Author’s note: This was written four years ago about this time of year right before the holiday of Purim, which is celebrated this year on 14 -15 March. Purim celebrates the rescue of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire from the evil designs of Haman the Agagite, a man descended from King Agag, the King of Amalek.
It was the day before Purim around 1:30 in the afternoon, and I was relaxing, reading an issue of Time Magazine someone had popped into my mailbox. I was interrupted by the phone. It was Nurit, the commander of the local Mishmar Ezrahi, the volunteer Civil Patrol that helps the police and the IDF spot and stop terrorists. She said she needed me for a patrol at a community center in Gilo where there was a Purim carnival going on for the children in the neighborhood - right now.
So I stuffed a cheese sandwich into my mouth and walked down to the local sub-station a few hundred meters away. I signed for a rifle, a couple of clips of bullets and a blue Velcro vest with "Mishtéret Yisraél (Israel Police) and Mishmár Ezrahí (Civil Guard) in big letters on it. I also received my official I.D. as a member of the Mishmar Ezrahi, complete with photo and Teudat Zehut (national ID card) number imprinted. A few minutes later we all left.
There were four of us in the hatchback driving toward Gilo. Nurit, and a young guy whose name I forget, Claude and me. Nurit is a pretty young lady, young enough to be my daughter, who is the cop, the professional with the salary. The young guy who drove the hatchback is a draftee to the army, was also young enough to be my child. The way it has seemed to work in the past is that I was paired off with some retiree, at least twenty years older than me, who has been here longer than I. This time was no different.
Claude was born at least seventy five years ago in Algeria and fought in the British Army when the French were defeated in 1940. He speaks Hebrew with an unmistakable French accent and has several children and grandchildren here. He has lived in Israel for seven years.
When we arrived at the Gilo Community Centre, we were not the only Civil Guard members there. In addition to the other civil Guard members, there were also two military policemen armed with M16's and several civilian cops. One of those policemen started to explain the assignment to us, assuming that we could both understand Hebrew. Fortunately, I did understand, because when he was done, I repeated his instructions back to him in English, speaking to him as quickly in my native tongue as he had done to me in his native tongue.