Shaanan Scherer

Naveed the Uber driver who made my Yom Haatzmaut

With the help of Google Translate, Naveed shared his thoughts about his former government of Iran
I am a Zionist though I currently live abroad in Toronto, Canada. I lived in Israel during my young adulthood years and they have shaped the person I am today. I teach Jewish studies; Tanach, Jewish history, Zionism and yearn to one day return back home to Israel with my family. Since October 7, I like most Jews worldwide have been in great pain over our recent losses and sometimes have anxiety for the future. I have a news addiction, I acknowledge it is not good for my mental health. Though, I am always thinking about Israel and it is a quick fix to find out the latest. My news addiction has only worsened feelings of Jewish loneliness and heightened concerns for Israel.
I live a very sheltered life. I live in one of the Diaspora’s most concentrated Jewish neighbourhoods. Sometimes I hear more Hebrew spoken on the streets or at the local Aroma Cafe than I do in Anglo neighbourhoods in Israel. My daily routine is to go to shul and teach at the Jewish high school. My entire street has only Jewish residents. I rarely interact with non Jews. Some of my dialogue with non Jews this year have been the most anti semetic encounters I’ve ever had in my life. A mob of Hamas supporters protested in front of my neighbourhood synagogues twice. I don’t normally go out to counter protest, however there have been so many demonstrations in support of Hamas in Toronto that it is hard to avoid them. I have come across a few others of these “Pro Palestine Rallys” and only received hatred when I openly identified as a proud Zionist.
I usually bike to work but yesterday it was raining, so I took an Uber. I got the notification that the driver Naveed is on his way. I heard stories about some Uber drivers who support Hamas which could make for an unpleasant journey. I thought I would just sit quietly and listen to a podcast. I got in the car and started playing the Call Me Back podcast in my airpods with PM Netanyahu as the guest. I texted my wife: “Do you think Naveed my Middle Eastern Uber driver will want to listen to Bibi talk politics?” After about one minute I couldn’t resist being silent and hoped to start a peaceful conversation. I started saying something about the weather in English and he said “I don’t speak English”. So I said, “Salaam Aleykum”, he said “I don’t speak Arabic”. He continued, “I speak Farsi”. He then asked me, Are you Muslim, I told him that I am Jewish, not Muslim. Then he shocked me.
He said, “We love Jews, we love Israel!”. We couldn’t continue to talk since we don’t speak the same language. Thanks to google translate I was able to have a conversation with him. He told me about his family, his community, his people in Iran who hate the government and their greatest wish in the world is for the Islamic Republic of Iran to be destroyed. He left Iran for Canada seven months ago to live a life of freedom. He said most of the people of Iran wish for Khameini and his followers to be dead. He wants to see Iran return to the days of the Shah. This was a time when Iran and Israel were at peace with each other. He blessed me, blessed Israel and he even knew enough English to share a few curse words about his former country’s government.
This is exactly the person I needed to meet as Israel turns 76, as we celebrate the miraculous return of the Jewish people to our ancestral homeland as prophesied in the Torah. I needed to hear from a Middle Eastern man blessings for a brighter future of the only Jewish State in the world and to know that we have many silent supporters out there.
About the Author
Rabbi Shaanan Scherer currently lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife and 5 children. After spending over a decade living and learning in Israel, Shaanan brings his Israel experience to both his classroom and on his child- centered Israel tours that he guides during winter and summer breaks.
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