The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 24 July 2004 / 6 Av 5764

A Cabbie's Tale

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Eli is certainly one of my favorite Jerusalem cab drivers. Not only because he wears a kipah and provides efficient service, but also because of the tales he tells during the ride.

One such tale concerns a close relative of his who traveled to Iraq around the time of the first Gulf War in an attempt to find a younger sister left behind when the family fled. One of Saddam Husseins policemen had taken a fancy to her from her early youth and there was a fear that with her protective family gone he had abducted her.

Her older brother was so troubled by this that he ignored the warnings of family and friends that he was risking his life by traveling to a land where Jews were not welcome, and somehow made it to Iraq. Upon arriving in the village near Baghdad where his family had resided, he was told by a former Moslem neighbor that his sister was dead. Suspicious that his informant was lying in order to hasten the departure of a foreigner whose presence jeopardized the safety of the village should Saddams agents learn that it was harboring him, he desperately continued his search. He had not yet succeeded in gaining any more information on his sisters whereabouts when the nervous mukhtar (leader) of the village insisted that he leave for his sake and that of the village. He even supplied him with a couple of village residents to provide escort.

On the way out one of the escorts turned to him and said:

"While you Jews were in our country we enjoyed great prosperity. Since you have gone everything has gone wrong and we are impoverished. We now see that you are Allahs chosen people."

Hearing these words from a devout Moslem in an enemy land made the otherwise fruitless and dangerous trip worthwhile.

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