“Taxi?” the man with the gold teeth and the half-eaten cigarette asks.
“Yes, Jaffa Port please.”
“Yalla, 70 shekels.”
“Nu B’emet. We’re 10 minutes away.”
“Fine. I’ll do it for 60,” he says.
I point to my forehead: “What? Do you see a hole here? No. So why are you trying to screw my brains.”
The other drivers laugh.
“I’ll take you for 40,” another driver says. “I can see you aren’t a sucker.”
(BTW? This is what we call #winning in #Israel.)
“Sagur. Deal.” I get into the taxi.
The nameplate reads “Ahmed.”
“Where are you from? Germany? France? You look Swedish, but you are too short to be Swedish.”
“I’m from L.A.”
“I could fall for you,” he says. “Women bring down the world! Samson from the Bible, right? And the president of Israel, too! And Bill Clinton!” he sighs. “You look a little like the Swedish girl I saw in the Sinai many years ago when I was still young enough not to know better, except you’re shorter, but that’s okay. She was sitting there — without a shirt, without a bra, just… Wow wow wow…. I was staring and walking and staring and walking, and BOOM, I fell down the stairs and broke my leg. My friend laughed and said ‘well, you got something special, and now you pay for it.'”
He lights a cigarette. “Okay if I smoke?”
“What a world, what a world,” he says. “Did you hear what the assholes in Daesh did? There was a girl — 15, 16 — they took her from her father’s house and one of them married her. He can’t, you know, be with her if they aren’t married. In one night, she got married and got divorced 15 times! 15 TIMES! If she were my daughter, I would kill all of them — all of them, those bastard scum. 15 times! She can’t speak anymore. She can’t say anything. She just sits there shaking. 15 times! My GOD, 15 times.”
We were close to the water. “Do you see that place?” he says to me. “That’s where the Dolphinarium was. Do you know it?”
I know it. I know the story about the kids blown to bits one night in a horrific terror attack in 2001.
“Those kids should have kids by now!” he yells out the window shaking his fist. “They should have three kids each and be living in Ramat Gan! My God! Kids. They should be doctors and teachers and lawyers and maybe some would be getting divorced, but MY GOD they should be ALIVE.”
“Yes, they should.”
“Right, left, it’s all bullshit. The government is bullshit.” He lights another cigarette.
“Jew, Arab, it’s all bullshit.”
He took a call and yelled at someone in Arabic.
“I’m sorry,” he says when he hangs up. “It’s all bullshit.”
We curve around a hill, old houses of Jaffa hugging the terrain, the sky a deep blue.
“Look at this place,” he says. “This is my home. It’s all bullshit, but it’s my home.”
We got to the port, and I hand him 50 shekels.
“Keep the change,” I say.
“Why? We said 40.”
“You gave me something special, and I paid for it,” I smile.
He laughs with all his teeth showing, and gives me a high five.
“Everything comes from above,” he said. “Even the bullshit. But especially mornings like this.”