How I celebrated my birthday

Four of us walked the whole length of Jaffa Road, from the bus station to Jaffa Gate. On the way, we were overtaken about every two minutes by a light railway train. Jerusalem has finally reached the twenty-first century. Well, not quite. Because it was the same train that kept passing us. I need to go back in time to explain.

As it was my birthday, I got to choose. I wanted to see the Mamilla shopping centre, which has been open for a few years but which I only saw once and not in the evening. So I chose a restaurant in the area that was recommended. We could have gone by car, but I decided it was time to try out the light railway. We’ve been suffering the building of this single railway line for eight years. The opening has been postponed four times. Last week, it started operation and for the first few weeks it’s free!

I wonder whether the powers that be will decide they made a mistake, opening it up as free transport during the summer holidays. We got on at the first station. When the train arrived, the seats were all taken in a second and we had to stand. As the train filled up, people jostled us – not just at stations but during the ride. The large number of prams and children didn’t help.

Jerusalemites aren’t used to trains. They’re used to buses, on which there is one door to enter and another to leave. When the train stops, no one thinks to tell them to let people off first. They push their way on, and then those getting off have to push, too. There are problems with doors. People stand in the way of the doors so that they don’t close. Over the loudspeaker, they say, “Boy in the green shirt, keep away from the emergency button. What you’re doing is dangerous.” That’s why the train stopped for about five minutes at each station.

When we reached the bus station, we’d had enough. We got out and walked, arriving at exactly the same time as the train.

The shopping centre was quite full. We found the restaurant and waited less than five minutes for a table. We sat outside, which might have been a mistake because it was rather noisy. The food was excellent. I had mushroom quiche with salad, followed by a rather large but tasty apple pie.

Walking back to the train stop, I took a photo of a sign that has been there for many years. What do you think it means? (Answer at the end of this post.)

While in a snapping mood, and because we had to wait nearly an hour for our train, I photographed one going the other way:

The return journey was also slow, noisy and uncomfortable. Hopefully, the teething problems will be sorted out and we really will have a convenient transport system in Jerusalem. We haven’t got there yet.

The sign? “REHOV PRATI” is a transliteration of the Hebrew. It means “private road,” but of course you knew that, didn’t you?