The ambassadorial treatment

The future of public transportation in Israel will be the focal point of discussions at the national conference on public transportation at Tel Aviv Cinematheque this week.

Central bus station in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Central bus station in Jerusalem
MEMBERS OF the diplomatic community are the darlings of every organization, invited to gala events and conferences and to tours of premises, scenic routes, etc.
Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma is very keen to get the hang of as much as possible in Israel, and he and his family have toured the country extensively, in addition to which they have adopted several projects, which puts them in frequent contact with different groups and individuals within Israeli society.
Aside from all that, Sharma is a keen, multi-sport athlete who frequently cycles in the hills west of Jerusalem, between Beit Shemesh and Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem. Sometimes he rides with colleagues from other embassies and on a recent Friday morning was riding with Arjen Kool of the Dutch Embassy, when he failed to make a corner while riding too fast downhill. He hit a guardrail and the velocity really knocked him for a loop.
Kool quickly began waving down passing traffic and the car that stopped was driven by a woman named Sylvie; her son was getting married the following Sunday and she was on her way to arrange final wedding preparations. But an injured man took temporary priority over her plans, and she rushed Sharma to the Hadassah ER, providing him with paper towels to stop the bleeding while en route.
He was given red-carpet treatment at Hadassah by orthopedic, ENT and plastic surgery specialists. “I could not have asked for better or more professional or more attentive treatment,” said Sharma, who was hospitalized for two nights. It was not the way he intended to visit Hadassah, he said, but the experience gave him a very insightful look at the workings of the hospital, and a real appreciation for the professionalism and dedication of the staff.
There is a Friends of Hadassah organization in Australia, so perhaps the next time Sharma goes on home leave, he will be able to tell them something of his firsthand experience.
■ ANOTHER AMBASSADOR who with his wife, Celia, is personally engaged with Israel on many levels is British Ambassador Mathew Gould, who has also explored the country extensively; is also an athlete who has participated in swimming events, such as the swim across Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee); and has raised funds in Britain for Holocaust survivor centers in Israel. The Goulds are also involved with organizations that cater to people with special needs. But sometimes they also manage to go out as a family, and simply have fun. Last week they took their two small Sabra daughters, Rachel and Emily, to the Ramat Gan Safari, where they attracted the attention of a friendly giraffe.
■ THE GOLCONDA Gallery on Herzl Street, Tel Aviv, is known for its unusual exhibitions – but the upcoming exhibition by Benni Efrat under the title “The Dove Summer 2062” is exceptional in more ways than one, because its main work is a massive representation of the word “Peace” made from 14 tons of ice. Who knows what will happen when “Peace” melts. Meanwhile, the official opening is next Friday, and the exhibition will open to the public on Sunday, September 21. The exhibition was inspired by the biblical reference to the dove, which discovered the olive tree that had survived the flood, or in Efrat’s words, “defeated the deluge” – and thus, the dove and olive branch became eternal symbols of peace.
■ POPULATION GROWTH puts greater demands on public transportation. Not everyone can afford a car and its accompanying costs, and the alternatives of a bicycle or motorbike are not always suitable or appealing. The future of public transportation in Israel will be the focal point of discussions at the national conference on public transportation that will take place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on Thursday, September 18.
Speakers will include, among others: Meir Chen, head of the Public Transportation Authority; MKs Nitzan Horowitz, Dov Henin and Tamar Zandberg; and Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Meital Lahavi, who holds the city’s Public Transportation portfolio.
The conference organizer is Transport Today and Tomorrow, and CEO Tamar Keinan will present a comprehensive survey of how passengers across the country feel about public bus service. Questions asked of respondents related mostly to frequency of service, reliability of bus schedules and other time factors.
It will be interesting to see if one of the greatest latter-day bugbears of public transportation – the modern baby carriage – will come up for discussion. Old-fashioned baby strollers could be quickly and easily folded up and placed under the bus seat, or hooked in an upright position in the accordion section of buses. But the new, wide, high-rise baby carriages take up a lot of room even when folded, and the overwhelming majority of parents do not bother to fold the carriage because it is too difficult and time-consuming. It is not uncommon to find three or four baby carriages on a bus at any given time, which reduces the space available for standing passengers.
Moreover, there seems to be a glut of multiple births, or more than one birth within the space of a year in many families, as a result of which there is a significant increase in double-carriages on the streets and on buses and trains, especially the light rail.
Finding solutions to this particular problem will not be easy.