One day in Israel: This is the tale of two taxi drivers.
This week I had some out-of-the-house meetings (still getting used to that!) and had to grab two taxis. (We love not having a car, never dealing with parking, insurance, gas, upkeep….we walk everywhere, often hop on the rakevet, light rail, and take the occasional taxi).
My first driver was an Arab. He had enough English that enabled us to have a “current issues” conversation. What did he think of the new coalition government? At first, he declared that Netanyahu had “done nothing in 12 years”. I countered, “Nothing?” He demurred that “I guess he saved the country from Corona….”
I asked him what he thought of the new coalition government. He said, very sincerely, that all he wants is a good job, a way to provide for his children, a good life. I said I hoped that this new government would create just that and that we could all live in shalom and with achdut v’lo achiydut– unity without uniformity, making a good life together, even though we are different.
He agreed. And we both said, “Bezrat Hashem,” G-d willing.
Later that day, I had another taxi driver, this time Jewish. We got into an animated discussion after I asked him about his ancestry. On both sides, his grandparents were Kurdish. He mentioned he had kids, so I asked him where his wife’s family was originally from. He smiled and said “Philippines” and then told me his story.
Although his grandparents were very religious, his parents were not, divorcing when he was two years old. He was raised very secular, grew up, and tried to start a business, but the first intifada killed the tourist economy, so he left and went to America. In New York, he met his non-Jewish Philippino wife. They married in the Philippines, and after moving to Israel, she decided to convert, eventually becoming very religious. My kippah-wearing driver then played for me with great pride the audio of his bar mitzvah son laining beautifully from the Torah using a special Kurdish tune.
“I ran away, but HaKadosh Boruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed be He) brought me back.”
One day, two drivers, two stories that have stayed with me long after the day was done…. Only in Israel.