 35 years ago, the strawberry fields were citrus orchards. I had a simple black iron gate at the entrance to my garden. My children rode their bicycles on the narrow, barely used road.
A huge complex of tall apartment buildings now clings menacingly to the strawberry fields, at once beseeching them to remain a green reminder of what they had replaced and yet daring them their freedom. The rural road is now wider, with a bridge suspended over a highway. More people, traffic, infrastructure, congestion, and more road repair for wider and bigger water pipes and sewage.
During the summer, a ridiculous no entry sign appeared at the Kfar Saba end because new water pipes were about to be put in place one kilometer further down the road, past our house, making it temporarily a one-way street. "It will be reopened at the end of September; we are sorry for the inconvenience," reads the sign. We're headed for Chanukah with no end in sight, but we have been managing by using two side roads slightly beyond our house to come and go for over four months. To make the turn into these side roads, we must drive our car the wrong way for two meters - about 10 footsteps - on the southbound lane which is now not being used. Yesterday, a stony-faced policeman stopped me as I exited my driveway and turned right. "Next time you get a ticket," he said hatefully. "Travel through Kfar Saba and don't even think about these side roads." "Put yourself in my place," I said with conviction, pointing to my house which I could practically touch. "Why should I go miles out of my way when I can make the right turn here?" With a snarl and a look of contempt, he snapped, "If you continue to argue with me, I'll give you a ticket right now." That's when I almost lost it.
A different policeman appeared today, stationed in the same place, like a cat ready to pounce on an unsuspecting mouse. This time, before entering my car, I jaunted over to him and made a suggestion: why don't I just cross the car over to the gravel beyond the road, ride south for two seconds parallel to the strawberry field and then cross into the side street. He smiled, pleased with the fact that he could accommodate me within the limits of the law.
But there was something else going on at the same time. A second policeman pulled over a car which had ignored the no entry sign at the top of the road and was happily making its way to Hod Hasharon. In the car were two women, one of whom exited carefully. She was eating an ice cream, which, in the blistering sun, was dripping its cool, pink and green liquid down her arm and onto her dress. She was about eight months pregnant and was wearing a scarf wound about her head. What caught my attention was the woman's calm and grace. She spoke softly, listened to the policeman, accepted her ticket and rode off. On her car were a few stickers about being happy, about peace. In the America of the 60s she might have been a peacenik or a flower child; in the Israel of today, she might be a follower of Reb Nachman of Breslav. I could imagine her saying to herself, "Gam zu l'tova," everything is for the best.
I'm not sure I could have handled this situation with such composure and equanimity, but I'm starting to work on myself.
(As of publication, repairs have been completed and the street has now reverted to its former two way traffic. However, dealing with equanimity when confronted by stubborn bureaucrats is timeless.)