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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘life in israel’

Life in Israel: A Complaint to Egged

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Egged is Israel’s main bus company. Every day, without exaggeration, I would guess they move millions of people in hundreds of cities, towns and villages in Israel. The challenge they often face – is not forgetting that each of those million is a person. You’ll often see the last person get on the bus…and still the bus doesn’t move because as the driver was preparing to leave, he noticed someone running for his bus and he chose to wait.

For the most part, they are efficient and do their best to get people where they need to go. For the most part, they are kind and patient. They’ll greet you as you get on the bus and respond in kind as you wish them a good day. They’ll go that extra bit to explain where something is…

And sometimes, they go beyond…

In 2003, I wrote this:

Egged Prepares for Gulf II: Egged has trained 100 drivers to drive with gas masks and protective suits so that they can drive INTO an area where potentially bio/chem weapons have landed to evacuate wounded).

In 2008, I wrote about how a bus driver heard that a soldier had left his backpack on a bus. When he realized, he jumped on the next bus and explained to the driver what had happened. That driver radioed ahead and the second driver pulled to the side of the road and waited for them to catch up so the soldier could retrieve his backpack. (Even the Bus Drivers Love Them).

I also wrote another story in that post about how bus drivers in Israel sometimes do amazing things, like this:

When the bus driver realized that a former prime minister had boarded his bus, he insisted on driving the astonished leader to his doorstep, even though it was off the usual bus route. Embarrassed at the attention, the leader tried to argue with the bus driver, but the applause of the people on the bus made it clear that they agreed with the driver.

More recently, a bus driver was confronted with a crying a first grader who had missed his stop. He turned the bus around and took the boy home before resuming his trip.

So, having told of the amazing, I feel free to tell about the less than amazing. Sadly, the less than amazing is often more the norm and for this reason, I’ve decided to write this post.

This morning, Aliza and four of her friends went to school. A bus, the Egged 175 pulled into her stop at 10:15 - perfect timing to get the girls to school at 10:30 (they had a weekend event and so were given permission to come in late). The bus pulled in on time – the driver refused to let the girls get on the bus – and merely yelled at someone else to get out of the bus using the rear door.

He didn’t bother to explain – rather, he left five young girls upset on the side of the road, missing the only bus that would get them to school on time. I decided I would complain – and I have. I could write this to Egged, but they don’t want phone calls. They prefer we fax our complaints… and honestly, I doubt a call or a fax or an email will change anything. I don’t think if they will track down that driver or not.

I would have preferred the driver leave me standing on the side of the road, in the heat of the day, causing me to be late, than leave five girls standing there as he did. Perhaps there was a reason – perhaps they were sending out a new bus and he’d been ordered to end his trip at that point and not take on additional passengers.

All it would have taken was his opening the door and explaining this to the girls – that act of kindness, of patience, would have been the difference between their calmly waiting for another bus or finding an alternative, and the phone call I received from an upset child who was going to be late through no fault of her own.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

What Can Happen on a School Trip?

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

My daughter Aliza had a school trip these past two days. It’s an Israeli thing – something I have always loved. They…we…take our children to the land; to see the amazing places, sites, views. This year, they took them on an overnight trip to Haifa. She came back dirty, exhausted, starving. She showed me the pictures she took – the coast of Haifa and the mountains, the flowers…

The first thing she wanted – after food – was to show me the pictures. She was so excited. She and her friends posed for each other – and, “I can totally see you in me,” she said.

It’s strange to hear a child say that – that she can see me in the pictures of her. Listening, not just to what she said, but the order in which she said them, convinced me yet again that the mind of a 13 year old is a most amazing thing.

She started with what was special to her – but, as you’ll see – pretty much the opposite of how a parent would rank the events of the trip. To her, it was about what she saw, what she did. To me, it became more of a national identity, more of an example of the politics that can affect our lives in the strangest of ways.

One day last week, I had a normal business day – telephone calls with clients, two potential new projects, firming up plans to speak at a conference in England in June (wow…okay, that’s not normal for me), two meetings, and then shopping.

Somewhere late in the day, I heard about the drone from Lebanon being shot down. It was all background noise.

Aliza came home well into the night, anxious to talk, to tell me about the last two days of her life. Her trip unfolded before me in a combination of complaint and wonder. She enjoyed the beach; hated where they slept. She liked the flowers; hated the food. She slept in a tent and she was FREEZING. And the food, back to the food.

“It was disgusting. There were ants in the bread,” she told me.

To which, her 17 year old brother responded, “That’s good, we had cockroaches.” (…which I sincerely hope is not true).

She began by telling me that the girls were given the choice of two hikes – either the “easy” one or the “hard” one. Those that took the hard one were rewarded with ices. Those that took the easy one, got to enjoy time on the beach. Aliza chose the beach (if you have time, see A Candle and a Wave).

And as she was talking, it hit – hours ago. Mid-afternoon, she was on the beach. Near Haifa…where the Israeli air force shot down a drone that they believe was launched from Lebanon, probably intending to spy on Israel or, perhaps, worse.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s helicopter was flying north when the drone was identified. The first thing the air force did as it scrambled jets to intercept the drone was to order the prime minister’s helicopter out of the skies above Israel.

And while they were doing this – my daughter was not far. It clicked as she was talking about the beach – and when it was happening, in those moments when the Israel jets were flying and my daughter was there below…I had no clue, no warning, nothing.

Her mind had moved on to the next part of her trip…mine tripped behind. “Did you hear planes?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Did you hear a boom?” I asked her.

“No,” she answered.

She went back to the story of the beach, how clean and beautiful it was, how nice the water felt. She was amazed by the number of shells she found on the shore and complained that they were told that the shells were part of nature and protected.

They could take rocks and pieces of broken glass that had been smoothed over time by the sand, but they could not take any shells.

She sat on thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of shells as her friends took a picture and she told me about the magnificent view from the upper hills of Haifa.

And she told me about how she walked across a bridge and how it was so scary – another picture there as well.

And then, she told me about how an Arab driver had thrown rocks at the girls and how one was hit – or her friend said she was hit. And how the girl was crying on the phone when she spoke to her parents.

“Where was your guard?” I asked her – trying to get the story without showing her that I was getting more and more upset.

“He wasn’t a guard,” she answered, “he was a madrich (counselor)” – which is fine – he was armed. On with the story, my heart begged her.

“He was in the back.”

“What good does it do if he was only in the back?” I asked her. Dumb, I thought to myself – WHY am I asking a 13-year-old where the guard should be?

“There were two of them but only the one in the back had a gun, but they stopped the driver and they were talking to him.”

“Why didn’t they call the police?” I asked her. I have to tell you, getting the story from a 13 year old can be very frustrating.

From what I gather – the guards detained the Arab who had thrown the rocks but while they waited for the police, the driver left. The guards didn’t pull their guns and threaten – but then again, they were surrounded by about 60 young girls who kept coming over to their crying friend to ask if she was okay. So, all in all, their not pulling out their guns was probably a good thing. There’s no way of knowing what the Arab had done and it probably ended for the best. Though scared, Aliza’s classmate was not hurt – and yes, what about the next time? I don’t have an answer for that one.

The police did come and speak to the girls – no idea how the story ended other than that everyone is fine; Aliza is home safe, tired, dirty (taking a shower now) and looking forward to a LONG night of sleep.

It’s a funny thing to send your child on a school trip – what can happen right? You worry about them being cold or hungry. You worry about them not sleeping enough or perhaps falling during the hiking. Scrambled air force jets shooting down a drone; an Arab attacking them with rocks…that doesn’t cross your mind.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Life in Jerusalem: Delays on the Light Rail

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

For those of us who travel in Jerusalem and use public transportation, the lightrail is now something we’ve totally gotten used to.  Most of us have relearned bus routes which had been changed and amputated when the route followed the train for too much of it. We do our best to keep our little yellow rechargeable Rav Kav ticket with plenty of rides magically tucked inside. We also learned how to quickly and efficiently pay immediately when entering the train before any inspector could stop us.

The train is so popular, there are many times of the day when even at one of the earliest stops in the route in Pisgat Ze’ev there are no empty seats.  And in the center of Jerusalem, on Jaffa Road, the train is frequently as crowded as the NYC subway at rush hour.

An advantage during Jerusalem rush hour is that it runs on tracks and doesn’t get stuck in traffic.  Well, honestly, that isn’t so true.  There’s a place in the Beit Chanina/Shuafat Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem where I’ve found myself more than once in a train that can’t move at all.

Cars turning onto the road which is parallel to the tracks get stopped by a red light in the distance.  The junction at which they are turning doesn’t go red quickly enough.

Last week, when I was on the train and standing in the very front, behind the driver, I heard another passenger saying

“Watch, the driver has a camera.  He’s going to take a picture of the cars licenses  blocking him. And then those drivers get one thousand (1,000) shekel fines.”

And yes, the driver did take out a smartphone, and he took pictures of the cars in front and their license plates.  Hopefully this should keep people from trying to sneak past the light when it’s turning red.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

The Ups and Downs of Life in Israel (Book Review)

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Choosing Life in Israel, by P. David Hornik (a columnist at Frontpage Magazine, a contributor to Pajamas Media, American Spectator, and elsewhere), is a collection of essays vividly describing the author’s life in Israel with all its attendant regional whiplashes. Its trajectory veers like a roller coaster ride from the wildly delicious to the deeply terrified. From personal ups and downs to heart-stopping high drama, its quick pace leaves one breathless. The author’s compelling voice projects a rich tapestry of experiences living on the front lines of the Middle East.

The book is broken down into two highly readable sections. Part One deals mainly with the ins and outs of daily life in Israel with its multifaceted challenges. Its nine stories are interwoven into concise and entertaining segments,  not without cold doses of reality smacking the reader across the face. One such episode is particularly emblematic of what it means to live not only in Israel, but in Jerusalem; the epicenter of international fixation, bordering on fanatical obsession.

From “Mistaken Random Terror in Jerusalem:”

…just down the street from me, George Khoury, a 22 year old student of economics and international relations at Hebrew University who was out jogging, was shot dead by terrorists from Al-Aksa Martyr’s Brigades, part of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement… The “impersonal” nature of most terrorism… is its most chilling aspect… and killing him because (supposedly) he’s a Jew — is that personal or impersonal? Indeed, the Martyr’s Brigades was quick to apologize once it found out its error. Its commander called George Khoury’s father, the well known East Jerusalem lawyer Elias Khoury… and that the group considers George a “Palestinian martyr.”

Adding considerable angst to a father’s normal bereavement, Elias Khoury’s father, Daoud Khoury, was also murdered for being in the wrong place at a most unfortunate time. Visceral flashbacks surely must have resonated through Elias Khoury’s being. But when it comes to Islamic-sustained terror everything is flipped on its head. Even though he lost his father due to a booby-trapped refrigerator placed by the same Fatah terrorist outfit in the heart of a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, his reaction to his son’s and father’s death evinced “moral” equivalency: “The Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades are individuals who are trying to impose their way on everyone… this act was carried out by a group that undermines the cause of Palestinian justice… I am against all violent attacks against innocent civilians, whether it be against Israeli or Palestinian civilians.”

Well and good, except for the fact that Israeli security forces take great pains to spare the lives of Palestinian civilians, often at unfathomable costs to its own soldiers and citizens alike. Those who invariably become “collateral” damage are accidental victims of legitimate counter-terror operations. Most significantly, many Palestinian casualties are strategically placed (by their leadership) in close proximity to bomb factories etc., in anticipation of an international hue and cry when the dead and maimed are paraded before the world’s cameras. More to the point, the author elicits many such examples of bloody jihad waged all over the streets of Israel, seemingly with no end in sight. Consequentially, P. David Hornik demonstrates, even when bereaved, Israel’s minority population is unwilling to condemn terror for what it is: murderous jihad.

Segueing to Part Two, the reader lands even more squarely in the heart of the hottest conflict in the world, aptly titled “Israel’s Struggle to Survive.”

Part of the richness of Choosing Life in Israel lies within its many paradoxes. In one fell swoop one can be swept up with pride when reading about the efficiency of Israel’s Defense Forces as it engages the enemy, though mostly in “reaction” to sustained terror on its citizens, instead of pursuing an initial offensive doctrine. This is absolutely the result of political “strategies,” as opposed to military readiness. To be sure, for the most part, the IDF is a well-oiled machine, and its special forces are second to none. At the same time, the reader cringes with embarrassment, bordering on acute distress, witnessing many hard-fought battles evaporate into nothingness as Israel’s political leadership reflexively turn battlefield victories into one “concession/peace” gesture after another. An unsustainable vicious cycle is played out, year after year.

Specifically, “How Not to Defeat Hamas” illustrates heartburn-worthy renditions of appeasement, while exemplifying the above dichotomy. “From the beginning, Israel has always fueled the Palestinian Authority’s war against it — quite literally. It provides the Palestinian Authority with key supplies like electricity, water and, through Dor-Alon Energy Company, even with gas and cooking gas…. Last Wednesday, though, Dor-Alon announced it was suspending supplies due to unpaid debts. Yet, by Thursday, the company said it was resuming supplies after P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas promised to send payments within 10 days.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-ups-and-downs-of-life-in-israel-book-review/2013/04/15/

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