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Disengagement diary: Wayward taxi


TEL AVIV --- Walking to the post office on an urgent errand, I encounter a huge truck on the sidewalk. It hogs the pavement, blocking my path. Orange ribbons festoon its door-handles and rear-view mirrors. The driver is nowhere in sight.

At first it's only this driver's illegal parking that annoys me. By the time I have threaded my way through the Tel Aviv traffic and made it safely back to the sidewalk on the far side of the truck, I have transferred my annoyance to his orange ribbons.

In the last few months, the color orange has come to stand for opposition to the Israel government's planned withdrawal from 21 settlements in Gaza and four in northern Samaria. Flying an orange ribbon from your antenna is a way of saying you support the movement that is trying to overturn the government's plan and preserve the settlements.

Nurturing my annoyance, I work on my theory that it's the biggest trucks, those that carry building materials and other heavy loads, that display orange ribbons. The little trucks, those of the electricians and glaziers and other skilled craftworkers, seldom display ribbons of any color. The only vehicles that serve the public-at-large and also fly orange ribbons in Tel Aviv are a few delivery scooters and some taxis.

By the time I have finished my business at the post office, I am fantasizing about how to deal with the next orange ribbons I encounter. If it's a taxi, I will refuse to ride in it.

A taxi pulls up. It displays the sign of the cab station around the corner from my home, and I hop in. I have been riding with this cab company for more than 20 years. I don't know the driver, but he immediately engages me in conversation.

"Listen to them," he says. He motions toward the cab's intercom radio, over which two drivers are arguing about a place in line at a tourist hotel. "Like animals, they are."

"In my opinion," I venture, "the drivers at your cab stand have been spoiled by the tourist hotels. They aren't interested in ordinary business from people like me. All they want is to sit around and wait for a big fare to the airport. It's very insulting."

"All drivers are like that."

"Not true," I say and mention another cab company that is happy to have my business. "How long have you been driving a cab?"

"Thirty-two years, on and off."

"And you don't think it pays to cruise and look for a fare? The instant you turn on the meter, I owe you almost 10 shekels."

"I'll take in 50 shekels an hour riding around this way. The driver who sits at the curb and waits two hours for a fare to the airport gets 100 shekels. Who's better off?"

By now I have noticed the orange ribbon wrapped around his mirror. I didn't see it on getting into his cab. Encouraged by our open discussion about the economics of his job, I point at the orange ribbon and ask another technical question.

"What happened with the orange-ribbon people? They said they would block the roads every Monday and Wednesday afternoon, and they didn't do it."

"I'm for real disengagement," he says. "Everyone is. But this is a fake. When the Arabs need medical care, where are they going to go? Will the Egyptians let them in? When they need jobs, do you think the Egyptians will let them in? They'll come here, and take money from my pocket."

I remind him a couple of times that he is not answering the question which I asked. This does not faze him.

"I used to be a leftist," he says. "No more."

We come to a fork in the road. In his anger, this veteran of more than three decades of driving a cab makes a wrong turn on one of Tel Aviv's best-known avenues. Now we are heading north and must negotiate a u-turn to the south. He shuts off the meter. It says 16.30 shekels.

"It's my mistake," he says. "You don't have to pay for correcting my mistake."

"Peres, that idiot," he resumes. "He wants to give them the greenhouses, so they can compete with our agriculture."

"I'll tell you the disengagement I'll support," he says. "If we put Peres and Sarid and Beilin over there in Gaza, and close the border, I'll support that."

When we reach my destination, I give him a 20-shekel note and refuse his change. "We both will pay for your mistake," I say. As a person of principle, he agrees. We pay for each other's mistakes.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein

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by Joseph M. Hochstein @ 04:11 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 1 Comment

Been there, Joseph, as I’m sure many here in Israel who support the disengagement, do.
It seems that the disengagement had awaken the pre Oslo debates between the ‘complete land of Israel’ people and ‘territories for peace (Palestinian state)’ people. To me it’s ironic, because neither is relevant to today reality. A reality where a Palestinian people do exist, but who, after more then 50 years of war hasn’t acknowledged our right to exist.

Dvar Dea,

Posted by Dvar Dea @ 07/15/2005 09:18 AM CST

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