The other week I received news that one of my parents’ best friends is in a comma, at a hospital in Israel, following a traffic accident. That accident took place while he was on his way to the synagogue, but I will let the tragic outcome overshadow the irony of the situation. By the sound of the descriptions reaching my ears, the friend was not wearing his seatbelt (although his family denies such accusations); again, other than being a lesson for the rest of us, this does not matter much now. The point is that the life of this man of advanced age is, at least as he used to know it, over. He’s either going to die or live the rest of his life severely disabled.
At one stage or another we all hit that point in our lives. One can only hope it won’t be as sudden and it won’t be too painful, but who am I kidding: that is rarely the case.
I actually had an affair, so to speak, with that guy in the comma.
Some two decades back, us – family and friends – gathered for the memorial of a recently deceased relative of mine. Being me, I refused to take part in the religious rites that my otherwise secular family persisted with. Hardly anyone cared – as they should – with the exception of this “friend”.
He confronted me and told me off by asking whether I’m a Jew or not. I told him, politely, that I am not; to which he completely lost it and swung a punch in the trajectory of my face.
Now, I am not the most physical of people (and that’s a severe understatement). But I had the size and the age advantage, and I easily dodged the swing – which would have clearly hurt me a lot, had it landed. The guy was preparing for a second round; I was preparing for a counterattack which, in all likelihood, would have settled things pretty quickly. I did not want to do it, but in the interest of self-defence and given the need to react quickly it was pretty much unavoidable.
Luckily for the two of us, the guy was restrained from behind by a woman that happened to be there. No one else bothered to intervene or say anything, despite dozens of eyes witnessing the event. I stepped outside and that was pretty much it.
The rest of that evening went along as if nothing had happened.
I, however, do not consider matters closed.
The whole incident happened right before the eyes of my parents. And although they referred to the guy as “silly” in later conversation, they still kept this person that was so eager to punch me in the name of his religion of birth as a best friend of theirs.
Now that he is in hospital I wish him the best recovery possible. Whatever happened between us is not punishable by death or severe injury. However, I will never forgive my parents. All in all it was just another brick in the wall that, eventually, saw me leave for Australia.