[In Jerusalem,] with just one touch of a button in Jerusalem, you can now order a taxi with a baby car seat, a cold drink, fresh flowers — or a “kosher” driver.
David Shmuel, 60, is one of those drivers working with Gett, Israel’s homegrown and most popular taxi app. Shmuel’s not kosher in the rabbi-certified sense; rather, he is part of Gett’s “kosher” taxi fleet — Gett Mehadrin — in which customers can order a driver who does not drive on the Jewish Sabbath, from Friday evening to Saturday night, in keeping with strict Jewish law.
“It’s like milk at a supermarket,” Shmuel told BuzzFeed News during a taxi ride on a July night in Jerusalem. “There are lots of options. Some people like a certain kind — kosher.”
Gett launched the Mehadrin taxi fleet in March. It’s only available in Israel, and there are now around 1,000 Mehadrin drivers out of Gett’s 6,700 nationwide as of August, according to Iris Hermon, the head of marketing for Gett in Israel. The fleet accepts any Gett driver — from all races, religions, and genders — and includes a few Arab drivers, though Hermon declined to provide an exact figure. Nationally, Gett Mehadrin accounts for up to 20% of the company’s monthly rides, the majority of which are in and around Jerusalem, according to Hermon.
The new service, depending on whom you ask, is either entirely reasonable, entirely racist, or not something the average Jerusalemite thinks twice about having these days. It has also gained a reputation among some drivers as the “Jewish driver” option in a city defined by cycles of religious and racial divides.
“It’s racist,” agreed Ahmed Abu Tir, an east Jerusalem resident and Gett driver. He, like all the Palestinian drivers interviewed, referred to it as the “Jewish driver” option.
Abu Tir knows that unlike Gett, many of west Jerusalem’s cab companies won’t hire drivers like him, or will send a Jewish driver on request even though that’s illegal. Still, when his wife calls, he doesn’t like to respond in Arabic if he has a Jewish passenger: He worries they’ll become suspicious.
Gett told BuzzFeed News that claims of discrimination are misplaced.
“It’s about service,” Hermon said. “We never treat one driver differently than another.”
Hermon said Gett developed the Mehadrin option in response to customer feedback. This arrangement, she said, is a part of modern Jerusalem life: If Gett did not have the Mehadrin option, then the city’s large and politically powerful ultra-orthodox communities would boycott them, as they do with most businesses open on the Sabbath.…
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