Thursday, November 6, 2014

Jerusalem and the Unforgettable Train Ride

This was written by Jacob Richman, a friend who has spent many years photographing and sharing aspects of Israel and the Hebrew language with the world. He shared this and after reading it, I asked him if I could share it here.

It is about his experience last night on the Jerusalem light rail. From the title, on the day when one died and 13 others were hurt in a terror attack at one light rail station, I was expecting him to write about getting stoned, or worse. I was trying to remember if I'd heard of any incidents on the train.

Instead, as I read it, what came to mind is a beautiful Hebrew word and concept - chesed. Chesed means compassion - but it often relates to action - an act of chesed - an act of kindness or compassion. Chesed in thought is important, but chesed in action is a wondrous thing. Jacob was honored to have seen it, and we are all honored to share in what he saw through his telling of this special chesed.

A Train Ride I Will Never Forget

by Jacob Richman

Tonight, I paid a visit to a friend recovering from surgery in Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem. His recovery is going well and tomorrow they may let him go home.

I left the hospital after 9:30 pm and walked over to the light rail station opposite Yad Sarah. As is my habit from riding the subways in Brooklyn (coming home from school), I entered the very beginning of the train. After so many years, I still like watching the engineer drive the train. When I got on, the train was half empty and I took a front row seat.

I was about to have the privilege to see something totally amazing. An "Only in Israel" episode.

Near the front side door of the train (where I walked in) was a guy wearing a train security jacket and he had two very large tea thermos on the floor and two open packages of hotcups tucked into a space near the top of a holding pole. As the train entered a station, he would wave to the security personnel on the platform to go to the beginning of the platform. When the doors opened, he would quickly pour them a hot cup of tea. If the security guard could not get to the front door in time, he would hold the door for a few seconds or if there were several security guards, he would quickly pour several cups and place them on the platform right outside the train door. Once or twice he stepped out of the train and whistled to get the attention of the security guards.

At one of the stops, the train engineer opened his secure door and turned around a bit and tried to argue with the security guy that he was breaking train procedures. The security guard told him that he is doing his job (or something like that) and that he will not cause any schedule delays.

I spoke to the security guy and found out he does this every night. I said to him (and others near us) that in the 30 years I have been in Israel, I was in awe by such a good thing he was doing. He did not say anything, maybe just a smile. I did not take pictures or ask for his name.

When we approached a stop in Gelua (one before the terrorist attack platform) an older Hasid (by the way he was dressed maybe be a Rebbe) that sat across from me was getting up to leave the train. He looked at me and smiled and I think we both nodded at each other at the same time. He knew what we had witnessed was something very, very special.

The platform at the next stop on the train was full of soliders and security peronnel. It was the stop where the terrorist killed an Israeli Druze Border Patrol Chief Inspector. His name was Jadan Assad, 38, from the Druze village of Beit J’an in northern Israel. He leaves behind his pregnant wife and a three year old child. I never met Jadan, but he was also someone very special. May he rest in peace.

Before I got off the train at Ammunition Hill, I shook the security person's hand and thanked him. I do not think that the night time train, hot tea run was part of his job. In fact, his conversation with the train engineer seems to confirm that it was not.

I think he knew most of the train security personnel and during the ride two ticket inspectors boarded the train and he knew them also and poured them some hot tea. My guess is that he quickly poured dozens of cups of hot tea at that late hour. I offered him my seat during the ride but he declined and he was constantly on the lookout for security personnel on the train platforms. He gave warmth to many people on the train platforms tonight. He gave me a train ride I will never forget.

Lately, with all the sad news that we hear and all the problems each one of us may have, it is inspiring to see how just one single security guard on a late night train ride can change the world. I saw it tonight and had to tell others.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Have a good night,
Jacob

Article reprinted with permission from: The Train Ride that I Will Never Forget

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