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Gidi is a handsome 53 year-old Israeli taxi driver whose grandfather made aliyah from Iraq in the 1920s. Loquacious and charming, he “treated” me to a 50-minute Hebrew monologue on the situation in Israel in light of the Iran agreement, the multiple Palestinian stabbings of innocent Israelis in recent days, President Obama’s alleged weakness and the Democratic Party in America, and his frustration in light of current realities.

Gidi is smart and well-informed, a no-nonsense practical man who believes in a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but sees no way to get there because of the Palestinian propensity to  blame Israel for all their problems and take no responsibility for themselves and their children.

I didn’t raise the issue of Israeli co-responsibility for the logjam because I wanted to hear his views. I just listened, a lot!

While driving up the mountain to Jerusalem, Gidi got so aggravated by the recent stabbings of old Jewish women climbing onto buses and of Palestinian children slicing up Israeli Jewish children that he took both hands off the wheel and gesticulated angrily about the immoral character of these terrorists.

Thankfully, he grabbed the wheel just before I begged him to watch out for the cars careening alongside us.

He was right on so many counts. Something is very wrong within Palestinian society that glorifies shaheeds (martyrs) and leaves no alternative for hero worship for children other than people who want to murder Israelis on the streets. The refusal of the Palestinian Authority to prepare the Palestinian population for peace with Israel in a two-state solution and to educate its children effectively about the humanity of Israelis, is a serious failure of the PA.

As a middle-eastern man through and through, Gidi cannot understand President Obama’s belief in the efficacy of negotiation vis a vis Iran and other fundamentalist murderers in the Middle East. He kept praising Russia’s Vladimir Putin as an aggressive actor.

Though I agreed that these groups are bitter enemies of the Jewish people and the west, I argued that the alternative to the Iran negotiations (no negotiations) would have led immediately to Iranian nuclear capability, but Gidi doesn’t trust the Iranians as far as he can spit. He shook his head as I spoke, as if to say, “My American friend –you don’t understand!” I repeated back to him Reagan’s old adage, “Don’t trust – verify!”

I explained that I believe that Obama would have, as a last result, attacked Iranian nuclear sites if no agreement had come about and should Iran move quickly to build a bomb, but Gidi didn’t believe me. I told him that Obama is not a pacifist and had used military force in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan (remember Osama bin Laden), and Libya. And then I reminded Gidi, as if he needed to be reminded having fought himself in Lebanon and served two years in Hebron, that war always brings  unintended consequences. He agreed, and so I asked him what he thought would happen if either Israel or the United States would attack Iran given that Hezbollah has built an extensive tunnel system into Israel far greater than anything we discovered coming out of Gaza, and has 100,000 Iranian missiles aimed at the heart of Tel Aviv?

He agreed that there would be war, but that Israel would prevail. I asked, “at what cost, and isn’t negotiation that brings effective results always better than war?”

Only in Israel could I expect to have such a conversation with a taxi driver! That is part of what I love about this country.

Gidi finally asked me what I’m doing in Israel, and I explained that I am a delegate of ARZA at the World Zionist Congress to begin on Tuesday in Jerusalem. He asked, “So – what will come from 500 Jews talking?”

Good question. This my first WZC Congress, but I told him that the WZC is about the important heart-connection that exists between world Jewry and the state of Israel, and about Jews from everywhere in the world helping Israel to grow in strength and preserve its Jewish character and democracy.

Finally, he said: “And it’s about money! Isn’t it!?”

As I indicated, Gidi is a smart guy. Yes – There is a lot of money at stake for the different world Zionist groups in Israel, and because ARZA is the largest delegation coming from the United States (54 seats) combined with our allies in ARZENU world-wide, we hope to not only promote Israel’s democratic and progressive liberal values, but to gain greater influence on key committees and a greater share of the financial pie for our progressive religious and social justice movement in Israel which still receives no funds from the Israeli government.

My ARZENU leadership has asked all our delegates NOT to ride buses or to walk alone in Jerusalem given the last week’s knife-attacks, and though I am personally comfortable doing so, I promised my wife and sons I would abide by their recommendations and take taxis, and hopefully to meet more Gidis.

This week’s Torah portion, by the way, is Lech Lecha – Go forth! And that is what we hope to do.

To be continued….
L’hitraot.

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