Peace-making the Miraculous Way: In Alexandria, Egypt
I would not call it "peacemaking" in the political sense, nor even consider it making peace in any other recognizable sense that one hears about nowadays. I would call it "sneaking in peace", or "peace as a by-product" of the presence of the Prince of Peace, or even, "Peace by God". What I recount here is exactly what happened. I do not add, subtract, or embellish.
These are the days of "Arab spring" turned "Islamic winter". Those days used no such terms, but there was much danger in the Israel Egypt doings despite a recent peace treaty. The term for those days was "the Cold Peace". In those days of such Middle East maelstrom fraught with both hope and violence, an incident occurred to me.
We were a delegation, the very first of this kind to have been invited since the peace between Israel and Egypt about 15 years previous. We were the first Israeli Jewish "believer's" group of about 18-20 people, many of us from Jerusalem, to enter, as such, into Egypt, invited by a very brave Egyptian evangelical congregation of the coastal port city of Alexandria. We were to be the featured speakers for a number of days conference. Leaving Israel at Taba on the southern border near Eilat, and crossing the Sinai by Egyptian bus, we arrived in Alexandria to be immediately secreted and sequestered by the Egyptian organizers to our temporary home, a Roman Catholic monastery.
But once inside, we were met, to our shock and dismay, by the Egyptian Security Police who immediately, took away our passports ("What else do they know, what would they do?"). Such was our start. Very strange it was, in those days of Yasser Arafat, chief of all terrorists, for us Israelis to spend our days in Alexandria passing the headquarters with flag unfurled of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Arafat headed. But as the days of the conference at the Egyptian congregation went on, we felt more at home and at ease as the members changed from referring to us as "our guests from the Holy Land" to "our friends from Israel."
But that is only the setting for what gives me hope, to look and find, deeper then outward steel, sparks, and fang, some movement of God already at work.
And here is how I found it:
My wife and I had gone to Alexandria's city center and bazaar. With great weariness and discomfit I spied my particular oasis, the kind I look for wherever I am found - a coffee and pastry shop. I made for it while Exie departed to go shopping. As I reached it, I suddenly felt drained, weakened, and sweating profusely, I propped myself against the wall of the coffee shop, but as as I did so, I felt myself losing strength, and began to sink down, and finally, disregarding how it may look, I sat on the pavement leaning against the wall. But I noticed to my right, at the corner of the intersection on my side, a turbaned and traditionally garbed Muslim Egyptian vendor of playing pipes in front of his makeshift booth lined with pipes, just him alone. My head drooped down, and there I sat with my briefcase to my right on the ground. Then hearing something to the left, and lifting my head, I saw a hand with outstretched palm, seemingly disembodied, passing before my eyes. Taking in that a begging old woman was attached to the hand, I again dropped my head, closing my eyes. But before doing so, I noticed the turbaned vendor and he was staring at me.
Again, a few moments later, hearing something coming, but this time to my right, I again lifted my head and saw the same hand and the same woman coming back, and soon the same palm to be outstretched before my eyes. I don't really know why, but without thinking, I reached into my pocket, pulled out the coins (a mixture of American with Israeli, I am sure) and dropped them into the passing palm, and then dropped my head once again to my chest. But before I did, I saw, once again, that the vendor was again eyeing me.
Then, after a moment, it happened. Eyes closed, I suddenly felt myself lifted off the pavement and being stood on my feet, and - I need to tell you this, as somehow it tells you of the state of paralyzed comprehension this exhaustion had thrust me into - I saw my briefcase rising from the ground, seemingly by itself, and suspended in the air. Only after did I realize that it too was being lifted by the same person. The vendor was taking both of us to his little booth. He half dragged, half led me inside and sat me on a stool and there in the shade of the booth, I began regaining my strength.
And I saw this - all of a sudden, where there had been none before, people began coming to his booth to try his pipes, and I was struck with how many! Not a word was exchanged between myself and the vendor, and after a while, regaining my strength, I left to cross the street and find my wife. I do not remember if I even nodded to him or he to me, but I do remember, we never spoke a word to each other.
The next day, Exie and I returned to the same corner, she again to shop. Nearing the corner of the vendor, where again he stood, trying to sell, as he had the previous day, and again with no customers, I began to walk fast, and then in a wide stride.and then I found myself almost running toward him, and at the same time, he was making his way toward me, in the same rush. And there we stood both of us in the middle of the sidewalk, and hugging each other - I, Israeli Jewish believer in Jesus, and he, a robed and turbaned Egyptian Muslim. After we parted, again without a word, looking at each other, we went our ways, I back to the coffee shop front to wait for my wife, and he back to his booth, and I saw, once again, the miracle of yesterday -once again, the booth and corner which just before had been empty of people except the vendor, were all of a sudden, now bustling with people coming to him to look at and try his pipes. I tell you soberly, this is the way it was.
Why I said nothing to him and he to me, I still don't know, but I do not feel there was anything amiss. And I know that the sudden appearance from nowhere of people to try his pipes, a sign and a gift from God in heaven. And I think, all this does not seem much in comparison to the big events occurring now in the Middle East but neither did the bringing back to life of a widow's son by Jesus in the backwater Galilean village of Nain seem to make much news among the events of Imperial Rome of the first century.
Something must be afoot!