Wednesday, May 21, 2008

the shuttle taxi

On the shuttle taxi from Tel Aviv as usual a mixed crowd, four Jappanese people, a mother and a baby that looked Indian and spoke English, and an Ethiopean couple in their late 50s. As the minibus pulls away the couple take out invitation letters to a military ceremony, their son's graduation from some army course. They needed to be dropped off in the middle of the way, in Latrun, a big memorial site; they didn't really know where they were going. We were already on the Tel-Aviv Jerusalem highway.

I don't stop there, said the driver, there's no stop, its a highway. But we have to be there by ten, what shall we do, said the mother. Not my problem said the driver. I tried to intervene, saying there is an interchange in Latrun, it's no so difficult, you can get off the highway, drop them off, and then back on the road, it's not such a big detour. I'm not stopping, there's nowhere to stop, he reiterated, I drop you off near Jerusalem, you take a bus back, I don't care. The man turned to the woman, I told you so, you get on the taxi without asking first, he said in Hebrew, then continued in Ethiopean. She fell silent and turned her head away. The man continued his reproach in a subdued tone, proving again and again his retrospective wisdom. Between them I saw the bitter residues of a lifelong marriage, the helpless struggle with local ways which they do not fully understand.

The son called on the mobile phone; the father said Yonatan, where is this place we're going to, tell us where we have to go, switching between Hebrew and his native tongue. He passed the phone to the woman who first shrugged and refused to speak, then grabbed the phone, saying Yonatan my soul, we will be there, we are on the way.

They showed me the road directions they had, written in Hebrew which I was not sure they could read; a note in a rounded, childish handwriting, enumerating in an obscure language roads and buses. I realized they had left their home in the Galilee at 5.30 in the morning to get to the ceremony; now was 9.30, and they were going to be late. We were getting very near the interchange; I pointed it out to them. The woman pleaded the driver to stop. He shouted at them, I can't, there's police all over the place, if I stop I get a 1,000 Shekels fine, and then angrily pulled to the side of the road, and let them get off, as he turns to me, you told them there's a stop, there's no stop, people poke their noses into other people's business, and I have to pay the price.


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