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Israeli Deputy Consul General in Chicago Kicked Out of Uber for Speaking Hebrew

“It’s like I wasn’t a person to him anymore”

Gretchen Rachel Hammond
May 04, 2018

Yesterday afternoon, Itay Milner, Israel’s Deputy Consul General in Chicago, left his office and decided to take an Uber home.

“I was just sitting in the back seat,” he told Tablet. “We had been driving for about ten minutes and we were on Lower Wacker Drive when I received a call from a colleague. When I picked up the phone, I answered in Hebrew.”

According to Milner, the driver immediately stopped the car and started yelling at him.

“He was saying ‘Get out of my car!’” Milner said. “he was using the F-word. I didn’t understand what was going on. I asked him what was wrong and he didn’t say anything; just repeated ‘get of my car!’”

Milner then asked the driver if the problem was that he was speaking Hebrew.

“The driver said ‘yes,’” Milner recalled. “Even though I was in the middle of a highway, I decided it was better to get out of the car.”

“It’s like I wasn’t a person to him anymore,” Milner later wrote on social media.

He ended up walking the rest of the way home, but not before taking a picture of the driver, identified on his Uber profile as Yuva and driving a 2017 white Toyota Camry. According to the Uber app, the driver has has been working for the company for one year, and has a 4.89 rating.

For Milner, the incident was the first time he had experienced anti-Semitism in the city up close.

“I do see it online or when I go to lectures but never as a private person,” he said. “This time, it was the most severe. He didn’t know who I was. It was just because I spoke Hebrew. It shocked me at first, then I was furious. I’m trying to see what I can do to prevent things like this from reoccurring.”

Milner contacted Uber, and the company pledged to reimburse him. In a statement to Tablet, the company said: “Uber does not tolerate any form of discrimination. We are [reaching] out to the rider to extend our support for the experience he described here. As soon as we were made aware of this, we removed the driver’s access from the app as we look further into this.”

“They said that they would contact [the driver],” Milner added. “But they did not say if they would take any action. I hope this guy won’t be able to drive customers anymore. He obviously cannot control his temper or his opinions, so he poses a risk.”

“It is important to be clear that you can be critical of Israel but, once you make a generalization and go after every Jew you see it legitimizes hate,” he added. “People will think it’s OK to treat Jews like that as apart of a criticism of Israel. It isn’t.”

Gretchen Rachel Hammond is an award-winning journalist and a full-time writer for Tablet Magazine.