Looking for the Girl in the White Dress
For Eliezer Sheffer, serving as a sergeant in a paratrooper reserve unit during the Six-Day War remains an indelible memory. A bomb sapper, he fought in a battle that helped unite Jerusalem under Israeli rule and participated hours later in Mincha prayers on the Temple Mount — and for both experiences, Sheffer, an observant man, expresses pride to this day.
Yet another powerful association the now 79-year-old Jerusalemite carries from the war occurred after combat had ceased and he was heading home, when Sheffer crossed paths with a little girl named Basima Shafiq.
Their meeting would lead to a brief friendship with the girl’s Muslim family. Then, as life inevitably does, the connection gradually flitted, and it would drift from Sheffer’s mind in the ensuing decades.
But seeing a photograph last year that he hadn’t known existed rekindled Sheffer’s thoughts about the long-ago encounter and prompted him to wonder what’s become of the now middle-aged Basima. He has since searched for her, to no avail.
“I’d like to see her and to hear what her life has been like,” said Sheffer, a retired career guidance counselor for Israel’s Labor Ministry who lives in the capital’s Musrara neighborhood. “She made such an impression on me.”
For Sheffer, friendly relations with Muslims have always come naturally. Growing up in the then mixed city of Tiberias impressed upon him the value of good neighborliness. Sheffer’s father, a Karlin Hasid, had a Muslim business partner, and mutual visits by the families on their respective holidays were common. When Sheffer lived in Jerusalem’s Old City, he frequently gave his house key to a grocery store owner-friend named Muhammad for safekeeping.