From Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul

The Laundry Bag

The highest form of wisdom is kindness.


The Israel Defense Forces is known to be keenly attentive to keeping pace with new technologies to maintain its military edge. One unclassified secret is that most army bases lack one critical bit of low-tech machinery: washing machines. Young recruits in Israel’s army (which still observes a nearly universal draft) pile up their soiled uniforms for the much-awaited weekend furlough, when they pack their dirty laundry into one of their overstuffed duffel bags to bring home. Although the world has changed in many respects, it’s still a fair bet to say that, in most cases, Mom does the wash.

Every Friday, Israel’s main roads and highways are packed with streams of young men and women soldiers seeking transport home, huge duffel bags in tow. Many key intersections have soldiers’ hitchhiking posts, called trampiadas in Hebrew slang, alongside the bus routes.

One Friday afternoon, a young soldier fortunate enough to get a ride home was unfortunate enough to forget his duffel bag in the trunk of the car that had given him a lift. Luckily, the next day, he received a call from the driver, who had traced his home number through the tags on his duffel bag.

The driver offered to meet him at the hitchhiking station where he had dropped him off. They met, as planned, and the young soldier thanked the good Samaritan. He was relieved to retake possession of his duffel bag, though disappointed to have to return to the base with the same dirty laundry he had taken home.

Back on base, the soldier unzipped what he anticipated to be a malodorous duffel bag, but was taken aback to find freshly laundered and folded uniforms, underwear and socks. He also found a note, attached to a bag of cookies. The note, unsigned, was from someone’s mom, telling him that she had done his uniforms along with her son’s. “I hope you like these cookies,” read the unsigned note. “Take care of yourself and be careful.”

Chava Weiss

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