Thursday, September 4, 2008

On the Passage of Time

Frankfurt airport. Three or four elderly Israeli women and one well-dressed elderly man reached the checkpoint (I think it was the fourth so far) by electric golf-cart: a service offered by the airport for elderly passengers who might have problems walking the distances. The driver of the golf cart was a courteous young woman who seemed heartened by the fact that these particular charges spoke German; and if it was German with a not fully recognizable accent, it made no difference. They were nice old people.

At the checkpoint she unloaded them and assisted them up to the barrier, where she handed them over to the young Israeli security person; this was a dark skinned young woman with whom the elderly man briefly flirted, in a grandfatherly way. “And from where in Czechoslovakia do you come?” she asked him, referring to a country that exists still in his memory but no-where else. Behind the young woman stood a uniformed young German policeman wearing body armor and a sub-machine gun. As the elderly folks passed through he smiled at them, and gave a ghost of a salute.

Do Holocaust survivors think through all the ironies of such moments? Probably not, I expect. This won’t have been their first trip through a German airport, and the novelty will probably have worn off. They seemed mostly interested in getting through the process so as to find a seat in the lounge beyond. But the ironies are there, even if no-one dwells upon them.

Postscript: Someday Israeli air passengers won’t have to be screened through four layers of security more than anyone else. When that happens you’ll know that peace may be a reality. No speech by any politician of any nationality at any venue will do the trick, unless it manages to carry off that one. Putative peace arrangements that leave the need for those special airport precautions are perhaps better than nothing, but they won’t be peace arrangements.

1 comment:

Michael Wildman - Rochester, NY, USA said...

Yaacov - You are exceptional at capturing these rich, thoughtful moments in words. It inspires me and keeps me attracted to your "musings". I love it!