As I was on my way to Yeshuv Itamar in the hills of Samaria, my bus stopped to let on a family. Since leaving from the central station in Jerusalem, the bus had already been full with mothers, children, and fathers excited to come home for Shabbat. The woman coming on to the bus had 7 children. The bus had only 1 seat left.
I had sat in the front so I could feel the force of the hills as I entered the Shomron, but had not expected the surprise I would receive from my position. Onto my lap came a 2 year old girl, hair in pigtails, smiling at her other siblings who were similarly occupying the laps of 6 other strangers that had accepted the responsibility of “seating” for the remainder of the trip.
As an au pair in Israel, babysitting became a team effort. Mothers I came across in the park would instruct me on keeping the baby warm, feeding her enough. I was never at a loss for advice. At first, I took it as an insult. Eventually, I took their advice with appreciation and knew they only had my charge’s best interests at heart.
Here in Boston, I spend many of my Shabbats with an Israeli family at their house. I am welcomed in as a family member, invited over during the week, and I have an open invitation for a bed if I ever get sick in Boston and don’t want to be alone. I call them my “adopted family” and I don’t think they realize how much of a blessing it is to have found them here in a city far from my home.
Whether it be in Yesha or it be in a different city in the United States, I never feel uncomfortable going to a fellow Jewish families house for Shabbat. Always, I know I feel at home. How is it that I can feel so comfortable in a complete stranger’s house? That I know I will be taken in with open arms and treated like a family member?
The Jewish people is more than a nation. The Jewish people is a family, and if Israel is the physical embodiment of the Jewish soul, then it makes sense that I feel comfortable with a stranger’s baby on my lap, or walking in to a stranger’s home, because, in reality, these people are no strangers. They are my family.