Guest post by Mitchell Halberstadt - USA
After a long evening in Jerusalem -- first at the Western ("Wailing") Wall, and then trying (unsuccessfully) to find my way out through a hellish tangle of unmarked streets teeming with Chassidim and Arabs (in separate neighborhoods), none of whom spoke English -- I found my way to the freeway and then to Neve Shalom, where I was set to stay for the night after leaving off my bags earlier in the day.
Neve Shalom's a moshav, a half-Arab, half-Jewish village set up as an intentional community, an experiment in coexistence, about midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (perhaps 18 miles from each). My accommodation's a private bungalow with a beautiful view of the rolling countryside and its own little patio (where I'm writing this at 7 am with roosters crowing in the background). Driving up a twisting country road, I arrived back at the entrance at around 12:30 am, only to find myself blocked by a gate. WIorried that I might be locked out for the night, I tooted my horn.
A small group of twenty-something males -- two or three Arabs, two or three Jews -- emerged from behind a nearby building. One of the Arabs came forward.
"Ah, you want us to open the gate!," he announced. "You need to pay baksheesh! Give me five shekels!"
"You're kidding," I replied, but I was exhausted after a long day and started fumbling for some change.
"Just joking," said the Arab, as he lifted the gate.
I shifted the car into gear and slowly began to proceed. But as I did so, one of the Jewish kids came forward.
"Not so fast'" he declared. "I need to search your car. Do you have any weapons?"
This time, we all broke out laughing.
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