“Scared to Death!” Israeli Bus Drivers Say Something’s Gotta Change

Local bus drivers say they no longer know if they’ll return home alive when driving east or north of Jerusalem

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Palestinian Terrorism, Jerusalem
Police examine a bus damaged in an attack in eastern Jerusalem this week. 
Police examine a bus damaged in an attack in eastern Jerusalem this week.  Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

A shooting attack on a public bus in eastern Jerusalem on Wednesday rekindled awareness of the grave danger Israeli bus drivers face on a daily basis in the area.

Hardly a week passes that a public bus is not attacked by stones, firebombs or even gunfire as it passes Palestinian Arab towns and neighborhoods to the east or north of Jerusalem. But rarely are these incidents reported. They have simply become a part of everyday life.

Only if there are physical casualties will the local news bother to report, and it would take multiple fatalities to get the attention of the international media.

But make no mistake. There are casualties in every incident, most notably the shell-shocked bus drivers.

“Glass flies on you and onto the floor, and immediately you hear the screams. Small children begin to cry, and the silence of the stunned adult passengers is deafening,” recalled bus driver Eliakim Tsanani in remarks to Channel 12 News following a recent attack on his bus in eastern Jerusalem.

“Everything happened so fast, I just had to keep my head and not lose control,” he added.

One of the most dangerous routes for these drivers takes them beyond the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev and via the junction just outside the adjacent Palestinian village of Hizma. It is the site of regular attacks on Israeli vehicles.

“I always approach this junction in fear, slowing down to see where the next stone might be coming from,” said driver Kfir Vanso. “In what reality do we live when I can’t go drive my route without knowing if I’ll return alive or unhurt?”

The drivers noted that on some of these routes, which take them on windy mountain roads, the real danger is that a well-placed stone will cause them to lose control of the bus and result in a fatal crash.

But even when they maintain control, they noted that the trauma to them and the passengers, especially young children, is very real. “Such an event could scar a child for life,” they stressed.

As for Wednesday’s shooting attack on a bus near Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, police have yet to determine if it was an act of terror or criminal in nature. The driver was treated for light physical injuries, and one passenger was treated for emotional trauma.

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