I am sitting on a train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and there is wifi and a power point to recharge my phone. Never mind that there are only two trains a day and it's almost empty. And not too clean. What a great idea! Do trains in Australia have wifi? I wouldn't know. Maybe on the long country trips? Anyone?
The train is not too speedy but that gives me the chance to see the very pretty countryside, green yet stony, olive trees and terraces and for all I know, she oaks and terebinths and wormwood. You would think that this country, which is as big as a postage stamp,is enormous. 'Eretz chemdah urechava', a broad and pleasant land. Broad! I come from Oz, now THAT'S broad.
There's even a river running in a ravine- ok a small ravine, a ravinette- alongside the tracks. A little river. Now we are passing a sandstone quarry. Vineyards. More olive groves.
I think of this as one of the paradoxes of Israel. We know how small this place is, just look at a map! On most of them you can't even write 'Israel' on the country, there's no room. Yet whenever I visit it takes ages to get anywhere. Partly traffic, partly winding roads, it's a mystery though. A broad tiny land.
More olives and fields, vineyards, a lake. To the right, more fields and a little town, to the left, forest. Ok, it is all on a small scale but it feels so roomy.
Some young guy in a knitted kippah just came through the carriage telling us that they are making a minyan for mincha. You don't see that on trains much.
They just made an announcement which I think means that my stop is next. I don't think I could have understood him even if he spoke English. This seems to be a universal problem, the incomprehensible train announcement.
Starting to look a bit graffitied urban wasteland now, high density living- but still there is a green belt of olive trees between the train line and the crumbling buildings. In between towns the electricity pylons march across the landscape of vineyards and orchards.
I think about another paradox; we hear again and again about Israel's economic miracle, the start-up nation, yet there are so many beggars and socially marginalized, so many outstretched palms and earnest letters from rabbis and doctors; the need is real. Soup kitchens and meals for Shabbat and destitute families. So many NGOs and charities. The economic miracle seems to have bypassed a lot of people.
Then I will take a taxi from the station and sit in traffic for who knows how long.
Maybe my next post will be on the paradox of loving Israel yet finding many Israelis and all Israeli bureaucratic institutions generally annoying and obnoxious? Hmm, maybe not.