I rode the light rail into work today. I know the trains are not human and do not have feelings and yet at times I feel so bad for the trains. For some reason that defies logic, the original planners mapped out a route through the city of Jerusalem that, to many of us, makes little sense.
On the bright side, they built a huge parking lot near Ammunition Hill - and best of all, made it free. In theory, it is only for those who use the train (and really, there's little else near there other than the train), but it is easy and hassle-free for all.
They correctly routed the train through the city center, along Jaffa Street - bringing the whole area back to life after years of construction that cost the lives of many businesses.
Currently, the train ends at Har Herzl - convenient, but not the best location - in the south western corner of Jerusalem, while stretching all the way to the north east corner and Pisgat Ze'ev. No complaints there...it's great that people can get from Pisgat Ze'ev to the main parts of the city quickly...but....but...but.
Between the main part of the city and the northern neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev lies the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Shuafat. The Arabs will call it the Shuafat "Refugee Camp" - which is absurd because it isn't a camp. There are no walls, only houses, streets, buses, telephone polls...and the light rail stations and track that the city planners routed through the neighborhood to give them easy access to the city center as well.
Unfortunately, in over 100 incidents in the past year alone, Shuafat has been the site where the light rail cars are attacked - rocks, stones and boulders primarily, but even a firebomb or two as well. The stations have been burned and painted with graffiti saying "Death to the Jews" and "Death to Israel".
In the last 15 days, the train has been attacked at least 13 times.
For many in Jerusalem, the train remains a blessing. It travels past ancient walls, in rain, snow, and sunshine. At least one light rail guard has been attacked (with a knife). There is hardly a train without at least one window or door cracked.
This summer, in the midst of war, the train took me past the site of one terror attack. I saw the moment when the police pulled a bus back off its side to a standing position. The train slowed as it maneuvered past the site, the tractor used by the Arab terrorist still there in the street.
It dropped me off at my usual stop, where we met Elie and drove passed a soldier who was standing waiting for a bus. The thought "Why didn't I stop for him?" haunted me for days. He was shot in the stomach and seriously wounded minutes after I passed the bus station.
Earlier this summer, I was on the train when an Arab dropped tear gas inside the light rail car.
And yet, day in and day out, the train sails through the streets stopping for all passengers - Jew, Arab, Christian, man, woman, black, white, Israeli, tourist.
It keeps going despite being attacked; it keeps going despite the weather (well, it was defeated by a meter of snow, but so were the buses and cars...though the tanks did a great job).
There's a message there for all of us. I think it was a mistake to route the train through Shuafat, a security nightmare waiting to happen. We all make mistakes as we route ourselves through life. The train has taken a beating almost from the start. We all take beatings as we go through life - some knock us down but it's our job to make sure they never knock us out.
Day in and day out, the train goes along the path it is assigned. It meanders through the most beautiful city in the world, right through its heart, right past its history.
The city labored to bring the train into existence - as we all labored to bring our children into this world. It took so long, but the results are well worth it - so, today's blessing is the light rail train in Jerusalem. Despite its cracked windows and doors, it reminds us that there is hope, that persevering pays off.