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Taxi Driver’s Take

Socks are the least of your problems when you’re living in a tank and risking your life just by sticking your head out, believe me.


“Do you know what a chermonit is?” the taxi driver asked me on the phone. “It’s a one-piece snowsuit. I’m driving a Mercedes and I’ll be wearing a chermonit, that’s how you’ll know it’s me.”

When the Mercedes pulled up, he was indeed wearing a chermonit, an olive-green version with TZAHAL in big yellow letters on the back. The outfit wasn’t the most likely match for his long white beard and big velvet yarmulke, but he wore it with pride.

“I just got out of Gaza,” he said as he started driving. “Ninety days. My wife doesn’t even know I’m coming home for Shabbat, I want to earn a few fares first and buy her a nice bouquet.”

For the rest of the ride, I didn’t say much, just an occasional “wai” and “b’emet?” and “lo ye’uman!” The driver did all the talking, and here is the gist of his earthy fusion of war reporting, security analysis, and bedrock faith.

“Ninety days in Gaza, the first forty-seven of them without a shower. Do you know what that means, forty-seven days without a shower? The first night, I turned my socks inside-out so they would be a little fresher the next morning. The next night, I found a little cold water and rinsed them. The third night, I gave up. Socks are the least of your problems when you’re living in a tank and risking your life just by sticking your head out, believe me.

“So after forty-seven days, they gave us the night off. Not enough time to go home, just enough time for a break. There was only one thing I wanted: a shower. So I headed to Ashkelon, to a hotel. I figured I could rent a room there. But the entire hotel was filled with evacuated families. The only room available was the suite.

“You know how much that suite cost for a night? Guess. You can’t guess? I’ll tell you. One thousand, six hundred and seventy shekel. Not just a thousand, not just a thousand six hundred. A thousand six hundred and seventy shekel. And I paid every last shekel. Finally, finally, I peeled off those socks — you can’t imagine how hard they were — so I could stand in the shower for an hour and forty-five minutes straight.

“The next morning, I was back in the shower for another thirty minutes. Then back on the base. Yossi, my buddies asked, where were you? We had a great time last night, we played backgammon and had a barbecue. We missed you!

“Who needs shesh-besh when you can take a shower, I said. The most expensive shower of my life! I don’t own an apartment, I don’t know if I’ll ever own an apartment, I don’t think I’ll ever qualify for a mortgage. But for that shower, I found the money.

“You can’t imagine what we saw there in Gaza. I was in a house, a kids’ bedroom, and under the kids’ beds I found a whole collection of RPGs. You have to wonder about the parents there — how can you keep such dangerous stuff under your child’s bed? But of course they have different aims for their children, we have to remember that. They’re not like us.

“It’s not so far away, Gaza. Not even two hours away. But it’s a different planet over there. Milchamah is a whole different existence. And our boys — you have to see our boys. So brave, so determined, so happy to be there defending their people and their Land. They’re just 19-year-old kids, you’d be stuffing their pockets with money when you send them on their first date, and here they are in a tank fighting for their country.

“Ninety days sounds long, nachon? They swore they’d stay there for 300 days if that’s what it takes. May Hashem keep them safe, may He bring them all home soon. What can I tell you, I was there, I’ve seen what we’re up against. I don’t know how much longer we can keep going in this little country with so much stacked against us.

“But we have Him. Remember, we have Him. He can get us home safely, He has the solutions. So here we are, and we set the price in advance, so you know how much to pay me. A tip would be nice, too — remember, I still have to buy those flowers for my wife. Thank you. Stay safe. Shabbat shalom!”

—Shoshana Friedman

Managing Editor


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 998)

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