Behind the wheel with Niruch Avudah

Taxi drivers, at least in Israel, are always curious about getting to know your most intimate details.

Taxis in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM & FACEBOOK)
Taxis in Jerusalem
When visiting the Jewish state, you will certainly meet one of Israel’s cabdrivers, who, without fail, always have a story to tell.
Whether you care to listen is a different matter entirely.
In my experience, taxi drivers, at least in Israel, are always curious about getting to know your most intimate details, including how many children you have or if you are married yet, and if not, why not? There are many tales of cabdrivers stopping in the middle of the road with a customer to chat with a friend, or just stopping and running in to the local pizzeria or falafel shop to get their breakfast, lunch or dinner. This leaves you, the passenger, in total astonishment, thinking, I can’t believe that they just did that! This is where you realize, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, that you’re “not in Kansas anymore.”
One cabbie who breaks the mold of the Israeli taxi driver is Niruch Avudah. I call Niruch my driver because every two weeks he picks me up from my home in Ramat Beit Shemesh to take me for my biweekly checkup at Hadassah-University Medical Center. Over the last four months during which I have gotten to know him, Avudah has never emergency- braked in the middle of the road to get lunch; or stopped to talk to a friend he sees walking his dog.
He simply does his job. On our way back to Ramat Beit Shemesh I know that if I fall asleep, I can be sure that he will get me home in one piece.
Most of the time, a taxi driver in the Holy Land is too busy giving his opinion or asking about details of a passenger’s personal life to open up about his own world.
Avudah grew up in the Jerusalem neighborhood of French Hill, where he still lives to this day, and where Arabs and Jews live side by side. Despite the turbulent times, it retains a quiet ambiance.
French Hill was established four years after the Six Day War and is one of the city’s highest locations.
Indeed, when I asked Avudah what he does for relaxation, he says that he loves to sit on his front and back balconies, where he can see panoramic views of Jerusalem. He can look out at the Old City from the front balcony; and from the back balcony, on a clear day, he can see the Dead Sea way in the distance.
Since he was young, Avudah always loved the open road and touring places with his family, destinations such as Jaffa Port, the Galilee or the beaches of Tel Aviv and Netanya. His love for touring was one of the many factors that made him decide to become a taxi driver. Every two weeks, Avudah drives me through the scenic, winding roads of Yefeh Nof, with magnificent views of tall pine trees and beautiful flowers lending a relaxing, calming feel to our journey.
However, there are things that Avudah does not like about driving a cab. Back in the early days, he says, roads were much less congested with traffic, and many just had one car per family, while others had no car at all. For the modern family, cars have become a necessity rather than a luxury, and it is not uncommon that one family has two or more cars. One of the things Avudah cites as being a hindrance to congestion, rather than cutting it down, is the light rail.
He is very much in favor of technology that aids drivers like the Waze and Gett smartphone apps.
Waze, he says, is popular with many cabdrivers, as it helps them navigate journeys to unfamiliar locations.
He also likes the Gett app, which helps taxi drivers and customers. To illustrate his point, Avudah says the Gett app allows the cabdriver access to the phone number of customers, so any lost items left in his cab can be easily retrieved.
When not driving, Avudah visits his parents as often as he can. He also has a close relationship with his brothers and sister. One of his brothers is learning how to drive a cab. His sister is still in school, while his other brother is studying at the Hebrew University.
Avudah says driving is an escape for him. With beautiful routes like the one through Yefeh Nof, where you can hear the wind whistling, with splendid tall pine trees and views of the mountains, it is not too hard to see why he loves his job.