Taxi drivers in Israel are a whole species to themselves. They're pushy and rude, friendly and helpful, get way too personal, and you always feel like they're scamming you, no matter what. I don't take cabs a lot, but when I do, I usually come out with a good story. Here's the one that still amazes me, over a year later.
I was exhausted. The wind was blowing my hair in my face, my backpack seemed to get heavier by the minute, and although I had been standing with my hand out for 10 minutes, no cars were stopping. Finally, I decided to give up and take the next taxi that came by. He asked for 45 shek, I asked for the meter, and we started to drive. The driver was wearing a kippah, and was very friendly. He asked me questions non-stop for the first couple minutes. I answered automatically.
Yes, I am American.
Yes, I want to make aliyah.
Yes, I am Jewish.
Am I religious? Yes.
Do I like being religious? Of course.
Do I know what a Tehillim is? Yes, I know what a Tehillim is.
He pulled one out of his glove compartment and hands it to me. It’s green, and wrapped in plastic. It looks like it’s been used before.
This is beautiful, I say, and try to hand it back to him.
He turns around.
Keep it, he says. It used to belong to my daughter.
He tells me how beautiful she was and how sweet and smart. She had two degrees in medicine, and was thinking about getting married. One day she went to sleep, and she never woke up.
He looked at me. I didn’t know what to say. How long ago, I asked.
He pauses to think. Two years ago. He takes the Tehillim from me, looks at it, and hands it back again.
Whenever you feel alone, or sad, and you want to talk to someone, whenever you feel sick, when you’re worried about a friend or your family, read from this Tehillim, he tells me. Read it when you're ready to get married. You’ll feel better.
I smile, and thank him. I’m sorry about your daughter, I say. He tells me that Hashem gave her to him for 22 years, and he’s thankful for each one.
I open my backpack to put the Tehillim away and he sees my Siddur. He smiles.
You’re a good girl, he says. My daughters name was Sharon.
That’s a pretty name, I answer.
We pull up to my kibbutz, and I get out of the taxi.
Thank you again for the Tehillim, I say before I walk away. He smiles at me, and waves goodbye.