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Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Israel Holiday

“We caught a bus to Tel Aviv, which doesn’t sound too bad if you say it quickly!” (Thanks to Mrs Blogger for this quote). A warning to the day tripper, the Jerusalem Central Bus Station like its Tel Aviv counterpart was built with the intent of improving the flow of traffic.  In fact as transportation hubs they are both of them, as advertisements for Israel, disasters, the Tel Aviv Station being unmitigated in its experiential quality.  Ascending an Egged bus is an unforgettable act of sheer will; an act of aggression that tries the patience and the humanity of the aggressor and the victim.  It is a pickpockets paradise, (don’t expect any warning, either signposted or over the intercom).

First the theory:  Purchase tickets at the cashier’s office, stand in an orderly queue and wait your turn. The buses always run on time.  Now the reality:  Buses operate in contempt of timetables; people pour in from all sides, from adjacent bus stops, they even enter the station from the road and then push to the front as the buses arrive. They endanger lives and they are contemptuous of security (which by the way appears to be breathtakingly lax). Only concerted, relentless and unscrupulous determination rewards the traveller with a place for which they have already paid.  I witnessed two families (one, a Finnish family with three young children) bewildered as the maelstrom of human flesh engulfed them. It was probably terrifying for the children lost in the crush of legs and abdomens but not moving forward.  A little girl was screaming and people were shouting for the rabble to let her through.

The solutions are simple. The question is why the will is absent?  The two bus stations represent a public relations canker. The indifference from those running the stations is a blot on Israeli society. For this alone, the excuse that pushing is Middle Eastern is at least racist and at best a spurious excuse for slovenly inaction by a third rate transportation monopoly provider and it places Israel squarely in the developing world at its least attractive. It is a reminder of the pockets of third world maladministration and human contempt that intermittently pierces ones consciousness.  It is offensive and it is wholly unnecessary.

Travelling should be a positive experience that reinforces the voyagers’ recollections of a memorable holiday.  But most Israelis if they can afford to drive will not approach the bus station, and certainly not if any travel is involved.

Information booths are a farce. Companies do not offer help in journey planning unless the entire journey is provided by their company alone.  Ticket sellers sometimes know what they are doing.  They randomly provide travel information (I guess it depends on how they feel or who you are). Bus drivers sell tickets which of course delays travel.  Basic maths knowledge appears to elude them, which creates further delays as they multiply 6 by 4 on their phones calculator app.  Pickpockets operate with impunity.  It is not the problem of the Bus companies after all.

In Britain, A former Deputy Prime Minister was known as “Two Jags” because in spite of his solid (Left wing) union background he liked being driven around in one of the two official Jaguars with which he was provided, even if the journey was barely worth the flick of the ignition key. Israel’s parliamentarians have embraced the greed of their parliamentary perks too, and they have left the people to their own devices for far too long. It is time they too pushed their way onto an Egged bus.

I have been shocked, angered and disgusted by the total indifference shown by the State of Israel for those of us who are unfortunate enough to have to take the buses.  The question that must be asked is whether this is part of the contagion of elitism that has for far too long been endemic to all parts of Israel’s political classes (and that includes the radicals).

So in summary, pickpockets, a panicked public and an apathetic driving fraternity create an environment of chaos.  This alone is reason enough to advise tourists to stay clear of the two cities if, they have to pass through the two central bus stations.

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