Caught by Surprise in an Arab Car Repair Garage
When a tense situation suddenly became a time for friendship
I was in a state of increased alertness as I met the Arab garage workers and manager for the first time. This happened on an Israeli Jewish holiday, during tense weeks of violent Muslim protests at the Gaza border. I was in Turan, an Arab village below Nazareth and just down the street from Cana (of water-being-turned-into-wine fame). Because of those tensions I did not know what mood I should expect from a member of the Arab community within Israel.
Inside the moderately-sized Arab-Israeli village of Turan is a spotlessly-clean car repair garage, freshly painted red and white, adjacent to the house of its enterprising owner/manager. Since other garages were closed that day, I decided to try this garage, for the first time, to repair a scary clicking noise from the front right wheel housing of my car.
As I nervously waited for parts and service, two other Jewish men brought their cars for service as well. They enthusiastically hugged the Arab garage owner, catching me by surprise. I started to relax and enjoy myself.
I sat down to sip a sweet cup of complementary “cardamom” coffee next to the older Jewish customer from Tiberias. I cracked open my Bible, trying to get in my devotional reading for the day. When I turned to the New Testament he noticed, and started a conversation in Hebrew with me and the Muslim mechanic seated next to us on his coffee break. The Jew knew Arabic well, and had read large portions of the Quran. He and the Muslim proceeded to analyze ostensibly peace-loving aspects of Islam, and to speak against the Muslim extremists. The Tiberias Jewish customer shared how he had been stationed in Gaza many years ago while serving in the IDF (before the IDF pullout, the Hamas takeover, etc). He had gotten along well with the Muslim leaders of the adjacent mosque who had agreed to lower the prayer-loudspeaker volume when asked to.
The Muslim told a story of how Mohamed had returned good for evil in the face of an antagonistic Jewish neighbor in Mecca. I shared from the first epistle of John chapter four about love.
My car repaired, I drove back to the neighboring Jewish moshav-village where I live.
I felt refreshed from the experience of neighbors living together and learning to love one another amidst the tensions in this country. In fact, most day-to-day interactions I see between the Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel are friendly, much more so than you would think listening to the daily news.