There is a new train in Jerusalem called the “Light Rail,” which began its Jerusalem to Pisgat Ze’ev run ( my guess about 10 miles) about 3 months ago, give or take. It was an expensive venture to rip up roads and put down tracks. There was a lot of screaming from store owners whose front doors became temporarily inaccessible (like several years temporarily) because of the work being done. Busses were re-routed to avoid the substantial blocks and blocks of construction. Was it worth it? It’s hard to say, given that I have no clue as to why the light rail was initiated in the first place. But I can say this: I’ve seen no graffiti on the trains; they are extremely clean; the security detail on each train goes up and down each car, after each stop, looking for suspicious people or objects.
And, for me, it is not only a convenient way to get to work. The light rail has opened my mind.
I take the 174 bus from Ma’ale Adumim to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, then hop on the train to my office which is the last stop in Bayit VeGan in Jerusalem. From there it turns around and begins its route to Pisgat Ze’ev, some 30-plus stops later. Going home, I take the train to the Central Bus Station to grab the 174 back to Ma’ale Adumim.
Last week, I took the train a bit further to meet some friends, and saw a bit more of the ride towards Pisgat Ze’ev. Nothing exciting, scenery I’ve seen before, woop-dee-do.
But today, I decided to go all the way to Pisgat Ze’ev on the train, and was grateful for doing so. I saw a whole different world than what I’ve been accustomed to seeing. The huge, clear windows on the light rail provide for observing the scenery and people, filling each car with sun and light. It’s not the same as looking through a car window or often-dirty bus window. Because the windows on the train are so huge, you get to see both sides of the street, and beyond. I can’t explain it, but there is something emotional about it as a sabra and new oleh riding this train.
In riding through new territory, every time the doors opened, I saw different kinds of people. At this stop, there was a mixture of Jews and Arabs. When the doors opened at the next stop, it was mostly Arabs. At the next one, it was all Arabs, and at each stop, the Arabs joined me and other Jews, and there we were, all sitting together, next to one another. It’s not as if I don’t mix with Arabs during my day, but this ride was a concentration of high mixing, and it opened my mind to the real potential for each side seeing each other a little differently. I smiled at the Arab woman and her child across from me, as I did at the Arab teen who sat next to me. They both smiled back. We laughed together at a funny antic of a nearby child, and reacted annoyingly when the train didn’t get a move on. It was all friendly, at least on the surface, but that’s a good place to begin, I think. There were some neighborhoods where nearly everything was written in Arabic.
My riding on the Jerusalem Light Rail was not exactly meant to be a diplomatic mission and yet, the open windows and open doors opened my mind.
I wonder if my Arab cousins feel the same way when they ride through Jewish neighborhoods.
If so, we could be on the right track.