Saturday, January 14, 2006


There are a few things that happen here but never happen in the US.

For example:

As an introduction: It is common for most American toursists to refuse to ride a bus when they get here - especially in Jerusalem.

This was true for our friend who came to visit yesterday. Luckily for us, after minimal convincing, we were able to persuade him that riding the bus in Israel is more than just a cheap convenience - it is a cultural experience. And with that we pushed him on the bus.

We weren't lying either. It really is a cultural experience. You get to see the everyday life of average Israelis. I'm talking about the ones that don't own two hi-tech company cars or take cabs everywhere they go. Nor am I talking about the ones who won't leave their houses because they too are afraid of public transportation.

I'm referring to the average Israeli who is able to overlook the scary thought of what can happen on a bus and can continue his daily life as a normal citizen who needs and takes advantage of the affordable transportation system.

However, we were especially lucky this time.

On this occasion, on our way back from Har Herzel, there were about five teenage boys in the back of the bus with us. As we were leaving Har Herzel and passing the central bus station, one of the boys noticed something on the car next to us that must have indicated where the car was from. Immediately he began banging on the window while trying to mouth to the passenger in the car that he needed a ride to a specific kibbutz.

The passenger of the car did his best to understand, but couldn't quite get what the teenager was saying. The teenager was trying to form the word "TRAMP" as clearly as he could, but it wasn't sufficient. Eventually the passenger in the car wrote down his phone number on a large pad of paper and showed it to the teenager on the bus. The teenager called the number and asked if he could get a tramp (hitchhike) to a specific kibbutz. The driver said "of course" and the kid screamed with joy and gesticulated his gratitude for the car next to us by clasping his hands together and making a kind of bow to the driver while smiling from ear to ear .

That alone is something that does not happen outside of Israel - a random teenager asking a strange car from the outside of a bus if he can hitchhike, the passenger giving the kid his cell phone number, and everything working out as if they were family friends.

But there is a second part as well.

We were stuck in traffic, so immediately the teenager ran to the bus driver and asked if he could get off since we weren't moving and he needed to catch his ride. The bus driver, as is typical of Israeli bus drivers in Jerusalem, strongly refused. This was actually a sad moment because the teenager had gone from looking like a prisoner set free from the long agony of a prison sentence to resembeling a puppy that was just smacked in the nose for being too annoying. The bus driver was the only thing holding him back.

However, the other four teenagers in the back began chanting "O-PEN!! O-PEN!! O-PEN!!" Maybe it was the peer pressure, I don't know, but the bus driver did open the doors, and the teenager got his ride home.

Four things happened here:

1.The boy hitchhiked with someone he did not know.
2.The car was open to letting the boy hitchhike.
3.The bus was screaming "OPEN!" to the bus driver without being threatening.
4. The bus driver saw this as a valid reason to open the bus doors in the middle of the street to let the teenager out."

Now, you can understand why the intimacy of Israel is a major factor in what keeps people here. I would link to the article that explicitly says this, but I can't find it right now....


Anonymous Krish said...

You are such a good story teller Seth. I'm jealous we couldnt go on our Garen Greene trip!!!

1/15/2006 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, what's the meaning of your blog's name? No no, not the translation, I know what the translation is (it's "city of Jews" in derogatory German, and judging from the tagline "Year in Israel" I would guess that you probably mean "Judenstaat", which is "Jewish state" in derogatory German (would be "der Juedische Staat" in polite German, but never mind)). But what's the meaning?

1/18/2006 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

the meaning is taken from Herzl's book "Judenstadt" in which he calls for the creation of a Jewish state. The essence of Zionism.

That is strange if it is considered derogatory. Germans can be weird.

1/18/2006 01:29:00 AM  
Blogger Dovid said...

Great story. sometimes similar things can happen in Brookly (or Manhattan when the MTA strikes) but it is the exception. In israel, brotherhood is literal.

1/18/2006 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Elchonon said...

Actually its very common, All their friends will start screaming "open the back door!"
I lived in the shomron and gush katif for 2 years. My sole transportation was hitching (most cars in yehuda / shomron have stickers saying what yishuv they live in)

1/25/2006 04:43:00 AM  

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