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July 27, 2005

Taxi theology

No matter whether you are a fervent believer, an agnostic, or even an atheist, you will find God in Jerusalem. As the joke goes, it's a local call.

Although I visited the Kotel twice, nothing made me think and feel that "Hashem is with us" more than riding in a taxi. Israel is a small country, and there are few places where that smallness is felt more than on the highway. Cars, which are small to begin with, take advantage of tiny spaces to dart in and out of lanes -- never signalling, of course; that is flat-out asur. And tailgating seems to be obligatory. The whole system almost defies the laws of physics. It occurred to me Hashem must be with us, because otherwise half the population of Jerusalem would be killed each year in car crashes.

I first had this sense when riding in a taxi into Jerusalem. The driver was swerving back and forth between lanes, driving with only his left hand. Had I been in Washington or New York, I would have been hanging on for dear life. As it was, I had a serene sense of confidence that all would be well.

I felt the same sense of confidence while in a taxi headed toward Tel Aviv. The driver, a woman who was as Israeli as they come, was impatient with the traffic jam on the highway and decided to move two lanes left to drive on the left shoulder. She cheerily announced to us that if the police stopped her, she would say, "I'm scared because the ABS light was on." A minute later, she decided to cross all the lanes through dense traffic to drive on the right shoulder. She announced to us that she would tell the police she had to drive there because she thought something else was wrong with the car. Then, a minute after this, she crossed back over all the lanes onto the left shoulder again, of course announcing to us once more what her excuse would be if she was stopped by the police. Not once did I have a premonition of doom; to the contrary, I knew that all would be well. Why? Because Hashem was with us.

Call me nuts, but it really is a local call.