The Soldier and Me

Of the many things we can relate to when we travel is boarding a bus, especially when only single seats remain.  You have the one’s that purposely out their bag in empty aisle seat indicating they want to sit alone and those that seat in the aisle seat in which you have to step over them.  It is a situation we have all been in and that was the case when I boarded the bus for my trip to Jerusalem – a bus filled with single seats.  And after a long walk to the back of the bus I found a seat, and the soldier I sat next too would have the biggest effect on me than anyone I’d ever met in seventeen years of travel.  And the one thing that connected us was something we never would’ve imagined. 


‘Are you traveling alone?’ he asks – ‘I am, it’s the only way I travel.’  ‘Are you on a pilgrimage or something educational?’  ‘No, I’ve always wanted to see Israel so here I am.’  ‘And what do you think so far?’  ‘I am having an amazing time!’  about ten minutes into our ride what kind of music do you like and he handed me his Ipod and I did the same and it was almost in unison we both said – ‘who the hell are these people?’ I had never heard of any single band of singer on his ipod.  ‘Who’s Tina Turner’ he asks(she is my favorite singer) ‘you’re joking?’  ‘No, who is Tina Turner?’  ‘You’re only eighteen so I’m going to let that slide, but look her up sometime.’  We laughed.

‘How long have you been in the army?’  ‘Six months’  – ‘Are you nervous, scared about the day you might go into combat?’  ‘No’ he responded, but as excited as he was I saw the bit of fear in his eyes, after all he was just eighteen.  ‘I am sure your mom must worry, I know mine is right now.’  ‘Why is your mother worried?’  ‘Because her son is in the Middle East.’  ‘And I know anytime the phone rings when I am in another country there’s the thought that something has happened.’  ‘I am sure your mother must go through the same anxiety, mother’s worry.’  ‘Every phone conversation in Boston always ends with ‘be careful.’  ‘I am sure my mom does the same thing.’  ‘That’s what mother’s do, they worry.’  

‘Do you ever want to visit the U.S.?’  ‘I do he replied but only after Obama is gone, he doesn’t support Israel.’  ‘Next question, ‘ok’ he responds.  Something I always do when I travel avoid politics and religion.  ‘Do you like sports?’ I asked ‘I do like football’  ‘American football?’  ‘Surely you’ve heard of Tom Brady in Israel?’  I knew he hadn’t – ‘No I’ve never heard of Tom Brady?’  ‘What about the New England Patriots?  Four time Super Bowl Champions?  ‘O.k I’ll let Tina slide, but not Tom Brady – please google Tina Turner and then  Tom Brady when you have a moment.’  We both laughed.

‘What about tennis, do you like tennis?’ ‘Yes I do, I like it a lot.’  ‘Finally we have a winner!!!’  ‘It is my favorite sport, (American Football is number two) it is the only sport I can watch all day and not get bored’  ‘Who’s your male player’ I ask, let’s see if we agree.  ‘Federer and Novak’ ‘I’m a Roger fan, can’t stand Novak’ ‘I’m a Rafa fan’ ‘I can enjoy  him too.’  ‘And for the ladies?’  ‘Without question Serena Williams’  ‘Well all right, the first thing we both agree on, I love Serena, I could watch her all day.’

We arrived in Jerusalem an hour later.  And for the time we spent together it was the discussion about our mother’s that I’ll remember most.  ‘Well if someone told me I’d meet and eighteen year old soldier who’s never heard of Tina Turner today I would call them crazy.’  ‘If someone told me that I’d meet a forty five year old black man who is traveling to Israel on his own I’d call them crazy.’  We laughed, shook hands and went our separate ways.


In the four years since we met each time I hear of an act of violence in Israel he is the first person that comes to mind and I am hoping he is safe.  I’m pretty sure news of events in Boston  don’t make it into an Israeli newscast maybe when he hears about Tina Turner, Serena, Rafa or even Tom Brady he might think of me.  But these are the moments that make travel so amazing, the unscripted and unexpected.


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