“Serendipity” (noun)

Serendipity: noun

the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

“a fortunate stroke of serendipity”

synonyms: (happy) chance, (happy) accident, fluke

 

How better to end a mild winter evening than with hot Shakshuka in central Tel Aviv? This sumptuous breakfast dish makes for a great dinner, and so I happily dipped challah bread in the steaming hot saucepan of tomatoey goodness. In the meantime, I watched life go by on Ibn Gabirol, one of Tel Aviv busiest streets. But when a large procession of people danced by the restaurant’s windows, accompanied by a party bus that boasted neon lights and blasted loud music, even the Tel Aviv locals in the restaurant spun their heads around with intrigue. Curiosity got the better of me; I hastily paid my dinner and ran out of the restaurant to pursue this congregation. Who were they, what were they celebrating, and why did they do so on a public street in the middle of the city?

My initial instinct was that this was a Jewish wedding. There were people of all ages but some wore more traditional religious clothing and black hats, and two men were carrying large silver goblet-like objects. But when I couldn’t spot the happy couple, I decided to ask a security guy in a yellow vest what was going on. He told me that this group of people were carrying the Torah from a bar on Dizengoff to the synagogue. “Wait, back up!” is what you’re probably thinking just about now. Well, I felt the same way, and so I went around the group asking more people more questions. Here’s what I found: the group had started as just a handful of people. Two hours ago, they met outside the bar on Dizengoff street where there was a horrific shooting in early January. Dizengoff is to Tel Aviv what King’s Road is to London, or the Theater district to Boston – an area rife with bars, clubs, and young people. It is not known to be a dangerous area; rather it is one of the most desirable places to live. But while the shooting must have left many Israelis scar(r)ed, these people had made a beautiful decision: they would commemorate the young victims of the shooting with a Torah, and in the process, would celebrate life by dancing from the bar to the synagogue in an ever-growing mass of people.

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To you, this probably sounds bizarre and surreal, maybe distasteful. To me, this was a profoundly moving event that I feel very lucky to have been a part of. Whether English-speaking or not, everyone present tried to include me. An Israeli Arab (who was by far the best dancer) grabbed my hand and pulled me into the middle of it all; the rabbi present eagerly shook my hand and thanked me for being there, before leading the group in chanting a prayer; and a French Jew who had made Aliyah four years ago told me he had turned down a private dinner with a senior Likud politician, just to be here.

For me, this evening was sheer serendipity. By pure luck, I saw something raw – figments of the national psyche out in the open: Israelis’ mourning for their dead compatriots, Israelis’ resilience, and their unshakable will to live their lives in spite of terrorism.

Two days later, I found myself at the very bar where the senseless shooting occurred. Why? Because a mere ten days after the shooting, the bar’s owners had invited all of Tel Aviv to a massive street feast to celebrate life.

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