taxi cap

Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

Entering a New York City taxi cab, more information than one might want awaits the astute fare. With one breath, you can tell if the driver smokes; with one ear, you can tell if he’s a traffic-and- weather junkie, a Christian radio devotee or a jazz maven. The first thing I look for is the name of the driver, wondering about who’s shepherding me around. Some names are obviously Chinese, Indian or Haitian. And there is no shortage of Mohammeds, Mustafas and Alis.

On a recent sunny Sunday, I got into a cab on the Upper West Side and was unable to see the name of the rather hefty driver. Turning to me, he smiled and began telling me of the traffic he encountered near the U.N. “Why all the traffic?” I asked, to which he replied, “A rally for Israel. I think that’s great!” I nodded.

“I think they should kick out all the Palestinians,” he said.

“I’m not so sure that’s the solution.”

At that, he seemed confused and turned to face me in the back seat. “I can’t hear so well,” he told me. I repeated my response.

“They should kill Arafat,” he shot back.

“I know some people think that is the solution,” I replied. “I’m not sure that’s the best thing to do.”

He told me again about his hearing problem and turned to hear my reply, which I repeated.

“They should kill all of them!” he yelled.

Convinced I’d never get anywhere with this extremist, I looked away and said quietly, “You’re right.”

I still wondered where this guy was from. When I finally asked, he whipped around and shouted, “Palestine! Hah! I got you! You think Israel should kill all of us.” My heart beat faster and I prayed we’d reach my destination soon. He lectured me on the plight of the Palestinians; I was adamant in asserting Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism.

We arrived at 79th Street and Park Avenue. He was obviously more interested in pressing the Palestinians’ claim than in rushing off to his next fare. After 10 minutes of heated discussion, we both calmed down, agreed that we should pray and work for peace, and shook hands.

I guess drivers size up their riders as well. Interesting what this one assumed about a guy with a yarmulke.

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