| War Diaries |

Hey, Taxi

“Thanks for not canceling when you saw my name… I’ve had little business lately”


t’s pouring cats and dogs in Jerusalem, so I take a taxi to a class I attend with a friend.

Innocuous enough, no?


I slip onto cold leather, peel my hood off, and the driver looks at me from the rearview mirror. His eyes are dark, dark under his unibrow; his face swarthy and thin.

“You know I’m Arab,” he says.

“I know,” I say, trying to keep my voice even.

A split second before I left the house, I’d glanced at the Gett page on my husband’s phone to see the last few numbers on the driver’s licence plate, and caught sight of the driver’s name.


“It’s okay, I think,” my husband said. “I’ve taken a few Arab taxis lately and it’s been fine. Look, you need to get there on time, you just gotta do what you gotta do…”

“Okay,” I didn’t have a moment to think. You know how it is till a woman gets out of the house.

And besides, of the two of us, my husband is the more careful one; if he thought it was fine….

But now, alone with this taxi driver who’s intent on making his status absolutely clear, talking to me in thick English, Arabic English, I’m colder than had I stayed outside.

“Thanks for not canceling when you saw my name… I’ve had little business lately. The tourism industry is dead, no one’s coming, and besides, it’s winter, never the best time to be a taxi driver.”

I try to make commiserating noises, but really?

And then he goes for the elephant. “I mean this war is just crazy, it’s affecting everything. It’s got to stop.”

I’m cringing into myself, terrified of what he’s going to say next, that he’ll start ranting at my people, at me. That he’ll take it all out — the dead, the horror, the fact that he’s not making any money — on me, hapless enough to be in here.

“You know, I can’t say I even blame any of you for canceling when they see my name. I mean, look, I’m a good person, but it could well be dangerous for one of you to take an Arab taxi now….”

I freeze. This is dangerous, but here I am, making conversational murmurs while he prattles on about the very thing I shouldn’t have done. I’m thinking about just getting out at the next light, open, scram, disappear, when suddenly, there’s the click of him child-locking the doors.

I find my voice. “I’m picking someone up on the way.”

“Okay,” he says pleasantly enough. “Where should I stop?”

Let’s just talk street names, let’s just keep it taxi-related, please.

For a moment I think of my friend waiting for me on the next corner. Is it crazy to get her in here, too?

We need a ride, though.

Outside, sleet pounds Jerusalem. The streets are empty; Jerusalemites don’t do rain.

I manage to message my husband, and he responds that he’s following the taxi on the app.

Just calm down, keep calm.

I’m prone to dramatics, but it’s not that.

The taxi driver hasn’t stopped talking: “Who are you picking up? Where are you from? What do you do?”

The conversation is too much from a taxi driver, and I don’t want to be talking to an Arab, not right now, not after everything, not today, 100 days post-October 7.

Earlier I’d spoken to my sister, and she’d told me she was attending a rally in England. One hundred thousand standing together for the hostages, for Israel, on this 100th day.

“Cool,” I’d said. “Nice, y’know, the solidarity, whatever….”

I’m living a rally, I think, just being here, going on, that’s our rally.

“I’ll stop here for her,” says the driver.

My friend sits herself into the car and is suddenly pale.

My phone buzzes in my hand.

Arab? she texts.

Yes, it’s ok, I text back, charged now with calming her down.

“I’m not exactly sure how to get to Ezrat Torah Street,” comes the driver’s voice.

He doesn’t even know the way and he’d clicked the locks closed again; he’s going to drive us out of the area and away, away to…

We start to murmur Tehillim.

Am I scared?

Even as I’m murmuring, I’m answering his steady stream of conversation, trying to direct him as though I’m certain he’s going to take us where we need to go.

I am scared.

You can’t do this to me, I have too much to lose, my friend texts me.

Me, too.

Finally, he screeches to a halt and we stumble out into the glorious rain.

My heart’s pounding, my legs are trembling…. My friend and I, we giggle hysterically, like kids or hyenas, and then we shake ourselves off and get to the class.

I listen to what the Rebbetzin is saying and when my mind wanders, I think about fear. About living in Jerusalem. About going on and trying to live and do normal things, if there’s any normal here at all. If there ever was.

I’ve had a couple of brushes with this sort of fear before. Once, a couple of years back, Arabs showed up at an intersection and brushed a young motorcyclist to the ground. Everyone had fled in fright, a bunch of men had taken a staircase up to a park, but I had my baby in her carriage and I couldn’t make it up the stairs. I’d run down the street and fallen down and hurt my hand.

For a long time afterward, I had a small pain in my wrist, a pain I did nothing about. It was my battle scar for being Jewish, for being in Jerusalem.

Back then, I told myself that anything could happen, but we were fine; we could flirt with the fear here and there.

But now, now, it’s not flirtatious. The fear is real. It’s not anything that could happen, but all the things that are happening.

There are no illusions in this country anymore. We are safe nowhere. Not in houses and not in safe rooms, not in taxis, and not on the street.

When we leave the class, it’s still raining, and I’m still freezing.

“We’re walking,” my friend says.

And this is it. We’re inconvenienced, we’re here and we can’t do what we want, we can’t get on with it the way we want to. Even though I think that to give in is to surrender to terror.

We slosh through puddles, the rain is softer now, just a tickle on the face, and I think, are we really any safer for not taking a taxi?

I know, I know, I say to G-d in my mind.

You helped us out of the other taxi, and we can’t put ourselves into danger again, but really, between the lamppost dripping yellow rain and myself, what is safety?

There’s just no safety. Not here, not anywhere, really. It’s not the taxi, it’s not not the taxi.

It’s only You.

G-d, I think, there’s so little mask left….

Can You just reveal Yourself?


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 880)

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