I was in the back of a taxi in Memphis the first time I told someone I was Israeli.

It felt funny coming out – unnatural, almost, and bold.

The driver with his salt-and-pepper hair and thick mustache chuckled, almost in disbelief.

“Really?” he said in a reedy southern drawl. “I don’t suppose I’ve ever had an Israeli in my cab before.”

I felt the need to qualify my earlier statement:

“Well, as you can probably tell from my accent, I only moved there a few years ago. But I live there now with my husband and kids. I’m a citizen, actually.”

With interest, he asked me questions about my life in Israel and told me of his own desires to visit the holy places of his Christian upbringing. I shared stories of weekend visits to biblical sites, and invited him to visit the Israel hardly ever showcased on the evening news. At the end of the 20-minute ride to the airport, I tipped him well, and gave him a wide, friendly smile as I exited the back seat.

I wanted him to know Israelis are kind…and good tippers.

I felt responsible for our image in a town that is stereotyped and sometimes guilty of stereotyping.

rendezvous

I imagined, as he shook my hand and helped me with my bags, he felt the same.

A true citizen exchange.

A meeting of people, not generalizations.

It felt good.

As if a small battle had been won in the back seat of a taxi in Memphis.

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