On the Bus

(An unrelated picture of the traditional "Shephard's Hill" in Bethlehem...there are a few)

Sans vehicle here in Israel, I have become a pretty serious bus rider.  It occurred to me while riding home from work the other day after being blessed by a lovely old woman with just one rotting tooth that I ought to be recording these moments.  Some are tender, some are scary, and others are bizarre.  Hopefully "On the Bus" will be a recurring feature on our blog.

But first I want to share a quick insight about the bus system.  There are separate buses for Arabs and Israeli's here in Jerusalem.  I'm going to write that again for emphasis.  There are separate buses for Arabs and Israelis here in Jerusalem.  The idea that these people who live in the same city have two completely separate bus systems and routes kind of exploded my brain for a little bit when I realized it.

There are many things that we abhor in America but don't recognize when we see them played out somewhere else.  Seeing the segregation of people as defined  by the buses they ride has a bit of an America 1950's feel to me and not in a "gee hula hoops are fun" kind of way.   Although there are no laws about who can ride which bus, very seldom do riders of one type of bus venture onto the "other" bus system. (In this occasion I would argue that more Arabs ride Israeli buses than the other way around.  Probably due to the fact that the majority of services and work opportunities in Israel are in areas only serviced by Israeli buses)  Granted this segregation is, in part, a product of self selection, but it's unsettling to think that two teenage boys the same age might never see the area where the other lived, worked, or went to school even though they live 10 minutes away from each other.  It's like the groups live separate lives right along side each other but their counterpart is always invisible.  It's just one of many symptoms that speak to how divided the city is.  

But moving on to my much appreciated blessing yesterday on the Arab bus:  I was riding home from Beit Hanina (where I teach my classes) and a very old woman with a crooked back, white lacey shawl covering the almost horizontal rise of her spine, tottered onto the bus and found a seat beside me.

A few minutes into our ride I caught her eye and whispered a soft "Marhaba" (Hello)

She peered up at me, opened her mouth revealing one large front tooth and said "Marhaba, Marhaba.  Keyf Al-Hal" (Hello, Hello, How are you?)

I responded with the appropriate "Al-hamdu lillah" (Praise be to God) and she responded back with the same.

"Hayik Allah.  Shukran, Shukran."  She continued, blessing me with life from God.  She said thank you several times in a little bit of a crazy, shaky person kind of way, but it was very sweet all the same.

A few weeks ago I witnessed a bus fight and got lost in East Jerusalem, but I'll save that for another day!


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