Advice from an Israeli cabbie

A taxi driver collects a passenger near the Jerusalem Bus Station (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A taxi driver collects a passenger near the Jerusalem Bus Station
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
THERE ARE many people the world over who offer unsolicited advice on a range of issues. In the life-coaching world, I often hear people complain about the interfering mother-in-law, the controlling relative or even the millennial colleague who freely offer their opinion, when no one has asked for it. Here in Israel, there have been numerous entertaining and sometimes hilarious times when unwanted advice has been offered by an outspoken, confident and exuberant taxi driver.
One of the reasons I enjoy taking taxis here is that it’s a great opportunity for any new olah (immigrant) to practice one’s Hebrew, knowing that the person you are talking to will usually correct your grammar and pronunciation as you keep chatting. Notwithstanding that much can be lost in translation, the conversations can be very telling and enlightening. Coming from a far more conservative, polite and socially non-confrontational culture in South Africa, it never ceases to amaze and impress me, how natural it is here for a stranger to engage, challenge and advise the client sitting in his car. It’s refreshing and often leaves me smiling for hours after the trip. We often exchange similar experiences with our friends, who are also learning about a culture in which your opinion needs to be aired.
There is nothing more important than health
During a recent taxi ride, the driver started asking me about my family and our aliya experience, so far. (It doesn’t take more than a few seconds for anyone here to pick up the “foreign” South African accent. They may not know straight away where you are from, but they certainly know you aren’t a local!) While chatting about the past year as new olim , I said that the most important focus for me is that our son and daughter are happy. I explained my thinking that, “if your children are happy, it’s easy for the parents to be happy too.” “That’s not true,” came the quick and assertive reply. Surprised at the response, I looked quizzically at the driver. “There is nothing more important than health,” he explained. Interesting point – can’t argue with that, I thought. I had been corrected or ‘schooled’ by a man I’d met ten minutes before!
Just like a hunter, a man needs to provide for his family
During a taxi trip to the airport, my husband explained to the driver that he was traveling back to South Africa on a work trip. The driver then started explaining certain parts of the “Eshet Hayil” (“Woman of Valor”) prayer, traditionally recited on Friday night, before the Shabbat meal. He went into elaborate detail about the (arguably antiquated) concept that a man is still a hunter, and needs to provide for his family, even if it involves traveling to make that happen. The stamp of approval had been given.
Why aren’t you wearing a jacket?
As a child, I remember my grandmother used to always ask us if we had a jersey or cardigan with us, when we left the house. (This question was even asked during the hot, humid month of February, while living in the coastal city of Durban.) But we laughed out loud recently when a taxi driver in Tel Aviv asked a 45-year-old friend why he was outside without a jacket. The driver noted that our friend’s child was warmly dressed and berated the dad for not doing the same. He insisted that he go inside and fetch a jacket.
Dating tips
A friend was in a taxi on his way to a date. He shared his romance plans with his taxi driver, who then offered his own dating tips. These apparently included the fact that he needed to pick up the bill, be polite and make sure his date gets home safely. So, really...who needs Dr. Phil?