When Bush Comes to Town, Take the Train


U.S. President George W. Bush (they say Boosh in Hebrew) is in Israel this week, and what are Israelis talking about? The traffic jams, of course. Jerusalem was especially affected, with our neighborhood cordoned off in parts, yesterday and on Wednesday.

Former Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, our neighbor down the street, was apparently snubbed by President Bush. But no matter. The streets were still clogged because, one street above lives Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and a few streets higher is President Shimon Peres. Both met with Bush.

Cab drivers that we rode with were complaining about loss in business, and our friends who work in Jerusalem were given advanced late-passes for work. Around the clock helicopters were flying overhead. It's the American president's first visit to Israel, while in office. He was in town to negotiate a Middle East peace treaty, and all we could think about it is, why didn't they arrange his meetings to happen somewhere in the middle of the Nevev Desert - like in the Mitzpa Ramon crater? This way, security issues would be minimized, and businesses and city citizens would waste less energy trying to get to work through the busy traffic.

One of our friends, James, talks about taking the train during the Bush visit. He details in a lovely and poetic way, his journey from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Not many commuters use the train to travel between Israel's two biggest cities. The journey is long (almost 2 hours, compared to about 45 minutes by bus), and requires an absurd stopover half-way.

But if you have the time, or are a tourist, then the train might be the way to go. Writes James, "Traveling anywhere in Israel from the Holy City isn’t going to be easy on the day President Bush arrives, but it is a perfect day for experiencing the low carbon pleasure of train travel.

"Considering the first train in 1892 from Jaffa to Jerusalem took 3 hours and fifty minutes, I suppose there have been slow improvements. The high speed link connecting J to TA via Modiin scheduled to open soon will cater for those in a hurry...

"Then on through the lush agricultural belt. Lots of fields lying fallow, covered in grasses and natural green fertilizers, doing all the hard work in this shmitta year. Satsumas and lemons sitting plumply in their trees. This part of the journey takes us through a managed landscape, in preparation for the concrete landscape up ahead."

James' trip reminds us of Lloyd's journey by train from Toronto to New York. See also Jesse's post, Israel Invests in Mass Transit.

::Green Prophet