Coming on aliyah really stretched my imagination as to how I
could live without a car. Yet a quick and simple calculation
was enough to indicate that owning a car here meant working
one day a week, just for that! No way! I wanted a simpler
life here, a more spiritual way of life. Yet . . . I kept
remembering infrequent buses in Canada, the high bus fares,
and often the unreliability of schedules. In addition, I had
heard all those jokes and stories about hair-raising bus
rides and those drivers! I was certainly prepared for
anything but the transportation reality of Eretz Yisroel!
Bus drivers are fascinating! Here they must maneuver these
huge vehicles while giving change, remembering to tell a
passenger who inquired about his stop, be good-humored,
patient and pleasant. Most of them have amazing midos!
They can be warm, friendly, and very helpful, or brusque and
non-communicative. One day, I had a driver par excellence. A
boy of about five years of age was on the bus and he seemed
to know where to get off. However, when it was time, the
driver told the boy to wait a minute while he got off with
him and took him across the street. We all waited and nobody
Usually, before the door is shut, the buses are off and
running. Not only do they fit into the tiniest of road
spaces, which I would never dare drive a car through, but
they also speed along as quickly as the traffic allows.
"Fast" often takes on new meaning during a routine bus ride!
This speed can include zipping around corners. So just try to
imagine the person standing on the bus! A very exciting ride
However, one time a man got on the bus, loaded down with a
baby and stroller and parcels, and the driver told him to
find a seat and sit down. Later, someone came up front to pay
the driver for him. Very often, when someone is laden down
with various children and parcels, they go straight to a seat
and pay when convenient. Never does the driver ask such
people for the fare. When an inspector arrives, everyone has
Bus drivers here have not yet heard that what they should be
doing exclusively is driving the bus, like in Canada. Here
they give out several kinds of tickets, give change, and
drive through incredibly narrow ways. They are usually in the
best of humor, with time for comments to passengers and out
the window to other drivers or friends. They may even make
change with a bus driver coming from the opposite direction
— through their respective windows!
We now have the honor system here on buses going through
religious neighborhoods. We each punch our own bus card. And
it works! This was unheard of in Canada! In fact, all the
extras were unheard of there.
Once, I was making my way gingerly through the Ramot
neighborhood. My sense of direction being vague, I was hoping
not to get lost this time. As I was searching for the bus
stop, my bus approached. It was clear that I would not make
it to the stop on time, and would, therefore, be late for
work. I put my head in my hands and stared with consternation
at the bus. The driver took pity on me, stopped the bus in
the middle of the street and let me get on. Imagine!
Bus drivers are often given bad press. Yet in my years here,
I have seen much more caring in drivers than the other side.
They often stop between bus stations to allow passegers on,
or stop on the road to help. There was the time our bus
stopped and the driver told a pedestrian to go help a little
girl pushing her sister in a stroller which had
Their good humor usually remains in place in many trying
circumstances. Today we witnessed such a situation. We were
returning from the Kosel, but for some reason, many streets
were closed off. Our bus, as well as many others, could not
travel its usual route, and we were in the bus for more than
an hour before coming even close to home. Several complaints
were directed at the driver — I haven't figured that
one out yet — but he patiently fielded them and offered
practical suggestions. He finally did lose his cool,
slightly, when one vociferous, complaining, very hostile
woman was getting on again for the third time! But he still
passed this test with flying colors!
Often a Torah tape can be heard, even though the driver is
Their driving record must be tops, since it is rare to hear
of an accident. Only once was there an infraction on my bus
when the driver ran a red light, and was immediately
Boruch Hashem for the fine bus system and its drivers
who make not owning a car feasible and even pleasurable!
Sometimes it is even more than a question of arriving safely,
such as when I can say all my Tehillim on my way; my not
having to deal with parking; nor my having to deal with the
road conditions and the other drivers. I can arrive at my
destination more relaxed and ready. Even my usual impatience
while waiting is minor in comparison to the benefits.