”Maybe we should think about cutting the defense budget?” A conversation in a cab.

IMG_3450

I get into a cab in central West Jerusalem, and tell the driver where I need to go.

“Right, that’s near the big gas station?”

“Could be,” I say, laughing, “I’ve never been. I trust you, though. Near the gas station it is.”

“You all always have unique answers.”

“You all?”

Admonim,” he says, and I don’t remember what the word means at first.

Admonim?”

He looks at me, in the rearview mirror. He’s probably in his mid-40s, wearing black sunglasses. He’s handsome, with silver-pepper hair and a strong chin, which he strokes, by way of explanation.

Right. My beard. Admonim. Biblical word for, like, Reddies. Redheads. Got it.

I laugh: “You know, I never thought of myself as an Admon until my beard started growing longer.”

Photo on 5-6-15 at 1.25 PM
Weird, right?

“It’s a great thing,” he tells me, “Like King David. Even if you’re not a religious guy, it’s a real honor to be like King David. I’ve found Admonim to be smart and decent.”

“Thanks,” I say, “That’s a really nice thing to say.”

We are silent for a bit. The breeze is blowing delicious through the taxi’s open windows.

“It’s a gorgeous day,” I say.

“It is,” he says, “Truly. Less good, though, for the politicians.”

The radio is mumbling in the background.

“Bennett has demanded that Ayelet Shaked gets be to Minister of Justice, and Netanyahu doesn’t want that. So if they don’t have a government together by evening, it’s Bougie’s [Isaac Herzog’s] turn. It’s all a mess.”

“Yeah?”

“People here — people who voted Likud — they’re starting to realize that they made a mistake, that Bibi doesn’t have anything to offer, not on the peace front, not on the social front.”

I recognize, with a measure of surprise, that he’s doing something to me that I often do when talking to strangers, especially in Jerusalem: testing a few gentle, left-ish statements to see if they will lead to a blow-up fight.

“How do you know that people feel like they made a mistake?” I ask him.

“I follow these issues on social media, and my family is from Kurdistan. My parents are Likudniks, my siblings are Likudniks. We talk about this a lot, at the Shabbat table, about politics.”

“Huh.”

“Bibi had that awful statement about “Arabs coming out to vote,” and then he won. And no one spoke about peace during the elections.”

“Ayman Odeh spoke some…” I venture.

“Ayman Odeh, poor guy. He has to hold together a broad coalition. It’ll be hard for him… But mostly, all the politicians are talking about is the next war. The next war in Gaza, the next war in the North. People are starting to wish they hadn’t voted for Bibi, crossing their fingers that he won’t pull this coalition together.”

“Huh.”

“No one asks the real questions.”

“Like what?”

“Like: If our social services are lacking and crumbling, because everything is going toward the defense budget, then maybe we should think about cutting the defense budget? But to do that, we’d have to make peace, and no one is talking about it.”

“Yeah! Yeah.”

“Tamar Zandberg [MK from Meretz]… it’s nice that she goes and demonstrates to legalize grass and whatever, but why doesn’t she get on TV and challenge the defense budget?”

“Amen.”

“You know, most Sepharadim who aren’t Likudniks, they are Leftists.”

“Because there’s less racism and fear of Arabic and Arabs?”

“Possibly. It’s terrible how the Arabs are treated here. Would you want to spend hours every day getting checked at a checkpoint? Show me some guy who could live for a few hours like that, and not want to join… Do you watch Fouda?”

“I haven’t seen any episodes yet.”

“Watch it.”

“I will.”

We arrive at our destination, near the big gas station.

“Listen,” he say, “cross your fingers that Bibi won’t succeed.”

“I don’t know if his and Bennet’s egos are big enough to defeat their need for a right-wing regime,” I say, “But let’s hope.”

He laughs, “I like that.”

We shake hands, over the taxi’s middle divider. The day goes on.

IMG_3450