Some­one miss­ing

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - REFLECTIONS - • DVORA WAYSMAN The writer is the au­thor of 14 books. Her lat­est novel is Search­ing for Sarah. [email protected]

Iseem to miss him. It’s strange, be­cause he used to make me shud­der. I guess you’d call him a beg­gar, but he was dif­fer­ent from all the other Jerusalem beg­gars. He didn’t lie in some shop door­way. He didn’t ac­cost you when your car stopped at a red light. He didn’t stand in the street, hand ex­tended, head bowed, look­ing pa­thetic. There were no hand­writ­ten or printed signs de­tail­ing any kind of hard-luck story. As beg­gars go, he was unique.

His spe­cial spot was on Jerusalem’s King Ge­orge Av­enue out­side the In­de­pen­dence Park pub­lic gar­dens. Ev­ery time I vis­ited my den­tist on Ma’alot Street, I would pass him. He was old, but it was im­pos­si­ble to gauge his age ex­actly be­cause of the way he was dressed. He had al­most no teeth, so his cheeks were sunken. Sum­mer or win­ter, he was garbed in shiny black-green trousers, a rav­eled sweater and a shabby old over­coat.

He would stalk up and down his few me­ters of ter­ri­tory, shout­ing at the sky. I never un­der­stood what lan­guage he was us­ing; it could have been gib­ber­ish. But he was al­ways an­gry. If you of­fered him coins he would take them, but he never so­licited them and he never thanked you.

The re­ac­tion of passersby to his street per­for­mance was in­ter­est­ing. In any other city, I am sure he would have been ridiculed, if not ar­rested. Cer­tainly some peo­ple crossed the road to avoid him. But here in Jerusalem, no one laughed.

Just once when I gave him a few coins, our eyes met. For a minute the anger in his seemed to dis­si­pate, and I felt strangely re­warded. But then it was like a blind or a shut­ter was pulled down, and I felt bereft. Ig­nor­ing me, he once again raised his arms to rail at heaven, scream­ing his abuse. A sleeve from his old over­coat slipped down, and it was then I saw the num­ber tat­tooed on his arm.

“He has rea­son to be an­gry with God,” I thought. “Who knows what hor­ror he has lived through, what painful losses he has sus­tained?” I re­mem­ber board­ing the bus to go home, filled with un­ut­ter­able sad­ness. I wished I knew his name. I wanted to hu­man­ize him in some way.

The next time I was in the area, I looked for him. He wasn’t there. I thought he might be sick, and I wor­ried who would look after him. But I never saw him again, so he must have passed to that place in the sky where he di­rected all his in­vec­tives. I hope that some­one ex­plained things to him, gave him some an­swers. And I hope and pray that he is fi­nally at peace. ■

(Il­lus­tra­tive; Flavio/Flickr)

‘I WISHED I knew his name. I wanted to hu­man­ize him in some way.’

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