I am dressed in a hot pink East-Asian dress and a high-pony tail a la 1997.
It's Purim and I opted not to change back into real clothes before heading home.
"You were at a party?" he asks me. Uber drivers love to chat.
They are the next best thing to Israeli cab drivers. Sometimes better.
"Yes. A party." I say.
I'm not going to get into the whole Jewish holiday conversation. I'm tired. And a little tipsy.
It's quiet for a few minutes. Then he says, unexpectedly, "You're Jewish?"
"Yes!" I say, surprised.
"It's a holiday, yes?" he asks.
"Yes," I reply.
"It's short, yes? Just one day?"
I'm intregued by his knowledge of this minor Jewish holiday. I surmise he might be Muslim.
Muslims often know more about Judaism than others.
I wish I was as confident in general Jewish knowledge of Islam. But I digress.
"Yes" I say. "That's right."
Then, "Where are you from Aram?"
(He has a thick accent so I hope I'm not being offensive by assuming he's not Canadian by birth).
As it turns out, Aram is Kurdish. From Bhagdad. He is a Muslim. He came to Canada two years ago. Completely by himself. He doesn't love Canada yet but it's better than Iraq. He finds it overwhelming so far. There is so much to learn and figure out. He doesn't miss Iraq but he misses his family. He has no family here. He has made a few friends. He didn't know a word of English when he arrived, but he loves to learn languages and he's proud of how his English is coming along (it's pretty good from where I'm sitting. I don't struggle to understand him). He speaks Kurdish, Persian, Arabic and a little bit of Turkish (and now English). He was an accountant in Bhagdad and also has taken computer courses. He's trying to get certified here in Canada. Hopes he will be done with school in two years. He's 23. He loves to travel but it's very different to be an immigrant, he tells me.
I am blown away by his story. I know how hard it is to move to a new place but I can't imagine how impossibly difficult it would be to do so in a completely new part of the world, with no family or community or familiarity with the language. Somehow, in two year's he's learned to speak, found a place to live, hired a lawyer to help him with immigration, become an Uber driver. I'm beyond impressed. He's so brave. I tell him so.
I think about how his story is probably not so unusual. Especially in this country. And yet I find myself moved because it is his story and he's telling it to me as he drives me home - cheerfully - from my privileged job to my privileged apartment.
"Did you know any Jews before you came to Canada?" I ask, curious.
"Oh yes," he says, and explains about Kurdish Jews who left during the Hussain regime (mostly to Israel) and then returned afterward to visit and check on their abandoned property, etc. He tells me his dad had many Jewish friends "before". I think about how they say that in Cape Town too, "Before". "Before the bad times." "The dark times." How many parts of the world have people who speak like that?
Aram's lawyer is also Jewish. His immigration lawyer. I don't get into how I feel about immigration lawyers but I'm glad his Jewish lawyer is helping him. He says he loves his lawyer. He sounds like he means it. I am glad his Jewish lawyer has obviously done more for him than just paperwork. One Muslim-Jewish story at a time. This is how we heal the world.
When he talked about the Kurdish Jews in Israel I asked if he had ever been there. "No, but I want to go some day," he says. And we talk about how beautiful it is there. And how crazy. And how people are people and everyone is human and just wants to live in peace.
We get to my door. "Assalamu Alaykum" I say as I gather my belongings. He laughs. "Good evening, lady" he says.
"Good luck, Aram." I respond.
We are just humans. Muslim. Jewish. Trying to live our lives in peace. He is an immigrant Uber driver. I am a rabbi in a hot pink dress. It all seems so easy. Like peace could be this easy.
If only we could just speak to each other. Hear each other's stories. Listen. Relate. Respond. Care.
Wish each other well.
If only the whole world was an Uber.
We might just make it home.