My Taxi Story (or "The L-rd is My Driver")
Sharon N. Galkin

Israeli Taxis. Is there anyone who has ever visited Israel and *not* gone home with a taxi story? It's either something that happened in the cab or something the cabbie said or something that someone else said to the cabbie... And whether you leave the cab laughing, crying or bewildered, you find yourself thinking "Only in Israel..."

This fact of life is not restricted to tourists alone. For a full nine months after I moved to Israel with my husband and children, we were car-less but I, still on a "high" from our move, was joyfully taking the buses - learning the ins and outs of public transportation; eyeing fellow passengers with a combination of interest, excitement - and sometimes, in light of recent terrorist activities, suspicion. Generally, the bus system in Israel is efficient and punctual but if there was no bus when I needed one, I'd splurge on a cab and take advantage of the private transportation to practice my Hebrew on every poor, unsuspecting driver who stopped at my hail.
Even with the trials and tribulations of our move, I was enjoying almost every minute of those first months of our
klita (absorption) and keeping in touch via email with the family and friends we left behind. Seffie, a close childhood friend of mine, was writing on a daily basis. Sadly, more and more of her letters included reports about her sister-in-law's battle with cancer - a battle she was fighting with her every ounce of strength... While the rest of our childhood gang had married "regular" folk, Seffie's brother, Gary, had found himself a princess. Evelyne was beautiful. Inside and Out. Gary and Evelyne married and moved to Belgium where he worked in her family's business. I had the opportunity to visit them there and, for four days, I was treated like a member of the royal family. It was easy to see that Evelyne was truly special. And the five children she had during their first 12 years of marriage were her pride and joy. Shortly after Gary and Evelyne moved back to New York, I was devastated to hear that this young, adoring wife and mother was suffering from that dreaded disease.

But surely, she'd pull through... I saw Evelyne at a wedding a few months before we moved to Israel. One would never have guessed that she was so seriously ill. She proudly pointed out each of her children to me and, as regally as ever, shared in the happiness of the bride and groom. Less than one year later, she was in a coma. And next thing I knew, her body was being flown to Israel for burial. My mother, who was still coming to grips with my
Aliyah (move to Israel), emailed me to say that "it was meant for you to represent our family at the funeral of Evelyne...". And that I did - along with many other friends and relatives from Jerusalem, Belgium and New York. I cried before, during and after. There were no words. I had always believed that no matter how things might appear, G-d has a plan that is somehow for our benefit. But my faith, at this moment, was somewhat shaky. The next day, with my head still reeling, I got into a cab. As is often the case with short, local taxi rides in Israel, the driver stopped for me even though he already had another passenger in the front seat. Upon ascertaining that I was heading in the same direction as his first fare, I climbed into the back. Even had I wanted to listen to the conversation going on in front, I would not have easily understood the heavily-accented Sephardic Hebrew they were speaking and so I was free to become lost in thought. And my thoughts were all focused on the tragic loss of Evelyne. How would her husband and children manage without her? Who would comfort her father and siblings in Belgium? Who would plan the huge family gatherings that she used to arrange for all her husband's extended family in New York? Would life for any of them - for anyone who knew her - ever be the same?

After what seemed like seconds, the taxi pulled up to the curb and the first passenger got out. I snapped back into the here and now knowing that my stop was just around the corner. Suddenly, the cabbie looked at me in his rear-view mirror. "So," he said - slowly and clearly enough for me to understand, "what do *you* think?" "What do I think about what?", I asked - explaining that I had not been listening to his conversation with the first passenger. "Do you think that things happen by chance?", he continued. I was stunned by the question. Had he been reading my mind all this time?!? Hardly missing a beat, I heard myself reply with surprising certainty: "No, everything is for a reason." "Ah", he said, "so you say there is a Driver at the wheel, yes?"
"Kehn" (Yes), I replied - still not quite believing this exchange. "Kehn", I said again, "hakol b'hash'gacha." (Yes, everything happens under G-d's watchful eye.) Oh, how I had needed to hear myself answer this cabdriver's questions. With each second that passed, I could feel a heavy weight being lifted from my shoulders. The faith that had been dealt a serious blow was being restored. I paid my fare and got out of the cab with my heart just a bit less heavy. Of course, nothing would take away the sadness but I was suddenly more confident that even if G-d's plan is not always clear, there *is* a plan. Perhaps Evelyne had been able to achieve her purpose on Earth in record time and was now needed Above to put in a good word for us down here. Whatever the explanation, surely Evelyne's life-cut-short had been "b'hash'gacha" - under G-d's watchful eye. So, too, my taxi ride.

Sharon Galkin was born and raised in New York and moved to Baltimore, Maryland shortly after she married. In 1997, Sharon made Aliyah with her husband, Bill, and their 5 children. She has written several articles and essays about her and her family's adjustment to and impressions of life in Israel. This is her first appearance in our "Pinat Orchim".