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Israeli diplomat speaks Hebrew on phone; Uber driver kicks him out

After a year-long delay, Uber Technologies Inc. admitted on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, that hackers stole personal data belonging to 57 million customers and drivers. (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/TNS)

As a top Israeli diplomat in Chicago, Itay Milner is used to engaging with people who disagree with his home country’s policies.

And being a former soldier in the Israeli army’s artillery unit, Milner said he doesn’t spook easily.

But Milner said he felt attacked and scared Thursday night when, he alleges, an Uber driver began cursing and ejected him from a vehicle on a busy road after the driver heard him speaking Hebrew.

Milner, Israel’s deputy consul general to the Midwest, documented his experience on social media after the ride that shook him up.

It was about 6 p.m. and raining when, Milner says, he was kicked out of the Uber on East Lower Wacker Drive near North Michigan Avenue, he said.

“I was just thrown out of an #uber in the middle of the highway only because I answered my phone in my mother” tongue, Milner wrote in his initial Facebook post. “10 minutes into my ride and with no prior interaction between the driver and myself, it took only two words in Hebrew to get my driver (to) start yelling at me.”

In a Twitter post, Milner wrote, “Can’t believe this is happening in America.”

Uber replied to Milner on Twitter, stating, “We take this very seriously. Please send us a PM with your email address so we can confirm it ASAP.”

An Uber spokeswoman said in a email that it removed the driver’s access to the app — meaning he can’t pick up riders or otherwise drive for the company — as soon as it was made aware of the allegations.

In an interview Friday, Milner said he was shocked when the driver became so angry at him. The driver told Milner that hearing the Hebrew set him off, Milner said.

After finding another way home, Milner said he decided to publicize the situation to show that it was unacceptable.

“I have to use my influence and my status to make sure something like this never happens again because if it happened to me, it can happen to anyone,” Milner said.

After the alleged incident, the Midwest branch of the Anti-Defamation League also took to social media stating on Twitter: “This hate has no place in our community. We’re glad that @Uber has suspended the individual pending an investigation and hope that they arrive at the appropriate conclusion.”

Milner said he has been overwhelmed by hundreds of messages of support. Some people are even offering to drive him around.

“It’s heartwarming to see the community, not just the Jewish community, come together.”

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© 2018 Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.