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The Taxi Driver

by Naomi Ragen Arutz Sheva June 1, 2006

I had a lecture to give in Haifa the other day. My usual driver wasn’t available, so I called a local cab company to arrange a ride. Call it instinct, but when the cab arrived and I looked at the driver, he just didn’t look the part.

For one thing, he was in amazing shape: handsome, young, with an athlete’s lean body. Not what I usually find in the men who sit behind the wheel all day. Something about his face, the way he spoke, too, struck me as unusual.

“It’s a long ride to Haifa,” I finally said. “How do you like being on the road so much?”

“Oh, it’s fine. I like driving. Actually, I haven’t been in the business long. Just a few months,” he said, smiling.

“And before this…?”

“I worked for the Ministry of Defense. I was a security guard.”

We spoke a little more, and I began to realize that I was in the presence of one of the men from those select units who protect the lives of our most powerful citizens, including our former prime minister.

“You didn’t like the work?”

“No, actually…”

This is what happened. A yeshiva graduate, he had served in the army’s most elite units. He had been trained in advanced counter-terrorism techniques, and had been asked to lead men into battle in some of the most dangerous missions possible. He had spent 3.5 years in Lebanon. It was no wonder that the leaders of the country had put him on staff to protect their lives.

And then came the Disengagement. They asked him to be responsible for leading soldiers to attack the residents of Gush Katif should trouble ensue. He knew Gush Katif well. He had been stationed there.

“The people there treated us so well,” he said. “They made sure we had enough to eat and drink. They invited us over on Shabbat and holidays. They were the most wonderful people in the world. How could I now go into their communities and treat them like enemies? How?”

So, he walked into Ariel Sharon’s office (which should give you an idea of who this person is, and what kind of job he had): “I said: ‘I’ll do anything you want. If you want me to wipe out a terrorist cell, fine. That’s what I’m trained to do. But please don’t ask me to do this. Please.’ ”

Sharon didn’t budge. Wasn’t interested.

This soldier also didn’t budge. Despite the years he had spent risking his life to defend his country, and the people who run it, he was not only fired, he was thrown into jail for more than a month. When he got out, he married his girlfriend. He wasn’t worried about getting another job.

“The security companies were lining up to hire me.”

But when he went to get a weapon’s license, he found he’d been blackballed: “It was pure revenge. So it was impossible for me to work.”

He bought a taxi and now he drives. His wife is expecting. He’s not making anywhere near what he used to make.

“You’ve paid quite a price,” I told him.

“I’m not sorry for a minute. I got my medal when my father told me he was proud of me. In the end, I have to live with myself. I have to face my little nephews. What would they think of me if I treated my own people like the enemy?”

Instead, he went to visit the people of Gush Katif in their hotel rooms and dormitories. He hugged them and they hugged him.

“I don’t have a single regret,” he shrugged.

He has a court case against the government for denying him a gun license. I wished him well. And I thought of the men in power, those complacent, greying old men whose lives he had risked his young one for so many times. And I was glad he wasn’t protecting them anymore; glad that he wasn’t being sent on dangerous missions anymore. Not for these men, anyhow. And I thought of what he had sown and what he had reaped. And how much we were all losing because he couldn’t use his skills.

And once again, the reality of living in a country with wonderful people and terrible leadership struck me full force, making me want to punch somebody in the nose; somebody really high up; somebody fat, complacent and careless, who makes all the wrong decisions and makes others pay the price.

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