Taxi To The Other Side

Shabbat has set in and again I was left without a bus home. The mini-bus service vans don’t go to Jaffa, so I caught a cab to complete my journey. Another long and convoluted return from Bethlehem, through Checkpoint 300, Jerusalem, and finally, Tel Aviv. I needed to return to the sea, to forget, to clean, to forget, and clean.

“... and if you’ll come back to me my darling, whether tired or hungry from the road. I may be crying or I may be laughing, but I’ll say only two words. I knew you’d come back, I knew you’d come back…” The radio in the taxi sang.

“These songs are from the 70s, right?” I asked the driver.

“70s, 60s, yes.” H

e looked at my in the rearview mirror for a second, then returned for another long moment. “It’s just too bad they only play these songs when something sad happens,” he said.

“You mean the terrorist attack?” His eyes returned to the mirror, confused why I even posed the question. He has no idea where I had just returned from, what I had just seen.

“Why do you think they play these songs at times like these?”

“These are the songs of our country. This is Israel. It’s not Mizrahi music, it’s the Nahal army band! These are the songs of our nation!”

We sat in silence for a few moments as I questioned his assertion in my mind. So much is wrapped inside such small a comment, and I’m so tired. So tired from the road.

“My son is now in Givati [Brigade],” he said, “I don’t know how I’m going to live through all this with him.”

“How many years does he have left?”

“Eleven months. Only son. My only son. I even signed for him to go into the combat unit. I signed for him, he wanted to go so bad he wouldn’t listen to anything his mother or I had to say. He just demanded we sign.”

“And you? Where did you serve in the army?” I ask.

“I… was in a secret unit of the Mankal. A form of Mistaravim...” he said, again looking at me intensely through the rearview mirror.

“You mean Unit 504?”

“No, they weren’t called that back then. 300. We mostly worked with the Mossad in Lebanon. They would come up with missions and we would make them happen. You know, elimination, kidnapping.”

“So now you know how your parents must have felt when you were in the army”

“No,” he laughed, “we used to fake our parents’ signatures, they had no clue what we were up to.”

“And you’re worried because we’re about to have another war?”

“I’m worried because these days, I don’t know what’s going on with this army… Just the other week a soldier in my son’s unit was shot in the back during training. That didn’t happen with us. I just called him today. He says he can’t talk because they’re doing special training, preparing for a possible ground invasion and all that. You know, Givati mostly serve in Gaza.”

“Yes I know,” I said, “never mind the sea, take me home, I want to listen to the radio”.

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