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In defense of Israeli manners

Letting people off the train before boarding may be polite, but it's not Israeli

You must have seen him by now. He is the new guy that is taking the city by storm. His skinny blue legs, immaculate red tie and awkward smile are the talk of the town. Of course, I am referring to this guy

CityPass (the operator of the Jerusalem light rail) and the Jerusalem municipality have undertaken a campaign to teach the Israelis what is common courtesy everywhere else in the world: When using public transportation, let the passengers on the train disembark before getting on yourself. This simple idea benefits everyone. It makes the light rail a more pleasant travel experience for the thousands who use it every day. It also help the light rail leave the station as quickly as possible and assure its preference at traffic lights.

The marketing effort for this project has been extensive. Our little graphic friend (does he have a name, or are corporate naming rights available?) was designed and put on posters and pamphlets at the stations. Teenagers are being paid to stand at the stations in the heat of the day (sporting red polo shirts that feature our graphic friend) to explain to passengers why this is important.

The tagline for this initiative is “First Exit, Then Enter” (Kodem Yotz’im, Achar Kach Nichnasim). In my opinion, if we embrace this idea we are in serious trouble. Sure, the light rail experience will be better. I definitely don’t appreciate the feel (and smell) of my brethren getting way too close to me, but what about everything else that we stand for in this country?

If I had to give a title for why Israel is special, it would be the exact opposite of the light-rail slogan: “First Enter, Then Exit”. This is how our country was started, and this is how we have excelled and continue to thrive. Did David Ben Gurion wait patiently for the Arabs to exit the land, before declaring independence? Did (insert name of any Israeli entrepreneur) politely say “excuse me” before trying to board the train that leads to the global innovation market?

I lived the first thirteen years of my life in the USA. When I take the light rail, I instinctively let passengers off before boarding myself. But the reality is, we are not in Manhattan, Toronto or London. We are in Israel, and we should not try and force things where they do not belong.

Just look at our friend again. He is distinctly not Israeli. When was the last time you saw an Israeli with such a nice red tie, and his shirt tucked in?

In an ideal world, we could separate our behavior on the light-rail from our behavior in military, technological and diplomatic arenas. But until then, I will opt to take the elbow jab from my fellow Israeli, and everything that comes with it.

About the Author
Yaakov Wolff is a soldier in the IDF. He made Aliyah from Boston to Beit Shemesh in 2007. Before joining the army he studied in Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh. He holds a degree in Middle East Studies from Bar-Ilan University.