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Taken for a Ride in Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s light-rail system was designed in part to force Arabs and Jews to interact. Now that it’s running, commuters share one thing: discontent.

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A ride on the central line of Jerusalem's new light-rail system.(Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

Jerusalem is not known for its high-functioning infrastructure. With a rapidly growing population squeezed between sacred sites, and as ground zero for an intractable territorial conflict, it’s pretty much an urban planner’s worst nightmare. To wit: Jerusalem’s plan to build a light-rail system to ease congestion and unify the city. In addition to facing a host of logistical obstacles, the proposal prompted considerable opposition because the trains would cross borders that many people have fought hard to define and defend, separating East Jerusalem from West, Arab from Jew. After nearly a decade of construction, at a cost of over a billion dollars, the system finally opened several months ago. But if there’s one thing that unites these commuting Jerusalemites, it’s their frustration with the train’s deficiencies. Daniel Estrin filed this report. [Running time: 15:02.] 

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tk_in_TO says:

A nice piece about the light rail.  What gets me is that no one can complain like us Jewish people, we are such kvetchers. Instead of being positive and upbeat about this nice upgrade to the City, all one hears is kvetch, kvetch, kvetch.  Only focusing on the negative. Such a shame. But loved the anecdote about the young mom handing her baby to a stranger.  That is the thing in Israel, you feel among family even when you’re strangers. Kvetchers, but family nonetheless, despite huge differences.

J_Practical says:

“Jerusalem’s light-rail system was designed in part to force Arabs and Jews to interact.”

Please substantiate that remarkably silly statement – show us the policy document that it came from, or anything that formally states it.

I find this piece (and its headline, which implies misconduct in Jerusalem) to be remarkably unrealistic and misinforming.

jacob_arnon says:

I have been riding buses and subways in many parts of the world most of my life.

I have never seen it as  a place were strangers come together. The opposite is true. It’s  a place where most people seem to exist withing themselves unconcerned or even curious about other people. 

Many people feel that other riders are a potential threat. 

JSubrin says:

 J_Practical, wondering if you actually listened to the piece?

This was an interesting report. However it fails to take into account the major question regarding the light- rail. i.e. Does it actually improve the transportation situation in Jerusalem? As a veteran bus- rider in the city I am sorry to report that I see no such improvement. The years of discomfort and dust and dirt , the years in which downtown businesses were forced to suffer, have led to no great change for the good. Rather it seems to me there are longer waits for busses, and more difficulty for  older passengers who need to make more changes  to arrive at their destinations. Where once  a single bus would do , sometimes one must take a bus, a train, another bus to get where one is going.As for the aesthetics there are those who see the light- rail as wonderful and beautiful.  I see it unfortunately as a quite outmoded technology which does not make the city more pleasurable for the great share of its citizens. Nonetheless now that it is here I suppose at certain points there is nothing to do but get on singing ‘Clang clang clang went the trolley ding ding ding went the bell. ‘ and jollily roll along with the crowd.

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Taken for a Ride in Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s light-rail system was designed in part to force Arabs and Jews to interact. Now that it’s running, commuters share one thing: discontent.

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