Israelis are called Sabras. Sabras are a cactus fruit, the prickly pear. They chose this symbol because the plant is tenacious, its fruit has a thick hard skin, its thorns are sharp, but even with all this, it has a sweet, softer inside.
This Israeli has lived in Baltimore for a long time, but still he had to show us how tough he was. He refused to put on tefillin. I tried, but he was thick skinned. Shmuli jumped in and between us we were able to pull him in.
He read the Shema loudly as if he was teaching a large group how to say it. I showed him how to pray for all his loved ones and he did this loudly, too.
After I took off the tefillin and he began to walk away I said, "You did a big mitzvah. Good for you."
He stopped, and then he started crying. Not just little tears, but he started sobbing loudly. He would stop for a second and then start again. He had to push his fist against his lips to keep his sobbing quieter.
After sometime he was able to stop. He walked back to me, warmly took my hand and thanked me several times.
A really tough guy, thick skinned…but with a very soft, sweet inside.