Yair and I like being independent and rockin our own schedule. Nevertheless, we enjoy being with the local Jewish community for Shabbat. Since several friends in the area have offered to host us, parking has never been a problem. This past Friday night, we found a quiet spot alongside a local park (not in front of anyone’s home) just a half block down from our friend’s house.
Imagine our surprise on Saturday morning when we were awakened at 8:20 am by an aggressive-bordering-on-violent pounding on our window. The thudding immediately startled us out of our sleep and I wondered if the window was about to shatter. Yair and I had slept “downstairs” that night on the sofa bed, and opened our blinds to face an angry man who began to yell at us.
“Get out of here! You’re not welcome. We don’t want your kind around here! You’re not allowed to be here!” and so forth.
Yair kept his cool, though I was thoroughly freaked out by this potentially threatening man who had assaulted our vehicle. Half-asleep, I considered reaching for the gun for our own security. The man refused to tell us his name and continued his barrage against us. Realizing that the guy was probably on his way to synagogue (dressed in a suit on Saturday morning in a Jewish neighborhood), I whispered to Yair to tell the man that we were guests of the X family down the street and that we were only in town for Shabbat. Boy, did he make a 180.
“Well, that changes everything. I didn’t know that you were part of the community. You see, we’ve had problems with RVers in the past parking in this neighborhood. A lot of these guys are drug dealers or child molesters or even dump their fecal matter in the streets, and I have to protect the community. I’m a detective with the police here and my name is X.”
Yair appreciated his change in tone, but still explained that pounding on someone’s private property and yelling at them is no way to interact with people and is a very scary way to wake up. On the one hand, I understood the man’s concern that there were ‘strangers’ in his neighborhood and I understood how someone being Jewish puts them on more familiar, comfortable and therefore trustworthy grounds. On the other hand, if we had been just as nice people but not Jewish, we probably would have been booted out of there, and RVers are not a bad lot! Every person should be treated with respect no matter their background (within reason).
The detective returned a few hours later and gently knocked on our front door. He proceeded to apologize for his earlier behavior and invited us to his home to join his family for Shabbat lunch – an odd and unexpected turn of events. We turned down the invitation as we had prior plans (and I was still a little spooked by / angry at him), but it was a jarring morning that made me appreciate the permanent hook-up that we have on private property behind a locked gate in Van Nuys.
One of many lessons learned: Small town policemen are super helpful and welcoming, but steer clear of the LAPD!
PS- Speaking of assumptions that people make about strangers, check out this fascinating article on the Chinese perception of Jews.
posted by ayo