Another Day Another Bus Ride
By Joe Yudin
I wake at zero-five hundred and I usually take about a half an hour to get ready for the day before making myself a cup of powerful coffee (that we in Israel simply call "mud") and read a few headlines off the Jerusalem Post website. This morning an article caught my eye entitled "Israeli Arab planned attacks". Apparently a certain Basel Mahajneh, a 19 year old from the Israeli Arab village of Umm el-Fahm in Wadi Ara, admitted to be plotting a suicide bombing for Hamas before his arrest last month. It seems he was going to blow up bus #842 running from Afula to Tel Aviv. My stomach turns and I discard the rest of my coffee before setting out for the day.
I walk about a half mile before hitching a ride to the main highway that runs through the heart of the Jezreel Valley. I set my bag down and watched the sun come up over Mount Tabor which looms over the city of Afula. The prophetess Deborah and her general Barak gathered the combined Israelite forces there 3200 years ago to do battle with the Philistines based in the city of Haroshet HaGoiim which is near today's village of Um el-Fahm in Wadi Ara. The battle took place "by the waters of Megiddo" and to make a long story short, we won.
The number 842 bus comes barreling down the highway and I flag it down. The armed security guard gets off first, gives me a quick once over look and says, "Good morning" with a smile. I get on the bus heading towards Megiddo Junction. I take out some tests to grade as a group of American high school students have (finally) come to study at a prestigious Israel program. I see the ancient city of Megiddo rising at the point where the valley blends in with the rolling green hills.
The ancient tel looms over the earliest highways that converge on the junction. This has been the crossroads between the empires in Egypt and Mesopotamia running north-south and the spice routes of the far east to the Mediterranean ports running east-west for 5000 years at least. We pass a makeshift memorial to the victims of the number 842 suicide-bombing that took place here two years ago and then the bus arrives at the mountain pass between the Maneshe hills and Samarian Mountains and into a gorge on the ancient road that runs along the seasonal riverbed called Wadi Ara.
As we approach the first Arab village the five or six people on the bus, all Jews, suddenly awake from their morning slumber and we begin to stare at the door. The security guard gets off the bus with a changed demeanor. His face is cold and professional, he looks at everyone sitting at the stop sharply as if to accuse, hand on his side near his weapon, speaking into the microphone attached to a stealthy earpiece.
The Arabs do not get immediately on the bus. The first must answer questions and if those aren't answered sufficiently their belongings and bodies are searched. Then they are allowed on the bus. I'm disgusted. I see the angst in their faces. They mumble under their breath. I know what they are saying as they look down avoiding eye contact and sitting in the very front of the bus huddled together away from the Jews who are spread out.
I'm disgusted not by them but with myself. I hate myself for allowing this racial profiling but at the same time I am thankful that I may finally take the bus with some sort of security apparatus in place. I ask myself why Jews and Arabs aren't both subjugated to the same scrutiny. I strain my brain to think of the last time a Jew blew himself or herself up on a bus filled with civilians and I know immediately what the answer is: never.
I still cringe at the sight of it though. I cringe for the people being searched because of their ethnicity and I cringe because their brethren has made me accept these horrible circumstances. Most of all I cringe because I know that the many of the residents here in Wadi Ara aid and support the intentional murder of Jewish civilians at the hands of murderous savages.
Terror is not the way to peace. Civil disobedience yes. Strikes and protests maybe. International protests maybe. Negotiation maybe. But the intentional targeting and killing of babies women and children going along their daily business is definitely not the way. And for a person even to suggest that a another has a right to kill unarmed civilians is ok makes me cringe even more. So I accept this violation and I will continue to accept it until my right to live as a Jew in a Jewish nation is accepted, not just temporarily tolerated.
As we leave Wadi Ara and emerge in the Sharon plain along the Mediterranean Sea we pass many Jewish towns and villages, picking up passengers along the way. People dose back into sleep as we make our way towards Tel Aviv. We stop in Netanya and four soldiers get on the bus, four close friends it seems. They are smiling and laughing, talking about their weekend, their boyfriends, chewing gum and blowing bubbles just like any other teenage girls would do. They speak fluent Hebrew however their accents are different. Two of them are tall and thin, blond haired, blue eyed obviously Russian immigrants. Another is either Ethiopian or her parents are immigrants from Ethiopia. The fourth, a sabra, long black hair tied back in elastic fair in complexion with dark brown eyes. Four Hebrew speaking soldiers from the four corners of the earth, with different cultures, backgrounds and characteristics.
I look at them and smile as I come to the realization that we Jews of Israel are not the racist monsters that I read about in the New York Times. Those people do not exist. We Israelis are striving for a balance between ideas, peoples and forces beyond our control, and when we find that right balance we will continue to strive to create a utopian society that will surely be a light unto the nations. I then turn my attention to my students' papers on Theodore Herzl and Zionism to see if they have any new ideas on how to achieve this noble goal.
Joseph Yudin is a Licensed Tour Guide & Travel Consultant.
Vist him at: www.touringisrael.com
from the June 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine