After almost ten years and countless delays, the Jerusalem light-rail system
opened to the public on Friday, August 19, 2011.
Since August 2008 Jaffa Street has been closed to traffic.
On Friday morning, Yehuda the shoemaker was smiling,
his greeting was not good morning, but “mazel tov!”
There were lines to get the RavKav fare cards, but all rides are free for two weeks.
In the city center trains were often very crowded
and there were still more passengers who were ready to try to push in.
“Zeh lo New York”, this is not New York, said one woman,
but at times it felt like the New York City subway… only with air conditioning.
Special staff was busy trying to keep people off the tracks,
but accidents seem bound to happen in the open spaces.
Passing the walls of the Old City,
the train was not as crowded and you could hear the cell phone conversations.
On many of the trains children sat on the floor,
for thousands of families the train ride was the day’s entertainment.
Cameras of all types were out to document the day.
Slowly the train went through the Shuafat and Beit Hanina neighborhoods,
some boys hopped on to ride for only one stop.
It took 45 minutes to reach the end of the line, then a long wait to come back.
The train ahead had trouble in the Pisgat Zev station,
providing plenty of time to look over our driver’s shoulder.
Announcements had warned of possible delays,
people got on and then immediately got off, not sure how long the wait would be.
It was afternoon prayer time as the train passed the mosque on the return trip.
If you really had to be somewhere,
the bus was the preferred way to go, as regular traffic was light.
Travel through the Machane Yehuda Market, the shuk, area seemed to take forever.
Then, the view from the bridge was impressive,
impressive enough to get some people up from their seats.
The ride over the bridge seemed very quick compared to the rest of the route.
Thousands of people came out Friday for the havaya, the experience…
like an amusement park ride.
More time was needed to complete the entire route,
but I was satisfied to get my shoes fixed and get home before Shabbat.
How many passengers will pay to use the light-rail?
Was it worth all the time and cost?
The saga of the Jerusalem light-rail continues…