“You know, I don’t drive a lot these days, “ the taxi driver tells me on our way through Jerusalem over two months into this long slog of a vicious war
“This is just a part time thing while I’m studying to be a contractor,” he continues. “Besides, the taxi business is slow without tourists, and to make it harder, when someone orders on the GETT TAXI application and see my name — Muhammad — they sometimes cancel within seconds.”
“That’s too bad,” I tell him.
“I guess everyone is on edge since October 7 – hard for Jews to trust Arabs. To be honest, if it was the other way around, I might feel the same.”
“Well, contracting sounds interesting,” I reply. “Do you like the course?”
“I do,” he says. “But it’s also hard these days with the war. Half the guys are in Gaza now in the army, you know? And it’s hard for me because I’m an Arab, and even though I think Hamas are worse than sons of dogs – worse even than devils! – the people of Gaza are still my people. Each time I see a video of a dead child I want to cry – And I’m a man – an Arab man! – And I never cry !!! – But the little dead girl looks like my daughter or the dead baby boy looks like my son and I just want to cry.”
“It is — and it’s also hard because these guys in the course, they are my friends. But they’re over there and their job isn’t to bring flowers and chocolates to the people of Gaza. Their job is to fight a war and that means their job is to kill terrorists and sometimes the people they kill look like my sister or my wife or my father or my uncle.”
I can’t find the right words to respond.
“And yes I worry about my friends who are fighting over there even though they’re fighting over there. I worry about them and I check the news to see if any of them are named – and I think about their wives and their children – and then I roll a joint… do you smoke? I roll a joint because I need to clear my head. Don’t tell my wife. But I have to. It’s all too much.”
“I understand,” I say.
“And just yesterday, one of the guys came back. He got injured – not serious – but they’re letting him out now, and he came to the course, and I felt so many things like I was so glad to see him, and I felt angry too, and a little afraid of him – and I didn’t know what to say… and this guy is a friend. Like I met his kids and he met mine. He’s really a friend… and he couldn’t look me in the eye when he came in, and I couldn’t look him in the eye either but then I thought this is what the fucked up extremists want. They want to make us hate each other and tear each other apart.”
“So what did you do?” I ask.
“I walked over and put out my hand.” he says.
“What did he do?”
“He took it… he took it. And I held it, and then I pulled him toward me and opened my arms and we embraced each other… almost – almost – like brothers.”