I had to take a pair of cabs yesterday to/from a client that is just a few blocks away to pick up some binders. I was curious if I'd have trouble thanks to the (dumb, idiotic) strike going on, but I got one within a few seconds. The first driver drove me just as he normally would, charging me on the meter. We had an interesting conversation about the political realm, as he was listening to talk radio, and I was only somewhat surprised to hear his viewpoints. It was entertaining and amusing, and he was clearly bright and well-informed, which was nice, and he sounds like a typical hard-working immigrant: Somewhere in the middle, really uninterested in Hilary Clinton but curious what I thought of her, and not a fan of some aspects of (say) Guiliani but still overall positive of what he'd do as President. Mostly, annoyed with politicians as a whole, the media trying to twist the political race to serve their own wishes, and calling the whole thing a stupid game. It occurs to me that it would be interesting to see a poll weighing whom people dislike the most or whom they trust the least: President Bush, Congress, or the media. I think Bush would come in 3rd in both.
The second one, however, was very different. He first informed me that instead of the meter, he'd be using a chart of zones, thanks to the rules of the strike. I asked how much that would be, and since it was just $1 more than the first cab on the meter (and I don't pay for it anyway), I agreed to the price. A few seconds later, the Ghanaian cabbie turns and says "Shalom!" I responded the same, and he asked what it meant. I explained it could be Hello, Goodbye, or Peace; peace seemed to be the one he was looking for. He started discussing a passenger he'd had the weeks prior from Israel; he apparently was struck by this passenger's kindness, would speak to the guy every evening, drove him around a bit, and was invited to come to the Israeli's home. He even had a piece of paper with the guy's name, address, and phone numbers and email in both Hebrew and English.
But this wasn't an empty offer: Next summer, he's heading to Israel. For a while. He then started discussing some friends of his who apparently live in Israel as well; one of his 'homeboys' apparently plays soccer there. He was surprised that his friend had gone there, but he said his friend is incredibly happy and really loves Israel... so much so that he named his son in its honor: Israel. Then he mentioned a story that he assumed I didn't know, but as soon as he started it, I realized that I'd read quite a bit about it in places such as the J-blogosphere: His friend plays for Ghana in the World Cup... but always wears an Israel jersey underneath his Ghanaian jersey. Cool, right? Well, then comes the famous part. This is the player whom, upon scoring a goal in the World Cup, grabbed an Israeli flag and ran around the field holding it over his shoulders. The one whom Israeli fans went crazy over, tremendously proud of his accomplishments, even though they were on behalf of Ghana - and before he ever grabbed that flag.
I wonder if that player was similarly introduced to Israel by some random Israeli talking to him. Perhaps not, but one need not look further than my cabbie to realize that we can, as individuals, have a tremendous impact on other individuals and how they view Jews, Judaism, and the state of Israel. I don't know who this Yeruchem Levi from Jerusalem is (the cabbie said he works in government), but he made quite a kiddush Hashem.