At this time of year, every former Jerusalemite is overtaken by longings for the city without humidity, which this year offers the added advantage of an especially rich array of cultural event. In addition to the excellent, longstanding film festival, there is also the "cultural season" that falls entirely in the summer and only in Jerusalem, with its fabulous offerings.
The trouble is that the more you feel like going to Jerusalem the more nearly impossible the mission becomes if you need to rely on public transportation. One day this week, just an ordinary day, I decided to visit my children in Jerusalem. The trip on the 480 bus dragged on unexpectedly for an hour and 20 minutes, even though it wasn't rush hour. On the only inter-city highway open to buses traveling to Jerusalem, a vehicle had caught fire. And if that weren't enough, at the entrance to the city, we were delayed again because of the ultra-Orthodox demonstration being held to protest the arrest of the inciting rabbi, Dov Lior.
For reasons I cannot fathom to this day, I decided to travel to the city center by bus as well. Every since Jerusalem found itself in the awful predicament called "the light rail," moving traffic in Jerusalem looks more like a still photograph. For 20 minutes I sat on a bus inching its way from the beginning of Agrippas Street to the fifth building on that street. The passenger next to me, who began her trip back in the Nayot neighborhood, told me the ride to Talpiot used to take 40 minutes, but today she has to leave for work an hour and half before she has to be there and she is still sometimes late.
My frazzled nerves and childhood memories caused me to stand up and address my fellow passengers in an emotional outcry. "Why are you being as quiet as clods?" I asked them. "Revolt." In response, they stuck their faces even deeper into the Israel Post newspapers placed on every seat, as though they had never seen a terrible newspaper before in their lives. "Come on now, let's all get off and walk to the mayor's office and pound on his desk," I urged the commuters who had suddenly gone amazingly silent.
Those poor Jerusalemites. The terrible travails they suffer, beginning back in the days of the siege in 1948, through the ultra-Orthodox demonstrations, the religious coercion and especially the two intifadas, the promised train and the fast train to Tel Aviv that apparently will never leave the station - all these have transformed them from a congregation of saints into a herd of obedient calves. Where are the Betar fans when you need them? Is Jerusalem still that same city that gave rise to the most radical left-wing movements and to this day boasts of the courageous members of the right-wing undergrounds who grew up in its midst and found shelter refuge there?
After pleading to the driver, I managed to get off the bus not at a bus stop, but straight into the hands of an inspector who threatened to give me a ticket. Fortunately, I managed to flee into an alley.
My luck was running out, as I found myself in the neighborhood of the righteous men of Munkatsh, from where I fled with no further ado as I was dressed in tight pants.
Ultimately, I found myself a seat in my favorite cafe on Schatz Street and a dry, pleasant breeze cooled my anger.
I did the return trip to the Central Bus Station on foot (a walk of no more than two kilometers ), passing the hideous display windows on Jaffa Street, adorned with the word "Mehadrin" (very strictly kosher ) in huge letters, women in long denim skirts and men in all kinds of headgear. I also walked past a light railway carriage that was stuck at the time on the rails. And my heart filled with sorrow for the city, whose beauty will remain unknown for eternity if it continues this way.
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