English, Featured, Letters From Israel

On the Jerusalem Light Rail

I was born and raised in Israel, and live in Seattle, in the northwest corner of the United States, where I am a consultant, speaker, and educator focused on modern Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I manage an online resource center about Israel at www.BroaderView.org, and invite you to visit!

I lived in Jerusalem for six years when I served in the Israel Defense Forces and studied at the Hebrew University.  But until last week, I had never been on the Jerusalem light rail, which only opened last year.  (On a previous visit I saw Jaffa Street torn up as the tracks and infrastructure were being built.)  You can see a video montage of the light rail at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWnEP_4hlXo.

My first ride was during a crowded rush hour on a warm July day.  I was impressed with the human landscape: men and women, young and old, Jewish and Arab, secular and Orthodox.  I observed the riders near me and took some notes….

The teenage girl standing next to me, wearing too much makeup, talking passionately on her cell phone while loudly chewing gum.

A couple sharing a set of white earbuds of a music player, one in each person’s ear. The man wore a black kippatzizit fringes, and a beard; the woman in long sleeves, a skirt and sandals, her hair in a scarf.  Their dress identifies them as Orthodox; they sway in unison to the music only they can hear.

Three twenty something guys with large backpacks, speaking Spanish.

A family of four: a cute little girl, maybe six years old, and a toddler boy, with their parents. The father, with a trim beard, has his Arabic-language newspaper open full spread.  The kids are so quiet and well behaved, the girl looking curiously around her just as I am, the toddler cooing on his mother’s lap.

A slender young woman gets off at the train stop.  She’s wearing jeans so tight they look like they were painted on her, a tie-dyed tank top, and strappy high heeled sandals. At the train stop, she’s warmly greeted by an older woman who lingers for a moment in her embrace. The middle aged woman—the other one’s mother?—is wearing a long skirt, opaque heavy stockings, and sensible shoes, and not a single hair is visible under her headscarf.  An interesting mother-daughter pair, if that’s indeed what it is—one quite Orthodox, the other provocatively secular.

The soldier sitting next to me looks like he’s about to fall asleep, but he’s clutching his heavy weapon, as though afraid it might drop if he nods off.

The young mother, holding a baby in one arm, is struggling to fold her stroller, one-handed. Another woman helps her, reminiscing wistfully, “I used to have one of these.”

The kid next to me, maybe seventeen or eighteen years old, is wearing cutoff jeans and a knit kippa. His large instrument case—a cello?—is front-heavy and keeps falling over. He apologizes profusely each time.

It’s my first time on Jerusalem’s new light rail, and I’m not sure where my stop is. I ask one woman where to get off for the Central Bus Station and three others chime in with helpful responses.

I love Jerusalem.

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