Friday, April 15, 2005

Trains of Thought

Amos Asa-El writes about the Jerusalem train past and present in today’s on-line edition of the Jerusalem Post.


To us kids, the train’s two-and-a-half hour odyssey to the coastal metropolis at the other end of the railroad seemed all too short. From the picturesque, godforsaken station of Bar Giora to the cement factory outside Ramle through the lovely Nahal Hajora sewage stream, our little noses were glued to the windows, as we did our best to absorb what for us was a cultural experience at least as exhilarating as a combined ticket to the Louvre, the Vatican and the British Museum would have been for our parents.

And now:

Monday morning I entered the newly inaugurated railway station in Malha. Having parked in the spacious lot outside it, and crossed the station’s glistening marble floor almost as awestruck as a worshiper in a cathedral, I bought a roundtrip ticket to the Shalom Center in Tel Aviv, where I had scheduled a meeting.
Carpeted and equipped with little tables, the train cars were nicer than those I remembered from Boston's suburbs. The ride, as smooth and quiet as a sail boat gliding its way across a mirror-flat lake, unveiled the same old vistas, replete with the occasional abandoned British guards’ pillbox, the Bar Giora greenery, and Nahal Hajora’s blackish pourage.
Before long a mobile kiosk manned by a young girl showed up, laden with fresh sandwiches, pastry and beverages. The Boston-New York-Washington trains I frequently took never offered this, I thought, as we swooshed past the Ayalon Freeway’s heavy traffic into Tel Aviv’s newly Manhattanesque skyline.

I rode the train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in daylight for the first time last Sunday, and my nose was pressed to the window too, just like the little kids Asa-El describes above. Oh, and here’s that abandoned British pillbox:

Abandoned British pillbox on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railroad line

I filled up my cellphone camera’s memory almost completely on that one ride, and I’ll probably be doing it again.

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