Jewish residents in Silwan, Ras al-Amud get new bus line

Jewish residents in Silw

As a potentially controversial new bus line began climbing the hills of east Jerusalem on Sunday, almost no one noticed and nobody got on. The No. 43 bus, an Egged line that now runs from Jerusalem's Abu Tor neighborhood into Silwan, Ras al-Amud and the Kotel, was launched in response to a request by the Transportation Ministry that bus service be extended to the increasing number of Jewish residents living there. The line is to be extended at a later date to include the new Nof Zion housing development in Jebl Mukaber. Though Jewish construction in the eastern parts of the capital has been a matter of contention as of late - most notably between Israel and the US administration over the summer - the No. 43 set out on its maiden journey on Sunday with little if no fanfare at all. As the bus pulled out of Abu Tur in the afternoon, not only were there no passengers, but residents and even the bus driver himself, seemed slightly confused as to where the bus was going and why. "There's not supposed to be an Egged line here," said one Abu Tor resident as he walked by the bus, which had parked near the sidewalk on the neighborhood's narrow Hamefaked Street. "Where is it going?" The driver, a Christian Arab from Jerusalem who sporadically pulled out a folded copy of the bus schedule to check its times, said he was happy to be working and didn't mind the new route, as long as rocks weren't thrown at the bus. "If that happens, I'll turn around and leave," he said, as the bus made its ascent towards the Ma'aleh Zeitim apartment complex in Ras al-Amud and a blue and white Palestinian bus passed it, going in the opposite direction. "If you ask me, people should build wherever they want," he added. "If they have the money, then let them build apartments here. And if they're here, why shouldn't they have a bus line?" Others however, viewed the new route in a different light. "It simply gives legitimacy to Israeli settlements that have gone up in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods," said Yehudit Oppenheimer, the director-general of Ir-Amim, a group that engages Israeli-Palestinian issues in the capital. "It's lending a sense of normalization to the situation there." Oppenheimer also said there had never been Egged service in many of the areas prior to the Jewish presence there, and said this added to the feeling that the Jewish residents were living "in conflict with the existing environment." "They're not there with the goal of coexistence," she said. "This is just another way of creating separate services for [Jews in east Jerusalem], and I fear that it could inflame an already volatile situation. "You saw what happened in Ras al-Amud less than two weeks ago," she continued, alluding to rioting that took place in the neighborhood during Succot. But as the bus waited for passengers outside of the Ma'aleh Zeitim apartments in Ras al-Amud, both Arab and Jewish residents walked by, seemingly unaware of its existence. "Does this bus go to Ramot?" a young girl stopped and asked the driver. "No, from here it goes to the Kotel," he answered simply, and the girl continued on her way.