Although they knew who we were talking about, Reuven and Shimon said nothing to me and eagerly hosted Levi at their home. Had they not been so totally righteous, Shabbat might have ended differently. Read this story and you’ll understand why I say that I collect God’s Diamonds.
Friday for me is a particularly busy day. It’s when my “kids,” members of the Osey Chail family, return home to their apartments. What a happy occasion! Sometimes, before going to their own homes, they come to my house to say hello, where we can hug and kiss one another, sharing experiences and stories. On Fridays, I visit their apartments, join them for coffee, help them get organized. Then, I can sit back and watch them smile, internalizing their joie de vivre, taking in the results of our actions again and again: They have a place to return to. They have a new home and family. This fills me with strength for further activity. I await these Fridays eagerly.
One Friday, my cellphone vibrated, indicating that I received a WhatsApp message—a common occurrence since I began dealing with lone soldiers. “I am a lone soldier staying at the Soldiers’ Hostel [in Jerusalem] and I have nowhere to spend Shabbat properly. Can I spend Shabbat with you?”
Of course! Why not? I asked Yoske, our soldier in charge of registering Shabbat guests and obtained his consent. I told the young man how to get here and began checking where he would be assigned for Shabbat. One of the apartments had only two residents, so I asked the occupants—let’s call them Reuven and Shimon—if they could host the lone soldier, whom I identified by name. You will soon understand why this detail is so crucial to the story. Reuven and Shimon expressed consent without hesitation.
Over Shabbat, we realized that the lone soldier, whom we’ll call Levi, was not like the rest of the young men. He was arrogant and rude. I asked Reuven and Shimon if Levi had made them any trouble, but they responded “No way … All is well. Don’t worry. We get along.”
On Saturday night, I heard the whole story. I have often been told that the soldiers of the Osey Chail family were truly righteous, the kind of people you encounter in story books, but the following true story really proved it:
It turned out that this was not the first time that Reuven and Shimon had met Levi.
Shimon had the right to live at the Soldiers’ Hostel, but hardly goes there because he feels his home is with us. Sometimes, on Saturday night, he would leave Kiryat Arba and stay at the Hostel so he could get up early on Sunday and return to his base. Shimon shared a room there with Levi and knows all about him, the good and the bad… mostly bad.
On one particular occasion, Reuven asked to accompany his friend Shimon and stay at the Soldier’s Hostel as well. Shimon agreed to host him. Why not? It was a particularly cold Jerusalem winter night. Levi came back to the room after a wild night of partying and discovered Reuven, Shimon’s guest. Both were sleeping to rest up for the grueling day ahead.
Levi shook Shimon awake violently, screaming: “How dare you bring a visitor here without asking my permission?” With no compassion whatsoever, he threw Reuven out into the cold night, even though he had no place else to sleep. Levi then continued humiliating poor Shimon. Shivering with cold, Reuven spent the rest of the night on an armchair in the Hostel lobby.
And now, half a year later, these two righteous men, Reuven and Shimon are in their own home. One Friday, they hear that Levi, who humiliated them cruelly, is on the way to Kiryat Arba to stay with them in their apartment, but they don’t say a thing to me, not even a hint of what had happened. Instead, they welcome their guest like a king, devoting themselves totally to his wellbeing and making no mention of the horrendous things he did to them only a few months earlier.
Throughout Shabbat, I realize that the two are uncomfortable with Levi, so I ask my two righteous soldiers whether Levi’s presence disturbs them in any way. With characteristic humility and tranquility, they answer: “No, everything is all right,” not even hinting to me that they had met him previously.
On Saturday night, when I heard the story in full, I went to Reuven and Shimon’s apartment at once. Levi, that beastly character, was no longer there. He would never set foot in our community again. I embraced my two righteous soldiers excitedly. Such stories are normally found in tales of Jewish saints, but in this case, they are taking place right here in our own home, among the Osey Chail family in Kiryat Arba—Hebron. These are authentic, living, breathing, righteous people. The next morning, these same people put on their uniforms and bear arms, risking their lives to defend the Jewish state. When they pass through certain parts of Jerusalem, people will curse them, shouting “Hardakim” and “Army of Apostasy.” But my pure, righteous children can only knit their brows in amazement, incapable of grasping what all the fuss is about. “We were expelled from the house only half a year ago,” they explain to me innocently. Reuven says: “How could we possibly mistreat another soldier, even if he did throw me out of his room.” He cannot understand why his behavior is considered unusual. “When he came back to his room for the night, maybe he was drunk. Should we leave him to spend Shabbat alone at the Soldiers’ Hostel just because of that?” Aharon, that’s not our style.”
These fine young men also cannot understand why I’m crying, why I’m so touched by their actions, why I feel such tremendous love for each of my 23 children.
Perhaps now you can understand what I mean when I say that I gather up God’s Diamonds. There are simply no more diamonds like these in this world. None at all.