Our taxi driver

Yesterday, my younger daughter and I went to Haifa. Since we wanted to be there by 10 a.m., we decided to go by train and avoid the rush hour traffic. Very shortly into the trip, we were reassured it had been a good choice as we looked out of the window at the parking lot that the Ayalon Expressway had become.

The train ride was pleasant and we finally arrived in Haifa, we found a taxi to take us to where we were going. We got into the taxi and started driving up the mountain. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but the taxi driver indicated that he understood our English and we continued the conversation with him. He asked if we had been in the country for a long time and we told him that we were soon coming up on 14 years. He said he had been here for 9 years and on the 23rd of May, he would be celebrating that anniversary. He asked where we were from and then we asked him where he was from. He said, “Lebanon.” We both stopped to think and after a second he told us, “I was a member of the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA).” Immediately, we began to think of those men who fought alongside the Israel Defense Forces. They and their families had been forced to flee their homeland when our forces withdrew from Lebanon. The only alternative for them was death for them and their families. These men were fighting for the freedom of their own country against terrorists who terrorized not just Israel, but their own people. When we pulled out of Lebanon rapidly, these people had to flee.

There are approximately 350 SLA families living in Israel since May 2000. These people have integrated into the country and are productive members of our society. But it hurts. Our taxi driver said, “I have no one here, only my wife and two children. Everyone else is there. It hurts me to see my house when I look at it from Israel. I haven’t been to the place from where I can see it for 6 years. It hurts too much.” I said to him, “Maybe when the extremists stop their nonsense…” and he responded, “Do you really think that will happen?” My daughter responded, “We are realists too, but we pray that things will change.” I asked him how his life is here in Israel. He said that his life is good. And then he said, “I isn’t easy to leave the place you lived for 32 years.”

Inside, I cried for him. When he dropped us off, I gave him some extra sheqels and said, with my whole heart, “Thank you.”