Tel Aviv taxi drivers are a motley crowd – some taciturn, some resolutely plugged into their i-pods. Others are talkative, eager to give advice or share their take on current affairs. But they are always an interesting window on Israeli society.
This week I met an elderly driver who had left Egypt in 1952. As he hogged the overtaking lane at 20 km per hour to angry honking from Tel Aviv’s impatient traffic, he told me that he welcomed the fall of President Mubarak. There was nothing to fear from Egypt’s revolution, elections would be held in six months’ time and all would be well. As for talk of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, it was all scaremongering.
He gleaned his information straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak: he still had two brothers living in Cairo. The Jewish population of Cairo comprised some 15 souls. The brothers had decided to set up a tourist business in Egypt.
Four years earlier, the driver had celebrated his 70th birthday in Cairo with his family. His children had flown in from the US and France for the occasion.
He was in regular telephone contact with his brothers. There were no problems and they were optimistic for the future. If things did not turn out as well as predicted – I guess they always had their French and US passports to fall back on.
Western tourism to Egypt was in the doldrums, but the old man was confident it would soon pick up.
I can now say I met the brother of 13.3 percent of Cairo’s Jewish population.