Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband frantically scrubbing my youngest son’s hands. We were about to unload our suitcases off the minibus we had taken from Jerusalem to the airport for the flight back home after two weeks in Israel. But the hand-cleaning was taking some time.

I walked over to my 4-year-old and saw streaks of sticky blue gum lining his fingers and wrists. Gum? We don’t do gum. Then I saw the look on our bus driver’s face. Yossi had taken instantly to my little one, and now I Gum? We don’t do gum.noticed the plastic container of gum on the stroller seat . . .

Ah, Israelis!

How Israelis love kids, anyone’s kids. The country is a free-for-all for the youngest set, something I truly appreciated only once I started bringing my own children there. When I was a teenager visiting Israel from the States, I noticed how people there don’t allow a child to cry. One pout, one sob, and out comes candy, trinkets and eager smiles to turn a kid around. That would never happen back home—a stranger give a child candy?—but in Israel, in a nation that still harbors a post-Holocaust mentality, there is no reason that a Jewish child should ever cry again, if someone can help it.

OK, Yossi, so you get a pass. More than that, I took his business card and promised to call him again when I returned. As I did Baruch’s card, Tzion’s card and Zeev’s card—even though my two younger sons were bickering the entire time during Zeev’s highly trafficked ride to the science museum in Jerusalem. When I apologized for the racket, he just laughed. “Yeladim,” he replied with a shrug.

Kids will be kids.

That’s an entirely different reaction than I get here at home. Spilled drinks in a restaurant, screaming children on the “Quiet Car” of the train downtown, hair getting yanked while in line at the post office—the peanut gallery casts frowns upon the pee-wee section. I usually wind up apologizing (then urge the little guys to do the same, with mixed results).

Flashback to our visit to the Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where we were all a bit tense at the checkpoint. Placing our backpacks and camera bags on the moving security belt, a young Israeli soldier walked pointedly to the same 4-year-old. He looked down, reached into his pocket and gave the kid (and his 7-year-old brother) a handful of Magen David pins. Oh, the smiles!(Like the gum, sharp metal objects are not my choice of treats, but who was I to argue?)

Oh, the smiles! Nervousness, gone. Talk about your “win-win.”

So, in between my visits to Israel, my second home, I tolerate the raised eyebrows that come with bringing four boys anywhere at once, and wait for the day when I am back, when some kind driver or elderly woman or friendly soldier offers the best present a parent can get: not aggravation, but ahavah.