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.
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.