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Israel: The Language of Taxis

Rasha Helwa, who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel living in Acre (and describes herself as living in Palestine), has written a series of short posts at her blog Zaghroda about her thoughts when taking shared taxis, and on the significance of the language – Arabic or Hebrew – that the driver chooses to use.

In her first post, Rasha wonders:

ليش شوفير التاكسي دايمًا متعصبن؟
وليش شوفير التاكسي العربي بحكي مع زميله كمان شوفير تاكسي عربي باللغة العبرية؟
وليش شوفير التاكسي العربي بحط دايمًا موسيقى أو نشرة أخبار بالعبري؟
وليش أنا لما أفوت عَ التاكسي دايمًا بحكي مع الشوفير باللغة العربية؟
وطيب ليش هو بردّ عليّ بالعبري؟وليش شوفير التاكسي اليهودي بحسه دايمًا رايق؟
//
طيب ليش أنا متوقعة إشي تاني يعني؟…
Why are taxi drivers always irritable?
And why does an Arab taxi driver speak to his colleague, also an Arab taxi driver, in Hebrew?
And why do Arab taxi drivers always put on Hebrew music and news?
And why, when I get into a taxi, do I always speak to the driver in Arabic?
And then, why does he answer me in Hebrew?
And why do I feel Jewish taxi drivers are always at ease?
//
And then, why do I ever expect anything else?

In a second post she recounts a specific incident:

مبارح، وأنا بالطريق من حيفا لعكا، بالتاكسي طبعًا..
ومع شوفير تاكسي عربي.
//
طلعت صبية سمرا بالطريق معنا بالتاكسي، الصبية عكاوية، هيك لاحظت من لهجتها.
أول ما ركبت بالتاكسي، مقدرتش تسكت (شكلها اللي بقلبها عَ راس لسانها!) وسألته بنبرة قوية:”إنتِ ليش حاطط أخبار بالعبراني؟ ومرة بتحطوا أغاني بالعبراني؟ شو قصتكو؟”
//
الشوفير العربي، ضلت أعصابه هادي، وردّ عليها بالردّ المتوقع:”لو إحنا مسافرين من عكا لقرية المكر كُنت بحط أغاني عربي..بس من حيفا لعكا بزبطش!”
الصبية السمرا جاوبته بسرعة:”هاد إسمه ضعف شخصية!”
//
كل واحد بقدر يحط مليون جملة غير اللي قالتها الصبية السمرا، وبتزبط.
وأنا ضحكت بقلبي وقتها
Yesterday, I was on the way from Haifa to Acre, by taxi of course…and with an Arab taxi driver.
//
A dark-skinned girl got into the taxi with us on the way, a girl from Acre, from what I noticed of her dialect.
When she first got into the taxi, she couldn’t keep quiet (it seemed like what was in her heart was on the tip of her tongue!). And she asked him [the driver] in a strong accent, “Why have you put on the news in Hebrew? And another time you put on Hebrew songs – what’s the deal?”
//
The Arab driver stayed calm, and answered her in the expected manner: “If we were going from Acre to Al Maker village [east of Acre] I would have put on Arabic songs…But that’s no good from Haifa to Acre!”
The dark-skinned girl quickly answered him, “That’s what’s known as weakness of character.”
//
Every person can think of a million lines apart from the one the dark-skinned girl said which would have been good.
As for me, at the time I laughed in my heart.

In her third post Rasha is left wondering:

اليوم، كان شوي رمادي
سافرت من حيفا لعكا، بالتاكسي أكيد.
مقدرتش أعرف بالزبط شو هوية الشوفير.
يمكن لأنه ما حكى مع الرُكاب
يمكن لأنه مصرخش على ولا أي شوفير
ويمكن لأنه كان حاطط موسيقي بدون كلمات.
//
ويمكن لأنه الموسيقى شغلتلي بالي أكتر من أي إشي تاني
Today it was a little dusty.
I went from Haifa to Acre, by taxi of course.
I couldn’t quite make out the identity of the driver.
Perhaps because he didn’t talk to the passengers.
Perhaps he didn’t shout at me or at any driver.
Perhaps because he put on music that had no words.
//
And perhaps because the music preoccupied my thoughts more than anything else.

4 comments

  • This is wonderful, Ayesha. Thank you for translating Rasha Helwa’s poetic posts.

    ~ Maya
    (GVO, Israel)

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  • Fozia

    Thanks for this information Ayesha – I’m usually annoyed in taxis all the time but in Palestine-Israel speaking Hebrew or Arabic must convey some sort of message ….

  • Probably the best solution is to go with what most of the passengers want. If there were mostly Hebrew speaking passengers than it makes sense for the driver to put on Hebrew music/news.

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