Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The innocents aboard

This Rosh Hashana, the train arrived. I mean that the line between my home town, Karmiel, finally opened after many years of work, including a 2.3 kilometer tunnel, two new fancy stations with plenty of parking and bus lines from neighboring Arab villages to feed the stations. The Galilee is now connected directly by train to almost all of Israel, as far south as Beer Sheva. Given the ever worsening traffic jams in the once pristine North, it is a blessing for thousands of commuters.

Since it opened during the High Holidays and is free for three months to local residents, many people, including families with many children, have been taking advantage of the opportunity to travel for free.  It is interesting to see the excitement of many travelers, both young and old, when taking it for the first time. Although carriage and track transportation dates from 1825, the joy of countless faces was no less than that of playing with a new iPhone, a much more modern innovation. The exclamation “the train has arrived. I can’t believe it” is heard everywhere both on and off the train. The magic of the train lives on.

Unfortunately, in my eyes, Israelis behave in trains as they behave in home.  First, as a matter of comparison, I clearly remember a five hour train trip from Paris to Brittany. In addition to the quietness, possibly due to the fact that the cellular phone was not yet invented, I was shocked that I didn’t even notice that there were children in the carriage until some four hours in the trip.  Everybody sat quiet and passed the time in an unobtrusive manner. The Mediterranean being the Mediterranean, that self-control is not to be expected on an Israeli train. Aside from loud phone conversations and playing video games at full volume, parents let their children run up and down the corridor and play musical chairs. The blind, originally intended to block the sun, became a way of entertaining the smaller ones. The parents are not much better, albeit preferring to sit the whole trip.   Cutting the trip to Haifa to 30 minutes is nice but it is not that much more relaxing at this stage.

Still, I am optimistic that some of the excitement and annoying noise will decrease as people get used to taking a train. For all those working in Haifa and Tel Aviv or going to and from Ben Gurion Airport, the train is definitely a blessing. In the meantime, I may have to become modern and attach an earphone to my telephone and enjoy some music……

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