A Tale of Two Taxis - in Jerusalem...
I'm no stranger to riding in a taxi. Having lived and worked in NY, prior to having made Aliyah, I often found myself in the back of a yellow taxi cab. I consider myself to be a friendly person, and I enjoy making idle chit-chat with people, but more often than not, I found that it was not usually possible to engage in conversation with taxi drivers from NY. If they were able to understand enough English to know where I wanted to be going to (as well as knowing enough English to enable them to read street and traffic signs) you could consider it a good ride.
In Israel things are quite different. The other day, I found myself in two different taxis, and each one was an interesting experience in its own right.
The 1st taxi driver was a Russian Jew, who made Aliyah 42 years ago (1963, I think). He stated that since he arrived every day has only been worse, and things will only continue to get worse. If he could get a visa, he would sell everything and move to Canada, and take his cat with him. He believes that it's only a matter of time before the State of Israel will cease to exist.
Granted, I didn't really agree with most of the things that he was saying, as we have very different worldviews, but I found his passion to be very captivating, and it is always interesting hearing a different perspective on the challenges that the Jewish People are facing here, and the possible solutions to them.
The 2nd taxi driver was a native born Israeli. The ride started with the obligatory haggling over the price of the ride (See: Life of Brian). He was very interested in what life in NY was like, and how Americans and Israelis are different. He was surprised that I had left NY to live in Israel. He also was surprised when I told him that I had no desire to move back to NY after having lived here for a few years. We ended up getting into a whole discussion about what it means to be a Jew, and why we have a Jewish State. The bottom line that came out of the conversation was that Israel is the only place that a Jew can call home, and that all Jews are family, even if we don't agree on everything.
At the end of the ride, he asked me if I would talk to taxi drivers in NY. I said that not only did many of them not speak English, but it was difficult to find what to talk about with them, as opposed to him (the Israeli taxi driver), who is family, and with whom I have much in common and so much to learn from.
The ride ended with me offering to pay a bit more than we had agreed upon, and him wanting to charge me less. He pulled away with a smile on his face, and I arrived home with a smile on mine.
Two different drivers, both total strangers to me, with very different beliefs about what it means to be a Jew and what the future holds in store for the Jewish People and State.
Yet... at the end of the day, we're family, and we have a common destiny, and on a sunny day in Jerusalem, we were able to connect as Jews, in the front seat of a taxi.