On The Bus in Maaleh Adumim

Yes, this is going to be another blog about my Israeli city in the Judean Desert. And while I’m writing this let me say that I am very angry at the international media and unfortunately, also some extremely misinformed (and mostly leftist) Israelis who call my city of nearly 50,000 people, a “settlement.” Maaleh Adumim is an Israeli CITY situated in the homeland of the Jewish people. Whatever political machinations and misguided diplomats, educators and anti-Semitic bigots allude, I live in the heartland of the Jewish people, in the State of Israel which, only makes up a small percentage of the lands that eternally and forever, are the inheritance of my nation. Perhaps, one day, we will be strong and resolute enough to re-establish our rights in our entire patrimony, but until that day arrives, whatever little I can accomplish through these pages, will do what I can to ensure that our flag, one day, flies over our entire land.

Now, to get back to my original premise, public transportation is a vital commodity in my city. Even though there seems, at times, to be a plethora of cars on our streets, many of us rely on the buses to get us where we need to go. Indeed, one can live in Maaleh Adumim without a car as the buses are run efficiently-especially since the new electronic signs, which tell you when the next bus is arriving, have made the trips all over the city much simpler and timelier.

After some errands at our local mall ( “kanyon” in Hebrew-not after the canyon as in Grand Canyon, but an appellation consisting of 2 Hebrew words) I crossed the street to wait for my bus. The sign said that I had a 29 minute wait for the bus to make the trip from Jerusalem to the bench where I would sit, waiting. It’s a good thing that I have gotten into the habit of shlepping the daily paper with me to keep me busy until the bus arrives.

Because it was almost noon when some of the schools release the kids ( I use “release” because I always felt that  a day in school was akin to a jail sentence)  the bus stop was filled to overflowing with pre-teen kids doing what kids always do after school on the way home-laughing, joking and generally making pests of themselves for everybody waiting with their packages and shopping carts. No, I am not disparaging the youthful exuberance of these children, believe it or not, I was a kid too…..long ago……oyyyyyyyyy.

Before I continue, let me say that I have very contradictory feelings about the behavior of these young citizens. Yes, they can be pushy and noisy as kids are everywhere, and yes, it takes a lot of patience, sometimes way too much, to put up with much of their shenanigans. You see, in this tiny Jewish country, we put our youth on a pedestal. Youth must be served seems to be the national attitude, although it can be annoying, it makes quite a bit if sense, when you realize the historic consequences behind this national mania.

One and a half million Jewish children were slaughtered less than a century ago. An entire generation of possible future Albert Einsteins, Jonas Salks, Isaac Sterns, Leonard Bernsteins and Benjamin Netanyahus, ended up as greasy ashes and charred bones in the crematoria of the Nazi extermination camps. Therefore, every Jewish child becomes exponentially so much greater than himself ( or herself) alone. We have yet, as a people, reached the number of our nation prior to that awful year of 1939.

So, we put up with a lot of commotion that maybe, we wouldn’t otherwise tolerate. However, as much as we accept, there still exists, even in this sometimes rude society, certain manners that must be taught to the young people. On the bus, I saw some poor behavior that I must comment on.

There was a rush by the kids, when the bus doors opened up, to shove onto the bus while pushing past elderly people to grab whatever seats were not yet occupied. This is unacceptable. I don’t care how tired you, as a kid might be after getting up early enough to get to class, ALWAYS give your seat to an older person. I had to shout at several kids who took up several seats that left older people, some with packages in their arms, standing as the bus took off.

Maybe I was a bit too loud, or maybe these kids thought I was nuts, but I told them to, in Hebrew loud enough to be heard over the engine, “Takumu!” (Get up!). They looked at me sideways as though they had been hit with a broomstick, but I asked them ” Would you let your grandmother stand on a moving bus with her arms full of goods?”  Two of them got up and gave their seats to the older folks.

Also, there was a soldier, obviously on her way home from spending time, G-d knows where and doing whatever she had to to keep the rest of us safe in our homes. Mostly these young uniformed kids, yes, I write kids because they are, perhaps, only 4 or 5 years older than these pre-teens. More often than not, these IDF warriors are laden down with duffle bags full of their dirty uniforms ready for a good laundering, dog tired after performing their duties and shouldering a weapon and ammunition. which, believe me, don’t lighten their load. ALWAYS give, or at least offer, your seat to a soldier. I have seen older folks get up to give their place to a returning military individual. Kids MUST do the same, ALWAYS.

Manners are important, more so for children to practice them and for parents to teach them. Maybe I am just an old fogey ( better expression than “old fart”) but there are actions that are always more acceptable than others. Our Israeli kids should hold doors open for women with children in tow, have respect for their elders and, even though treated with great privilege, know that one day, they will be older and demand the courtesy and respect that they need to demonstrate now.

No, I am not angry, I am only aware of the burden on these youngsters, but that does not excuse poor behavior. These students of 12 or 14 will wear a uniform one day and risk their very lives to keep us all safe. They will sacrifice a few of their precious years, putting off studies and careers, which their peers in other lands, will pursue. We all owe them a debt of gratitude that goes beyond fulfillment.

No, I did not have a seat on this bus, I stood all the way home as, you see, there were folks even older than me to whom I gave my seat. That is just the way I was taught so many years ago. Old traits, like calling adults  “sir” and “madam” unless I had permission to call them by their names. I suppose some of these habits fall by the wayside in time. I know Israeli kids often call their teachers by their first names, but I, for the life of me, cannot picture calling my third grade teacher, Mrs Sucher, by “Augusta.”

Perhaps if we lived in a quieter, less hectic, and less dangerous neighborhood, much more of the finer points of etiquette would apply, but we don’t. That doesn’t excuse brashness, foul behavior and disrespect for our elders, but it does forgive quite a lot of what my generation would deem absolutely necessary manners and deportment.

Look, riding on a crowded bus anywhere is not the most pleasant of experiences, especially when one is in a rush, busy, or burdened with numerous shopping bags. Thank G-d, and the Merkavim bus factories, for installing decent air conditioning and computer voices and signs designating the next stops. Good manners by everyone helps.

So, when one doesn’t have a car, the bus becomes a necessary conveyance and the ride need not be too burdensome. It’s always nice sitting next to a friend, or just striking up a conversation with the yenta sitting beside you. We are all connected, one to the other in many ways. As Jews, Israelis and we are not “settlers.” We are home, even on a crowded, noisy bus in Maaleh Adumim in our tiny Jewish country.

About the Author
Irwin was born in New York City and is now retired. He lives in Maaleh Adumim since making aliyah 7 years ago.