I was going back home on the 940 express bus from Jerusalem to Haifa. For personal reasons my trips to Jerusalem are stressful and exhausting. So being on the bus going home is a reward for me, a time when I’m happy that I’ve done my duty, a two hour rest period when I can relax knowing that I’m finished with the hardest part of my week and will soon to be back to my own life.
Sitting in the row of seats in front of me, near the bus driver, were a pleasant looking, middle aged, religious couple. Across the aisle a young woman texted at lightening speed to assorted people: how many friends did she have and what was so urgent? The many soldiers on the bus were, of course, immediately asleep. We creeped slowly down Route 1 and I marveled at the fast progress of the Jerusalem Fast Train construction project. The impressive bridge leading to a tunnel into the city appeared to be almost finished. I dozed and when I awoke we were speeding north on Route 6. I noticed that a woman near me was reading an actual book and I had a moment of nostalgia before I started reading a ‘book’ about climbing remote mountains on my Kindle. Everything was routine.
We were 20 minutes from Haifa, the driver turned towards Zihron Yakov, passed the intersection and came to the Fureidis junction where the 940 makes its first stop to let off passengers. It is an alighting only stop. While the few who had disembarked were getting their luggage, a soldier in uniform came up to the door of the bus and told the driver that he had to get to Haifa quickly and asked if he could get a ride on the bus.
The driver said, “No it’s against the rules. This is an alighting only stop.”
“But I need to get to Haifa and who would it hurt.”
“No! It is against the rules and I might get fined 5,000 if I break the rules.”
“Who will ever know so that you get fined. Can’t you help me out.”
The religious couple then remonstrated with the drive, “Look he’s a soldier, we should take him.”
The driver, “I could get a 5,000 fine. It’s against the rules.”
He then closed the door on the soldier and drove off…
And that’s my whole story.
Except that as we drove along I stared to feel sick. Really? ! One of our soldiers needed a ride and the Egged driver had to FOLLOW THE RULES. The young man could have been my son. He WAS my son. He was the son of us all. But we had to follow the rules?!! Is that what we’ve become?
And I sat there passively!? As if I wasn’t an Israeli who speaks her mind, who minds everyone’s business, who does NOT just sit there and let shit happen.
That was one moment when I could have made a difference and helped one of our soldiers. I could have offered to pay the stupid non-existent fine, I could have made a scene, I could have convinced that driver to let the soldier on the bus. I know I had the power to do that small thing.
But I just sat there. And so it is that I missed my chance and I have something to expiate.
God forbid that we actually become a people who simply follow rules.