Halt in Jerusalem bus service causes headaches, agitation and missed work

"It’s as though all the grocery stores closed with people needing bread and milk."

January 4, 2017 21:49
3 minute read.
AN EGGED BUS pulls up in front of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station

AN EGGED BUS pulls up in front of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Perplexed and paralyzed by Wednesday’s Egged bus strike, Jerusalem commuters expressed exasperated disgust after being forced to pay cab fares, rely on family and friends for rides or miss work or school entirely.

During rush hour, as a light rain blanketed Ben-Yehuda Street, Rafi Fintsi, a 71-year-old merchant who depends on the No. 19 bus, said he is relying on his wife to drive him to, and pick him up from, the nearest light rail stop from his home in Moshav Ora, southwest of Jerusalem.

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“She had to drive me to the Mount Herzl stop this morning from home, and I’m hoping she will also be able to pick me up from there tonight,” he said. “For a lot of people, this is a balagan [Hebrew for “mess”] because it directly affects them. Thank God, I have a wife to help me.”

Standing with her 10-yearold nephew, Emuna Mansolson, a 23-year-old children’s sports therapist from Har Nof, said she had to walk for nearly 30 minutes to the Central Bus Station, where she took the light rail to work.

“I usually take a bus from Har Nof to the bus station, and take the train to work,” she explained. “Since it’s raining now, I’m probably going to take my cousin’s car to get home.”

Asked about hailing a taxi, Mansolson replied matter- of-factly: “Israelis don’t take taxis. They’re expensive, and a lot of my friends stayed at home today instead of paying for one. I had to cancel plans with them tonight because they won’t take a cab.”

Those who did rely on taxis described long waits and high fares.

Indeed, Simon Bibi, a middle- aged hairstylist and cosmetics saleswoman from Kiryat Menahem in southwest Jerusalem, did not mince words.

“I take the No. 20 bus every day to Mount Herzl and then get the train, and today I had to take a taxi to work for NIS 50,” lamented Bibi. “Now I will have to pay another NIS 50 to get home, so it will cost me NIS 100, and my boss only reimbursed me for NIS 50, so Egged can go f*** themselves!” Na’ama, a 20-year-old National Service volunteer who cares for elderly people in their homes, echoed Bibi’s frustration less explicitly, noting that she could not get to work on Wednesday.

“I stay with old ladies and sit with them, and couldn’t go today because I didn’t have enough money for a cab,” she said, requesting her last name not be published. “This is extremely unfair of Egged because everyone depends on them, and it’s a problem if they stop transportation.”

Shahar Fleischman, a 20-something college student at Hadassah Academic College, who normally takes the No. 22 bus from her home in Roscoe, said she missed class, adding that even a taxi-finding phone app was no match for competition stemming from the strike.

“It cost me NIS 30 to get downtown, and I was late because it took a half-hour to get one, because the app I used didn’t work, because everyone was taking them,” she said.

“This is really unfair because people rely on [Egged] to go to work and school, and all the taxis are taken.”

Meanwhile, Moshe Ben- Ishay, a clothing salesman on Jaffa Road, who lives 30 minutes away, said he paid NIS 50 for a cab this morning after waiting for 20 minutes.

“All the cabs were full, so I was late to work,” he said, noting that he is attempting to arrange a ride home to avoid more cab fares.

“This is creating a big problem for the city,” Ben-Ishay said. “It’s like all the grocery stores closing when people need milk and bread. It’s the same thing.”

The sole beneficiaries during Wednesday’s strike were cab drivers, several of whom described the impasse as a business boon.

“Business has never been better,” said Meir, after dropping off one person and cherry- picking his next customer from a growing crowd.

“Where do you want to go?” he asked one desperate middle- aged man. “What about you three?” he said to a group of young women huddled under an umbrella.After deliberating on which destination would be more lucrative, Meir looked at the man and said, “Yalla” (let’s go).

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