I am on the train, traveling south from Tel Aviv to Be’er Sheva. Three Bedouin women dressed in hijabs (headscarves) enter the train ahead of us, each with a toddler. They see there are no seats together, so they opt to sit on the floor, near the doors. I find seats for my daughter and myself. Across the aisle from us sits a man with a kippah. A Bedouin woman and her toddler sit facing him. The toddler is cranky; she is tired of sitting on mother’s lap. She wants to explore. Her mother holds her firmly, and tries to pacify her, as she squirms and whines. Because she is using simple Arabic, geared to a three year-old, I can understand every word.
It is one of those unpleasant situations that happens all the time, and usually is tolerated in silence, as if it were unnoticed. In this instance, the young man with the kippah reaches into his backpack and withdraws a completed Rubik’s Cube. He hands it to the mother who carefully twists the top row of squares to show her daughter it can move.
When the toddler realizes she will never find out what is inside the cube, she becomes cranky again, and the mother thanks the man, returning it. We sit with the toddler’s discomfort for a while.