Jerusalem’s multi-faith train crosses city, creed and gen­der

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

IT MIGHT be seven years later than the orig­i­nal sched­ule and take twice the time to ar­rive than that promised by its plan­ners, but as of last Fri­day, Jerusalem fi­nally has Israel’s first ligh­trail net­work.

Well, not ex­actly a net­work: so far there is only one line, 14 kilo­me­tres from the Pis­gat Ze’ev neigh­bour­hood in the north-east­ern corner of the cap­i­tal, all the way through the town cen­tre to Mount Herzl in the west, and there are no im­me­di­ate plans for more lines. But why quib­ble? For the next three months, it’s free of charge.

Thou­sands of Jerusalemites flocked to board the train on its first days, crowd­ing the space-age-look, sleek and si­lent, sil­ver car­riages.

For now, the light-rail, op­er­ated by City-Pass, a part­ner­ship in­clud­ing the in­ter­na­tional Ve­o­lia cor­po­ra­tion, is not a vi­able trans­port op­tion.

The av­er­age jour­ney, end-to-end, is over 70 min­utes, much longer than the time it would take by bus, and cer- tainly in a pri­vate car, but the op­er­a­tors prom­ise to cut the travel time by half in three months, when glitches in the mu­nic­i­pal traf­fic-light sys­tem are ironed out.

Each train can carry a max­i­mum of 500 pas­sen­gers but as more trains are added to the line and fre­quency im­proves, to­wards the end of the trial pe­riod, the near-crush scenes of the last few days are also sup­posed to be a pass­ing me­mory.

Res­i­dents of all groups and creeds tried out the new ride this week and this is prob­a­bly the least pre­dictable as­pect of the new train’s fu­ture. Go­ing from east to west, through Jewish and Arab neigh­bour­hoods, and pre­dom­i­nantly sec­u­lar to strictly-Or­tho­dox quar­ters, it is a multi-faith train that will test the city’s sen­si­tive fault­lines.

So far, City Hall has re­sisted de­mands by the Charedi com­mu­nity to seg­re­gate men and women in part of the car­riages; there were still many black­hat­ted men try­ing out the ser­vice this week.

Though left-wing and Pales­tinian groups have crit­i­cised the line’s route, orig­i­nat­ing across the Green Line, there were also plenty of Pales­tinian young­sters who got on at the Beit Han­ina and Shuafat stops.

PHO­TOS: FLASH 90

Free rid­ers: some strictly Or­tho­dox pas­sen­gers on the light rail­way

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