Eilat is our favorite choice for a quick getaway to recharge our routine-weary batteries, and it was during a recent refreshing respite that we experienced one of those heartwarming "only in Israel" occurrences.
Orthodox, secular and traditional Israelis sat down amongst the many tourists to enjoy their Friday night dinner in the noisy crowded hotel dining room. Some men wore kippot, some donned serviettes to create makeshift kippot, and some just made sure that there was wine and challah and plenty of good food on the spotless white tablecloth.
Carrying a bottle of wine and glasses, a friendly young waitress escorted us to our table, making sure that we had all we needed. My husband stood up to make kiddush, and as he began, our waitress came closer and stood beside us, and, not wishing to interrupt, gesticulated that if we didn't mind, she'd like to be part of the mitzvah, and to hear kiddush too. Following kiddush she partook of the wine poured by my husband. Thanking us with a happy "Shabbat shalom" greeting, she went about her work - fetching, carrying and serving the many demanding diners.
To some, this experience may seem quite trivial, but it evoked such deep emotions and sentiments in us- feelings of belonging, in our own country, amongst our own people, where the young waitress felt she was part of our family too, and could, for a few moments enjoy the "kedusha" of Shabbat.
"AM YISRAEL CHAI"