Want to Really Know Israel? Ride the Bus!

by Hanna Ross

Seriously. Skip the tourist spots, and hop on a public bus if you want to get to know the real Israel

Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

When I immigrated to Israel about 20 years ago, I didn’t know much. Today I feel that I know more than my husband, who was born and raised here. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little.

While heading home from work the other day, I took my mask out of my pocket before getting on the tram. It wasn’t long ago that we were told Corona’s “over,” then it was back to “masks on” indoors, though most people simply don’t adhere to that. Many Israelis wonder, what’s the point? After all, didn’t someone say something about herd immunity?

With a mask or prayer book in the tram

More recently we were informed that police were again out looking for violators, and giving hefty fines to those who didn’t comply.

So I got on the tram, my chin covered with the mask. It was the same when I switched to the bus. Already at the bus stop I saw a supervisor from Egged (Israeli bus company). Once on the bus, rather than checking people’s tickets, he went through the rows and demanded “mask on!”

Right next to me, a fiery discussion broke out between the supervisor, religious, non-religious, nose mask wearers, mouth mask wearers, chin mask wearers and passengers who said they simply didn’t have a mask with them. It was like in a movie, a true microcosm of the people of Israel. I should have filmed it. Repeating what they said is a waste of time, the arguments and counter-arguments can be imagined by anyone. But in similarly typical Israeli fashion, not one person was actually given a fine. I hadn’t expected it to end otherwise.

Shortly before I arrived at my bus stop, a young Ethiopian got out in front of me. She appeared to be early in her military service in the Air Force (you can tell from the beige uniform). As soon as she got out, she was almost knocked over by her three little religious siblings and hugged tightly.

Oh, there’s nothing like Israel! So unique, diverse, exhausting, but above all beautiful!

In the bus you get to know the country and the people

So, next time you are in Israel (which hopefully will be possible again soon), just leave out the usual tourist spots, and instead hop on a bus and drive through the country. But watch out, there are some extremely kosher lines on which women “have to” sit in the back … ????


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