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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘rail’

A Lesson To Be Learned

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

It was early evening in Jerusalem. I was exhausted, and thankful that the light rail train had arrived. Along with all the other passengers, I jockeyed for a place to stand where I could place some of my bundles on the floor. At the next stop a seat became available, and I was grateful to be able to claim it.

At the following stop, an older woman came aboard laden with bundles of her own. No one offered her a seat, and I did not have the energy to get up and offer her mine.

At this point a 30-something, non-religious man boarded the train and stood for a minute, observing the older woman. He quietly walked over to a young man, seated with sefer in hand. This young man was so engrossed in his learning that he had not noticed the old woman in need of help. The first man leaned over and quietly whispered in the young man’s ear, gesturing to the older woman standing nearby. This was done so quietly and respectfully that I don’t think most people were aware what had taken place.

The young man nodded, kissed his sefer and closed it, and quickly offered his seat to the woman. He then moved two rows down, and stood near another friend who was seated. The two talked for a few minutes, and then the first young man noticed an older gentleman who was looking for a seat. He pointed this out to his friend, and the old man was able to gratefully sit down. The two friends found standing spots in the row in front of me.

At the next stop, the two seats next to them were vacated. The two friends were about to sit down when one held the other one back. He looked around to see if anyone else might need a seat, then indicating to his friend that they could now sit.

There have recently been reports about tensions between religious and non-religious Jews, and between religious Jews from different spectrums. Here was an example of a chain of events, seemingly simple but yet so beautifully orchestrated, that shows us how we are all brothers – and how we can learn to live as one.

During the rest of my ride, I thought about what I had witnessed. I wondered if anyone noticed me, the savta with the bundles and tired eyes smiling from ear to ear.

Jerusalem’s Light Rail train is Not Segregated

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

During my visit to the British Parliament last week, I heard concern from a number of members that Jerusalem’s new light rail system was built as a “tool of Israel’s apartheid.” This type of claim can leave one baffled; where do you start explaining when an intelligent elected official hits you with a claim that is so totally off base? Aside from the issue of priorities, with people being killed daily by the Assad  regime Syria, it is the height of hypocrisy for world leaders to ignore that massacre and waste their time and effort in seeking out something to pin on Israel.

The city of Jerusalem was first declared the capital of the united Kingdom of Israel by our mighty King David some 3000 years ago. At its center, on Mount Moriah, David’s son Solomon built the Temple, which became a place of gathering for the entire nation of Israel three times a year. Ever since, this city has been the focal point of Jewish prayer around the world. In Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, part of the city was captured by the British-trained Arab Legion of Trans-Jordan, which held the city for 19 years, until it was again united in the miraculous Six Day War of June, 1967. During the 19 years of Jordan’s illegal occupation of Jerusalem, Jews were barred from access to the city’s holy sites. Jewish doctors and nurses were massacred while trying to reach the Hadassah Hospital, located on then-isolated Mount Scopus.

Only after Israel’s Defense Forces reunited the holy city were members of all religions again allowed access to their holy sites (aside from the Temple Mount, which maintains limited access for non-Muslims).

Jerusalem today is a city with total population of about 760,000 people – about 65% Jewish, and the remaining 35% comprised of Muslims, Christians, and others. Anyone who visits the city will see a mix of people from all ethnic backgrounds and all religions partaking in all aspects of the city’s culture and commerce. Like it or not, apartheid is not a fitting description for the reality of Jerusalem today.

The city of Jerusalem, capital of the State of Israel, incorporated its light rail public transportation system late last year. The light rail is intended to relieve traffic congestion, and spare the city from the air pollution emitted from the cars and buses that it will replace.

Three years of its construction were very bothersome to the residents of and visitors to Jerusalem because it made transit within the city even more difficult and slowed traffic, with many roads closed and much traffic redirected. When the work was finally completed, I believe that most of Jerusalem was happy with the results.

The light rail is now 14 KM long with 23 stops. It starts in the Pisgat Zev neighborhood in the north and runs though Beit Hannia and Shuafat, passes by the Old City through the center of town, runs along Jaffa Street past the central bus station and ends at Mount Herzl.

The track passes though and stops in both Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. I have taken the train and noticed that both Jews and Arabs are regular commuters. All of the train’s signs, tickets, ticket machines, and public announcements are made very clearly in both Hebrew and Arabic. Signs of station names are posted in both Hebrew and Arabic.

Knowing the facts firsthand, it is strange for me to hear discussions in British Parliament about the light rail being segregated and a “tool of apartheid.” Why, I ask, do people buy into such baseless libel and propaganda?

Female Soldier Stabbed on Jerusalem’s Light Rail

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

A 19-year-old soldier was stabbed in her chest and hand on Thursday morning by a Palestinian teen, while riding the Jerusalem light rail to her army base. Although originally listed in serious condition, she was evacuated to Shaare Tzedek Medical Center where she was stabilized and upgraded to moderate condition.

According to Jerusalem periphery police commander, Nissim Edri, the assailant rode the train northbound to the Pisgat Ze’ev station, and as it came to a stop, stood up and stabbed the soldier repeatedly before fleeing into the station.

“It was a nationalistic terrorist attack. Train security personnel chased the perpetrator, who was checked before the event,” Edri said. “We did not have any advance intelligence that there would be a terror attack on the light rail.”

Security forces later identified and arrested the suspect at the Qalandiya checkpoint, and the suspect has reportedly admitted to the stabbing after being questioned.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat visited the victim in the hospital, and was quoted afterward as saying: “Her condition has stabilized and the doctors are saying she’ll recover quickly. I look with great severity at any attempt to disrupt our lives. Events in the city will go on as usual.”

Yisrael Beitenu MK Lia Shemtov was irate at what she said was a predictable outcome: “Two months ago, I warned about the danger of the train’s route entering Arab villages. We have to wait for casualties for our leaders to wake up?”

This is the second attack to occur on the light rail, but the first to cause injuries to a passenger. Six months ago, Arabs lobbed stones at the train in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, smashing a window and causing superficial damage to the train.

Israel Railways Proposes Ambitious Plan to Link Israel with Judea and Samaria By Rail

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Officials at the state-owned Israel Railways confirmed that it has completed a proposal to establish train service in Judea and Samaria for both Israeli and Palestinian passengers.

The plan, first reported on Monday by Haaretz, was prepared at the request of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. According to a map obtained by the Israeli daily, it calls for the construction of 11 new rail lines. The map reveals that Israel Railways has proposed 475 kilometers of rail, and includes a Jenin-Nablus-Ramallah-Jerusalem-Ma’aleh Adumim-Bethlehem-Hebron line, and another that would run along the Jordanian border from Eilat to Beit She’an and then on to Haifa. According to the report, the map was submitted to the top brass of the the IDF’s Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria in December.

Likud MK Katz has made no secret of his intention to erect a railway system that would criss-cross Judea and Samaria. The report stated that Katz has already allocated 3 million shekels for a train-line from Rosh Ha’ayin to Sh’chem in Samaria, and that specs for the first part of the line – from Rosh Ha’ayin to the city of Ariel in Samaria – have already been drafted.

In a preface to the proposal, Israel Railways states that its objective is to “address the transportation needs of local residents and other passengers.” Another important objective is increasing the “continuity between the rail network within the Green Line and the planned network in Judea and Samaria.” The proposal also envisions extending the rail lines to other Arab countries.

The proposal does not offer a time frame nor a price estimate. And, beyond the financial and legal obstacles, intense cooperation with the PA would be necessary. Officials from both Israel Railways and the Israeli government acknowledged that this would be a tall task, especially in the current climate of official Palestinian incitement and implacability regarding the peace process.

A spokesperson for Israel Railways said, on condition of anonymity, “We have presented a plan sought by the transport ministry, but for the moment nothing has been done on the ground. The decision on the construction of railways is the responsibility of politicians.”

The transport ministry had no immediate comment.

PM Netanyahu Considering Rail Link For Asia-Europe Trade Route

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel is considering building a 220 mile rail link between its Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts that could compete with the Suez Canal for Asia-Europe trade.

“The Eilat Railway will be a passenger railway with a travel time of two hours [from Tel Aviv]” Netanyahu said in his weekly cabinet meeting, Israeli business website Globes reported.

“This will also be a line for the shipment of goods from Asia to Europe. This will create a very great interest on the part of the rising powers – India and China – and others, in Israel. It therefore has strategic, national, and international importance to build this line,” he said.

“This change is the realization of the vision to link-up Israel and the development of transport infrastructures north to Kiryat Shmona and to Eilat with traffic light-less roads and railways – lines for travel within Israel and as an intercontinental transit point.”

Stretching The Rubber Band

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The Torah is defined as flint, a hard stone that is sturdy and unbreakable. It is therefore ironic that the year 5770 saw the Torah stretched as a rubber band – with the extremes causing the fraying of the bonds of Torah and Klal Yisrael and with no respite in sight.
 
              Take women’s issues, for one. On the left of the rubber band, Orthodoxy was stretched to the breaking point, and likely beyond it, by such non-Orthodox innovations as female clergy and female prayer leaders. The negative reaction from the Torah community was as swift as it was unequivocal (as unequivocal as a free-thinking, stubborn nation can ever get), leading to the freezing of both innovations for the foreseeable future, if not permanently. (Why do I have the sense that there is more coming ?)
 
While the retreat was alternately portrayed as either tactical or substantive, the bottom line was the same: an admission by the innovators that such actions have no place within the framework of the faithful Torah community.
 
While the leftists were inappropriately shoving women into the public domain, the haredi community in Israel was inappropriately shoving women far into the private domain. The right of the rubber band was stretched (broken?) so that the Torah became unrecognizable.
 
              The trends started several years back but became exacerbated in the recent past. There are Israeli communities these days with restaurants that have no public seating, lest it lead, I suppose, to mixed eating. It is a terrible infringement on normal family life, part of which involves families eating out together or husbands and wives taking time together. The Mehadrin bus lines that have become popular furthered this trend, with separate seating for women in the back (bad symbolism, there).
 
   The latter entered the public fray again with the recent announcement that the new, long-delayed (and I mean, long-delayed) light-rail in Yerushalayim will have Mehadrin cars as well, with separate seating for men and women. This prompted the usual litany of complaints about the encroachment of religious law in the public sector, and about the coercive nature of that community.
 
   In truth, I understand the economics of both: faced with a choice of the haredim starting their own transportation system or accommodating their requests, Egged simply catered to their customers and gave them what they wanted – a Mehadrin line. That makes good business sense. So, too, the director of the new light-rail system said that if haredim boycott the light-rail, it will fail – so, again, a prudent business decision was made, though it would seem more logical to me to have separate female and male cars on the light-rail, rather than force women to the back of one car.
 
It is the religious imperative of such a setup that escapes me. Where exactly does the Talmud, the Rambam, or the Shulchan Aruch mandate such a separation in the public realm? Rav Moshe Feinstein famously wrote that incidental contact even on crowded public transportation is sexually innocuous. Normal people are unaffected by it, and generations of pious Jews conducted themselves accordingly. One wonders what has changed. Just because something can be done – by sheer numbers of consumers – does not mean it should be done, and certainly not on a religious basis.
 
   Some argue that the Torah may not mandate such separations but tzniut (Jewish modesty) always strives for higher standards. Yet a group of haredi rabbis recently prohibited the wearing of the burqa (only eye slits are visible), which a group of peculiar Jewish women in the Bet Shemesh area have donned, saying that Jewish law does not require such concealment. But on what grounds can it be prohibited? The Torah certainly does not prohibit or demand it.
 
As we have seen on the left side of the rubber band, just because something is not explicitly prohibited does not make it permissible, prudent, or sensible. There are customs and values that define the Torah community, and we twist and elongate that rubber band at our peril. Eventually it snaps, and we become a people defined by our eccentricities rather than our wisdom, by behavior that is weird rather than rational, and by our segregation from society rather than by our integration in it and elevation of it.
 
It is sociologically fascinating that it was the Edah Hacharedis that put the kibosh on the burqa, apparently sensing intuitively that this was beyond the pale. Certainly, nothing is simple, and the overreaction on the part of the haredim can easily be seen as a response to the laxity in moral matters and relations between the sexes that characterizes much of Modern Orthodoxy and of course the general society.
 

In some quarters, tzniut is openly derided, even as in other quarters it is taken to unprecedented excesses. And it goes without saying (all right, I’ll say it) that everyone fancies himself/herself in the sane, normal, mainstream, broad-middle of the Bell Curve. (My rebbi used to say, accordingly, that each person feels that someone driving faster than him is a maniac, and someone slower than him is an idiot. Each person thinks he drives at the optimum speed.)

But we do see how the extremes, right and left, dim the light of Torah and drive away Jews who unthinkingly perceive the Torah as having no real norms – subject to the whims of every generation and fad – or having no real limits in its demands on us.
 
Rav Soloveitchik said it well, in U’vikashtem Misham (Ktav, page 54): “This is the tragedy of modern man: that, instead of subordinating himself to God, he tries to subordinate his God to his own everyday needs and the fulfillment of his gross lusts.”
 

Or, said another way, in an exaggerated fear of his gross lusts. The Torah gave us the perfect prescription for all our needs – spiritual, moral, ethical, social, psychological and physical. It behooves all of us to reinforce the rubber band, experience joy and fulfillment in the Torah we were given and not one we create ourselves, and find true service of Hashem in our subordination to His will.

 

 

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey, and the author most recently of “Judges for our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Yehoshua” (Gefen Publishing, 2009). He blogs at www.rabbipruzansky.com. 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/stretching-the-rubber-band/2010/09/28/

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