Friday morning, winter is suddenly back in town, and I’m looking for the stop that is supposed to be on Derech Hebron for the No. 8 bus, which goes from East Talpiot to Pisgat Ze’ev. According to the information provided on the Egged Web site, it should be at the corner of Rehov Naomi and Derech Hebron. Nothing. Well, the bus stop is there, but there is no bus number indicated on the sign, and no passengers are waiting, either.

Assuming that it must be another case of unexpected – and unregistered – changes due to the light rail roadworks (although they are finished in this part of the city), I stand in the rain and decide to take another line until I find a No. 8 bus stop.

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Almost before I have a chance to finish planning my itinerary, bus No. 75, which generally does not come very frequently, arrives – together with an increasing downpour. To my surprise, the bus is clean, the driver gentle and polite. My goodness, where am I – in Switzerland? The radio is tuned to the Voice of Music, the classical music station! Enchanted, I sit behind the driver, my spirits uplifted as I listen to the work of one of my favorite composers, Mozart.


This is the moment to make a confession: I passed four No. 8 bus stops and didn’t get off. Should I give up Mozart on a rainy morning for some unreliable No. 8 bus, which would probably be packed and unpleasant? I decided I deserved better and stayed on the bus until its second stop on King George Avenue, not daring to continue to ignore my duties any longer.

It turned out that this was one of my lucky days. The No. 8 arrived rather soon, it was fairly clean, and the driver was a real darling: calm, polite, helpful and patient with his passengers, although he was tuned in to some babbling radio station.

Everything went smoothly until we reached the Central Bus Station. All of a sudden the bus filled up, though there was still a calm atmosphere. At the first bus stop in Ramot Eshkol, the driver stopped, even though no one was waiting there. Then from beneath the trees near the bus stop a young woman suddenly emerged. She quickly stepped into the bus, handed the driver a plastic bag and quickly got off again, but not before the driver quietly thanked her.

Since it was still quite early, there were no signs of the (in)famous traffic jams, at least until we reached the junction after French Hill, toward Ma’aleh Adumim and Pisgat Ze’ev – but it was not too bad. The landscape became wide open – hills half hidden in the fog. The road, partly on a huge bridge, was a very good one, unlike the streets in the city that are full of potholes and are almost impassable.

Not being familiar with the neighborhood, I didn’t realize we had arrived at the terminal. The driver gently told me that the trip was over and asked if I knew where I wanted to go. I decided to tell him the simple truth, explaining the purpose of my bus ride and this newspaper column.

Motti – he spontaneously told me his name – asked if the column included a critique of the driver’s behavior. I said yes, but assured him that in his case he didn’t have to worry. Motti suggested that I remain on the bus until his next round rather than waiting outside in the rain, and he even offered to bring me a cup of tea from the drivers’ hut nearby, as well as a slice of cake, which he took out of the mysterious plastic bag he had collected on the way, apparently from his wife.

After a few minutes we drove up to the bus stop, where a few passengers were already waiting. Our Motti seemed to know each one of them and added a few friendly words to most of them. The last person to get on, an elderly man with a cane, sat down beside me. With a big smile, Motti asked him why he hadn’t responded when he said “Shalom.” The man answered with a laugh, ”I already saw you this morning. You know that I’m Persian, and I won’t waste two greetings on you in one day.”

At the next stop another man, a little younger but also with a cane, climbed on. Motti asked him about his health. The man answered with a sigh that his condition was getting worse and that his blood sugar was high. “Stop running after so many women,” Motti advised him. “You’ll be healthier.” The man nodded and quipped, “You should have told me that a long time ago.”

The man sitting beside me, noticing my smile, turned to me and said, “Motti is a very nice person. We all like him here. We tell him about our problems and he listens. It’s like family.”

During the rest of the ride, a few more passengers who came on seemed to know the driver personally. For a while, at least in the first rows, the ambience was like a family outing – far from the usual atmosphere on public buses.

“It’s not always so calm here,” Motti remarked after a while. “It’s early Friday morning. Later in the day, when we reach Rehov Agrippas and the city center the bus will be packed and people will be less patient. But I’m doing my best to stay calm and relaxed – I don’t want to greet Shabbat angry and tense.”

Bus No. 8 goes from East Talpiot to Pisgat Ze’ev, through Derech Hebron, King George Avenue and Mahaneh Yehuda, the Central Bus Station, Rehov Yirmiyahu and Ramot Eshkol. It comes every seven minutes during rush hours (morning and afternoon) and about every 12 minutes in the evening and on Friday mornings.
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