Sarah Ansbacher
Author of historical and contemporary novels

Four Strangers on a Bus

Eight minutes. Five stops.

That’s the length of the 204 bus ride from Allenby Street on the corner of Lilienblum to Tel Aviv Haganah train station in south Tel Aviv. A route where different worlds collide and one I often travel.

On this particular journey, there was a woman sitting across from me from Eritrea who held a baby girl on her lap. Behind her was an older woman who began cooing at the baby like the Israeli grandmother she probably was. The two smiled at each other and the older woman attempted to strike up a conversation telling her how sweet her baby was and that she loved the floral dress she had dressed her in. But the mother shook her head and apologised, in English, saying she didn’t understand. The older woman made another attempt but since she only spoke Hebrew still couldn’t make herself understood.

I’d been watching this exchange and since my Hebrew was sufficient to comprehend, I decided to help the older woman by translating for her into English. The mother smiled, said thank you and I found myself as an interpreter between them.

Behind me, there was another lady who had been observing this exchange, and she too joined in. She pointed to the baby’s socks and said something to me about them. Except, she was hard of hearing and my Hebrew not adequate enough to lip read.

At this point, the older woman stepped in and repeated her words for me. She wanted to add that she also liked the baby’s frilly socks. I translated this back to the mother who beamed at the compliment and I then translated back her reply to the older woman and from her to the lady behind me.

And in this way, we bridged the gap of communication and held a conversation between us.

As we neared my stop, I got up to leave. But not before I’d said goodbye to each of them, in turn, like a parting of friends.

Four strangers from different worlds who converged for eight minutes between five stops.

About the Author
Sarah Ansbacher is the author of Wave After Wave, a historical novel based on the true story of a group of Jewish refugees who attempt to flee wartime Nazi-occupied Europe setting out on a dangerous sea journey to Eretz Israel. Her other books include the novel Ayuni and the short story collection, Passage From Aden: Stories from a Little Museum in Tel Aviv, based on her experiences working at the Aden Jewish Heritage Museum.
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