Last Sunday night was the beginning of Yom Kippur, and I was off from the army. For the first night I decided that I would go to the popular 'meat market' synagogue nearby. I swear I wasn't checking out the ladies on the Day of Atonement. I just wanted to, you know, see to it that everyone was repenting for all that gawking that takes place there (they weren't). My flatmate was walking in the same direction, but then had to take another direction eventually. As I turned onto a sidestreet I noticed a big government Suburban blocking the way to a locally famous synagogue (there are lots in Jerusalem, you know). Next to the Sub was a moveable barricade.
Security was abundant. The first thought that crossed my mind was that they were making sure no bad guys tried anything tricky with all those congregants. I quickly remembered, however, that I had seen some government security doing the same thing one morning as I walked to my bus stop on the way back to the army. As soon as I recalled that, a few guys in suits turned the corner. Secret Service guys. Tall, strong as hell looking. M16's not dangling to the side like a soldier going home, but rather with hands on the grips, pointed forward but to the ground. "Who the hell is this for," I wondered.
And out walks Shimon Peres, the venerated President of this fair state. Here we were, just me and Peres on a tiny sidestreet walking in opposite directions. And about 10 ready to pop badasses culled from who knows which army units. Shayetet (Seals), Sayeret Matkal (Delta Force), 669, Palsar (Rangers), Yahalom (special forces demolitions), Egoz (anti-guerilla warfare), some others probably, and even former Mossad who took an even more prestigious assignment if I had to guess. Me, Peres, 5 feet apart - and the world's scariest bodyguards.
I'm not one to get starstruck or shocked over a fellow human being. I mean, we're all flesh and blood and dust and ashes. But this isn't an ordinary man. He is considered one of the founders of the State, and at this very moment he is probably the most respected man in Israel. Peres is like a modern Israeli James Madison. What do you say to a man like that, in passing, on the eve of Yom Kippur? Do you wish him an easy fast? Tell him he's doing a great job? Maybe even something as cliche as saying, "Good evening, Mr. President"?
And so I found myself as shut up as a Tibetan monk in solitude on top a great, lonely mountain. Honestly, I'm not sure that if I had even tried to speak that the words would have come out at all. And just imagine if the security saw some bumbling idiot, big and as potentially threatening as I could be, making a move towards the head of state! That would have been an inauspicious start to the new year. I think the security, black suits and assault rifles and dark sunglasses and all, probably put the kibosh on any greeting or words more than any other factor.
But now, days later, I really wish I would have said something about Gilad Shalit. If you haven't been reading the news, our soldier captured in 2006 by Hamas is still a hostage. He's been subjected to the discommunication between Israel and her enemies for over three years (1,195 days in captivity) now, and just about the entire country is saying the same thing: bring him home already. We don't care how, just do it. Now.
Man, I wish I would have said exactly this:
That's it. Nothing else. In a normal tone of voice, no inflection at all, no gesticulation. Nothing. You know why? Because he knows what the country wants, and it would have been foolish to insult him further. I know that he isn't solely responsible for that situation, and the resolution, but he sure has a voice in the matter. He sure can make some moves.
But I didn't say a word, and that's OK - probably for the best. Definitely for the best. I don't need the Secret Service beating me up before I go to the meat market synagogue, giving me a bloody lip or something. Girls don't like a bleeding, awkward tall guy. Or maybe they'd think I was tough and just beat up some bad guys.
Ahh, the delusions of a sleep-depraved soldier...