ALIYAH: The dawn of a new decade: Bring on 2020, and express trains!

One of the many paradoxes one notices living in Israel is how advanced the country is in terms of hi-tech and innovation and how stagnant things are in other spheres, like politics!

The dawn of a new decade: Bring on 2020! (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The dawn of a new decade: Bring on 2020!
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
It’s nearly three years since my family made aliyah, and still I am intrigued by the many different ways people travel to work. People maneuver around the country by train, bus, car, bikes and electric scooter. And, of course, my favorite, by foot. And they do so safely, choosing the most convenient route to get to their next location. Often this involves avoiding busy highways and having to find much sought-after parking spots.
There’s much excitement in Israel at the moment about the long-awaited high-speed railway now taking commuters from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 34 minutes. The direct trip is going to be a windfall for thousands of people needing to travel between the two major cities. It’s taken more than a decade longer than expected to get this project on “track,” so to speak, but scores of Israelis are already talking about how this new route is likely to change their daily lives.
The launch of this high-speed railway comes shortly after Forbes magazine rated Tel Aviv among the top destinations to travel to in 2020. It describes how the city’s “ancient history and modern living meet in the bustling beach city along the Mediterranean coast.” 
I imagine the ranking by the American magazine wouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone who has been in this city that doesn’t seem to sleep. Tel Aviv attracts beach lovers, art lovers, food connoisseurs, night-clubbers, concert goers and people intrigued by the old and new architecture. It’s also fascinating that the place is bustling late at night with people of all ages out and about in the streets. If you want to grab a shwarma as you walk along the street, sip a cappuccino at a café as you watch crowds pass by or indulge at a leading restaurant in a top hotel, the options are endless.
The need for 20/20 vision
One of the many paradoxes one notices living in Israel is how advanced the country is in terms of hi-tech and innovation and how stagnant things are in other spheres, like politics! This new high-speed railway has cost more than $2 billion. It’s taken so much longer than initially planned, but will save commuters much time and money, as well as hopefully cutting down on stress levels that seem to soar in heavy traffic. 
But the political scene is still deadlocked. The country is facing an unprecedented election in March, the third in the country in the space of one year. Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz were able to form a coalition in the allotted time, since the September poll. Pundits are questioning whether the outcome this time around will be any different. Political leaders are pointing fingers at each other, blaming opponents for the historic impasse. 
“Kingmaker” Avigdor Liberman, chair of the Yisrael Beytenu party is also being blamed by many critics for leading the country into this unfathomable situation. No matter where one feels the fault lies, the deadlock has left the country in uncharted waters and millions of voters are likely to feel disillusioned, third time around. Israel will have to wait yet another three months to find out who will lead the country as this new decade gets underway. 
But as with many situations in this country, it’s heart-warming and inspiring to see how “life goes on.” While one does not have to go too far to spot people passionately debating the political situation in the country, one can also see how people are living life to the full. And with that realistic never-say-die attitude, on some levels it seems the country is “all on board” for the start of the new decade. 
Benita Levin is a news anchor for the international channel i24News