The Israeli Shared Taxi: A Reflection on Our Diversity
I’m someone who travels a lot by public transport. I’m often on buses, trains and shared taxis. Shared taxis are a great way to travel between cities. They are generally faster than buses and usually more comfortable. They can carry a maximum of ten passengers and, although they follow normal bus routes, they will make stops along the way wherever the passenger wants.
The other day, I was in one of these shared taxis and found myself occupying the last seat. I climbed into the taxi together with an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi and ended up sitting between him on the one side and an ultra Orthodox Muslim on the other. My seat was on the back bench and four of us were compressed together with no personal space between us. The others in the taxi were a mix of younger generation Jewish Israelis, one businessman with a briefcase, an older Arab worker, two obviously Russian background people and the Arab driver.
It was early morning and those around me were all sleeping when we got into the taxi. As in many public places, there was no conversation, except between me and the Rabbi who was actually quite chatty. Everyone was in his own world. I, however, was wide awake and so I began to pray. I prayed for each person individually and as a representative of the sector to which he/she belonged. I found my heart stretching to embrace the whole that was represented in this taxi.
The amazing variety encapsulated in this very small space was striking. It became a metaphor for me. I saw the ethnic, religious, gender, generational diversity of Israel enclosed in the back of one taxi. We were all on the way, with different destinations but on the same road, traveling together. There was no tension as we sped to our various destinations Looking around, I realized I was seeing a microcosm of Israeli society. This unique configuration of people will never again exist. I was keenly aware that I was probably the only believer in Jesus in the taxi and I felt a responsibility and a joyful sense of privilege to be able to carry His presence.
Upon reflection, yes, the people in this taxi will never again be in the same place at the same time. We daily find ourselves with many people from incredibly diverse backgrounds and lifestyles, though. Is this random? Is it a meaningless occurrence? Or do we have a part in the ever moving dance of humanity we encounter on a day-to-day basis?
My musings on one morning’s taxi ride, shared with nine strangers, have deepened my awareness of the responsibility I carry for all my fellow travelers. I’ve come away from that brief experience with a new sense of wonder at the variety, complexity, beauty, and most of all, the connectedness of our seemingly separate lives whether we meet in the back of a shared taxi or share the same conflicted land.