Arabs and Jews share Jerusalem’s public transportation. Amid the recent wave of terror, tension is felt between Jewish and Arab passengers.
This is one of those surreal situations you will only find in a city like Jerusalem. The driver is Isa Abu El Hallal, a resident of East Jerusalem, one of the Arabs that are supposed to be kept from entering West Jerusalem by the checkpoints and cement walls. Not all passengers are happy with this.
“Who knows what he’s really thinking?” says a passenger. After 15 years in the Egged bus service, Isa knows all of the regulars on the 78 line. Egged instructed him not to interview with the press, he can only listen to what the passengers say about him. “It’s in their blood,” says one woman. Mordecai Asraf adds, “The Arabs only understand one thing – violence.” When he finds out that the driver is an Arab, he adds, “I’ve known him for years. He’s great.”
Emily Cohen says, “He’s an Arab, but he’s really nice. My doctor is an Arab and he’s also wonderful.” In order to beef up security, the government has sent soldiers to scan the buses. They go on and off quickly, assessing the situation. Jerusalemites have learned to rely on themselves for defense. Another woman took part in a Krav Maga self defense class. “I know what to do. And my bag is heavy,” she proclaims.
The bus passes the point where a terrorist attack occurred the week before on the seam between the East Talpiot neighborhood and Jabel Mukaber, an Arab village. Rita Cohen didn’t leave her house for two weeks because of the wave of terror. Although they see that they are erecting concrete walls between the two areas, they don’t believe it will help.
Eitan Raviv thinks there is no solution to stop the terror. “Maybe in the short term, but it goes up and down.” Usually many Arabs also take this line, but not in the recent days. The passengers spot a suspicious man and quickly distance themselves and get off at the next stop.
Channel 2 News reporters approach Yusuf, a resident of East Jerusalem. “It’s uncomfortable all the time,” he says. Yusuf is a student who just went to the Social Security offices. “I decided not to bring a bag with me so as not to arouse more suspicion.”
In a united Jerusalem, it seems difficult for the residents to believe in co-existence, even with an Arab driver. Asraf praises Isa. “He’s been working over 10 years. He’s a great guy. But unfortunately, we need a separation between the two peoples.” Even on this mixed bus, it is difficult to find optimism at a time of terror. We wish for more peaceful times.