When I first visited and spent time in Israel all those years ago, I had several coincidences happen to me, mainly with running into people in special circumstances. I thought then "Only in Israel."
We had a couple incidents happen this time 'round too. And it made me once again think "Only in Israel" and "the world is very small...and seems to be getting smaller and smaller all the time!"
Between early January and mid-March 1984, I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Lavi. Not only was I a volunteer, I was the ONLY North American volunteer at the time. When I'd gone to the Mizrachi office in Israel to try and organize a volunteer stint on a religious/Kosher kibbutz, the shaliach suggested I go to her kibbutz. As long as it was close enough to a main city, I was game.
As well, the kibbutz was deemed an Anglo kibbutz, having been founded by Americans and English olim.
So on the kibbutz, I lived with the "garin." These are religious soldiers who have placement on kibbutzim and also learn in Jerusalem. I was given a host family, and became an adoptive daughter to Moshe and Tova (Toby ) Winter, former New Yorkers.
Over the years upon my return to Toronto, I did maintain some contact with the Winter family, but that dwindled and disappeared about 12 years ago or more.
On this trip, our family took a side trip with friends to the north for a couple of days: Tiberias, Tzfat, Rosh Pina, the Golan. As we were traveling on the familiar highway that passes Kibbutz Lavi, I said that if we'd have time, it would be nice to stop in there, let my kids see what a kibbutz looks like -- especially the kibbutz their mom worked on -- and maybe look up the Winter family.
We drove around the perimeters of the kibbutz and I pointed out the well-known kibbutz hotel where I worked for a time in the dining room, and then our friend pointed out a woman and said, "She looks like she's been on the kibbutz a while; let's ask her if she knows your kibbutz family and where to find them."
My husband stopped the van and our friend addressed the woman in Hebrew asking if she knows where to find "Mishpachat Winter." She replied, "Eyzeh?" (which one?) Our friend said, "Moshe." The woman then calls out to a man who's walking nearby and in Hebrew says, "Moshe, someone is looking for you!"
The man came to the car, and there stood my "adoptive" dad! I called out from the back seat , saying who I was, and that I hadn't been there in 25 years. He immediately invited us to come visit at the house with his wife.
Can you imagine that this man was davka RIGHT THERE when we were seeking him out!?
We did have a lovely reunion with his wife and I saw a couple of his sons, who were just children at the time I was there before.
Kibbutz Lavi has a hotel and also has a factory where they build synagogue furniture. A couple of the Winter sons, who still live on the kibbutz, are involved with that. And wouldn't you know it-- back in April/May, one of those sons was in Toronto to oversee the installation of some of the furniture in an addition to a Chabad shul that is a mere 7 minute walk from my house. That son stayed at a private home a street away from us!?
The reunion and the fact that Moshe Winter was right there when we asked about him certainly put a smile on my face and on the faces of our family and friends.
Only in Israel....