By Lennie Lurie
Israel is a unique country in so many respects and the achievements of this small nation are the envy of many countries, all larger and with enviable natural resources. However, it is the Israeli people who are undeniably responsible for these innovations, developments and amazing accomplishments.
However, let me tell you about a relatively insignificant incident which does not involve any reputable Israeli movers and shakers; it does not elicit any “wow” reactions of incredulity and wonder and it has no bearing on Israeli science, technology and corporation takeovers. In fact it relates to a group of ordinary Israeli school pupils who undertook a rather simple though bizarre step in displaying their feelings towards a fellow school mate. Yet this unpretentious act solicited the empathy and admiration of all who heard about it. More than that, it displayed something uniquely “Israeli” in its originality, imagination and involvement. I can already see that quizzical expression on your face, so I request your patience.
Our son, Yair, having served his three years military service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), was honorably discharged towards the end of 2017. During his service, he began to cut the hair of his friends and fellow soldiers. Where or how he learnt this skill is unknown to me but he did a most commendable job and his “clients” were most satisfied with the results (not to mention the free service!). Upon his discharge he worked as an assistant to Moshe, the local men’s barber / hair dresser in our village, Kiryat TIvon. With time he gained additional experience and when Moshe went on holiday, Yair single handed took over the salon performed his hair cutting / styling duties with exemplary results. Our son …. the barber!
Not long ago, a pupil in the matriculation class at the local high school was diagnosed with bone cancer and he underwent chemotherapy as a means of healing this malicious disease. A common result of this treatment is the total loss of hair on the head. The pupil, let’s call him Yossi, continued to attend school. Needless to say, a “bald” school kid amongst the pupils of the school was most noticeable and Yossi experienced an appalling sense of conspicuousness. No doubt, he seriously considered absenting himself from school. Yossi suffered from a natural sense of being “different” and this continuously played on his mind. His close friends were aware of Yossi’s dilemma and they decided to do something to “remedy” this cruel quandary.
One day, a group of pupils appeared at Moshe’s barber shop and requested that he “shear” each one of them completely! Moshe did not give this a second thought and both his and Yair went about their duties, turning each kid into a young Yul Brunner (a well-known Russian born Hollywood actor in the ‘50’s and 60’s, distinguished by his bald head). Upon asking the boys the reason for their extreme haircut, Moshe was informed that this was a means of solidarity with their fellow pupil who had lost his hair as a result of the chemotherapy treatment. No longer will Yossi stand out amongst his fellow pupils; he will have a number of “twins” to share the offensive stares of the school pupils.
Moshe was so impressed with this gesture of solidarity that he suggested to the pupils that both he and Yair would come to the school and during the school break, and give free haircuts to any other pupils who wished to identify with their school mate, Yossi.
And so it was. The two professional barbers, together with their equipment, went to the high school and during the break, cut off the hair of about 50 school boys. These kids, with intense pride and self-satisfaction, proudly sported a clean cut cranium for all to see. One can barely imagine the feelings of Yossi who suddenly found himself, one of many, with a shining and hairless head. If ever a “friend in need was a friend indeed”, it was those selfless kids who never hesitated for a moment to undertake such an extreme aesthetic change in order that a fellow pupil would not feel the upsetting glances of the public.
As stated above, there is something typically “Israeli” in the pupils’ magnanimous gesture of cutting off their hair. This bonding with a friend to eliminate any stigma, coupled with the ingenuity, spontaneity and the “contagiousness” of the act, is what makes these impudent, impolite, crude and spirited kids the envy of all their counterparts the world over. And it is with love, admiration, awe and respect that we embrace them and watch them become soldiers who will defend us with the same dedication, valor and unselfishness.