Friday, November 7, 2014

Riding the Jerusalem Light-rail in Times of Terror

Cross-posted on Shiloh Musings

Ever since the summer war and terrorism, when Arabs attacked the lightrail which goes through their neighborhoods between Pisgat Ze'ev and Givat HaMivtar Jerusalem, I've ridden it much less than previously. There have been many reported Arab terror attacks and harassment of Jews. Besides the safety aspect, there have been times when the train was delayed, so a long indirect trip, although comfortable, had become an unsafe one.

Many people avoid taking it further north than French Hill, and now after a couple of fatal terror attacks on the "seam,' the stops between Givat Hatachmoshet, Ramat Eshkol and Sha'ar Shechem, more people are looking for buses than ever.

Yesterday I ended up getting off a ride to Jerusalem at Pisgat Zeev, and yesterday was Thursday afternoon when the traffic is pretty heavy, especially on the routes I'd need to get to downtown Jerusalem. My mind was busy going over the pros and cons of the routes I know which can be caught in Pisgat Zeev.

But without any bus in view, I got on the train with the intention of going just two stops within Pisgat Zeev to change for a bus. I was curious to see how the #66 route was. I called the son I was to meet, and he told me to stay on the train, which would take me right near his apartment. So, that's what I did.

I sat in the front behind the dirver, where it reportedly is and feels much safer. There have been reports of more harassment in the rear of the train.Hardly anyone was on the train even though it was Thursday afternoon, a busy shopping time. Maybe the other direction was fuller.

As we approached, Shuafat, the first stop after Pisgat Zeev, I got nervous, because I could see a whole bunch of men crowded together at the stop, in what appeared in my mind to be a threatening manner. There's no picture of them, because I thought I'd be safer with my camera and phone tucked away.

It wasn't until we stopped that I saw their uniforms and realized that they were Border Police or regular  police, not sure with all the bulletproof vests and all.

Besides them, nobody was waiting to get on.

A security guard walked up and down the train. For the first time, he was equipped with a very impressive weapon. I overheard him telling another passenger that it was new. Prior the guards were protected by bulletproof vests, but didn't have much else. I'm not sure about pistols.  People were more afraid of the ticket inspectors and the fines they could impose.

I don't think a dozen people got on the train at the three Arab neighborhood stops. I don't know how much they wanted to avoid security inspections or because they had nothing to do where the train was going. Many usually get on and off at the Old City (Sha'ar Shechem) or the seam stops (Shimon HaTzadik and Shivtei Yisrael) which skirt Arab neighborhoods. They do have lots of buses to use as alternative public transportation.

The streets of East Jerusalem were quiet.  You could see more security than ordinary shoppers.

As we got to the areas of the recent Arab terror attacks, there was a lot of police to be seen.

And soon the train was packed. At the two first downtown stops, the Municipality (City Hall) and "Jaffa Center," so many people tried to enter the train that the driver had to override the passengers option to open the doors. He locked the doors while people were clamoring to get into the suddenly packed train. I was afraid I'd have trouble exiting.

Just before my stop, I caught the eye of an older woman who was standing and told her that I was giving her my seat. She kept insisting that she was fine standing and I should sit. It took me a bit to convince her that I needed to get off at the next stop, so I wasn't getting up because I thought she looked more decrepit/elderly than myself.

The bottom line is that I had a safe trip on the train and got to where I needed to be without any hassles and relatively quickly, when you take into account I didn't wait long and didn't need to get off and then wait for a bus which could easily have been slow due to the hour.

The talk on the train among strangers and conversations I've had with friends about the lightrail centers on one theme. There should be a way for the train to bypass the Arab neighborhoods. The train should be able to get from Pisgat Ze'ev to the depot. It can already go from the depot straight to Givat Hamivtar/French Hill. That would have the double advantage of making the trip faster and staying out of the Arab neighborhoods where trains and train stops have been attacked. None of the ticket machines can be used there. The Arab terrorists/rioters have destroyed them.

The train goes right by the location of "my terror attack" making the trip a reminder of how G-d saved me. That attack was long before the lightrail was built. And that terror attack was the first one in which a terrorist used a vehicle to mow down innocent people at a bus stop. It happened over eighteen years ago and now is the popular one by Arab terrorists. It's also the most impossible to fully prevent or predict.

And about predictions, I wouldn't dare try my hand predicting what's next concerning security and terror in Jerusalem.

Let's pray that our leaders get wisdom and use it.  And let's also pray for the speedy and complete recovery of all the injured in previous terror attacks.

Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorach
May it be a Peaceful and Blessed Sabbath, G-d willing

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