The Tel Aviv Cab Driver story is its own genre. My favorite is the one related by Zev Chafets in his book Heroes and Hustlers, Hard Hats and Holy Men (1986) about pulling up next to Ezer Weizmann before the 1977 elections that brought Likud to power. The punchline is that Wezimann asks the cab driver how old he is and if he can still do what men now take Viagra to help them with. When the driver answers of course he can still do it, Weizmann replies, “Then on election day I want you to [do that thing that Viagra helps you do] and take it to the polls to f— Labor.”

The Israeli cab driver is sort of equivalent to a barber in the U.S., only in reverse: Where the barber gets everyone’s stories, the cab driver simply tells you his stories. He’s more about talking than listening. Perhaps for this reason, the cab driver seems to represent Israeli conventional wisdom among diasporic Jews.

All of which made my conversation with a cab driver in Tel Aviv the other day the more remarkable. We were driving from Tel Aviv University to the Port (Namal) for lunch, when the driver asks me (in Hebrew, as was the rest of the conversation) if I’m from America. Yes, Chicago, I say. What do you think of Obama, he asks. I start to get a little nervous, so I hedge: “Well, I voted for him. But we’ll see.”

And then things go in an unexpected direction: “How did the American people vote for Bush twice? What are they, stupid? Obama, he’s straight. Bush is a liar. What did he leave behind? War in Iraq. War in Afghanistan. The economy in the pits.” Well, I tell him, from time to time the American people make poor decisions.

He tells me that the whole world wanted Obama, only in Israel did they want McCain. “Look at the rest of the world. They don’t want war. They want peace.” Do you think Israelis don’t want peace, I ask him. “Sometimes I think we don’t,” he says.

My next question has to be about Gaza. What did you think of Gaza, I ask. “Look, they were shooting rockets at us. They killed, what, 4 Israelis? And for this we killed in children alone 400? And another 800 civilians? It’s not only terrorists who live in Gaza. There are people there. You call this proportionate?”

He apologizes if he offended me. I assure him he didn’t. I ask him if he thinks most Israelis feel the way he does. “No,” he responds. “The media screws with their minds. They make us think that all Arabs are our enemies.”

We reach the port, and he sees my kippah and says, “You’re religious?” with a smile on his face. “I’m sorry if I offended you.” I again assure him I didn’t. We go to lunch.