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Koby Tanzer, March 16, 2012

When you live in Israel, you live amongst family. The 504 commuter bus from Raanana to Tel Aviv is a standout reflection of this. When you take the same bus every day with the same driver and same passengers a sort of kinship develops. During the summer, the driver of the 8:10 bus, Dudu, started saving the front seat for me. I actually witnessed him kick someone out of “my seat” once as I was boarding. Sure this isn’t really the kind of protectsia that you can take to the bank, but hey, a new Oleh needs to start somewhere. I knew that Dudu and I had reached a new level when one day he handed me his ringing cell phone and asked me to take a message.

The 8:35 bus has a very loyal following and Eli, my current driver, is everyone’s friend. Secular, religious, men, women, soldiers, kids, Olim, and Sabras, everyone is greeted with a smile and offered a newspaper which Eli stocks on the front dash. Every once in a while, a local Rabbi who is one of the occasional regulars gives a class on Parshat Hashavua at the front of the bus. Eli puts on a kippa and listens intently along with the first few rows in earshot. All who are interested listen in, all are welcome.

One morning I noticed that Eli was in a particularly good mood. It turns out that the day before was his new grandson’s bris and he wanted to share his simcha with all of us. As we eased out onto the highway, I noticed a little commotion up front among Eli’s most loyal regulars. “No”, I thought to myself, “they couldn’t possibly be opening bottles of wine on a moving bus.” Yet, indeed, they were. Turns out Eli wanted to hold a kiddush on the bus, and with the help of a few soldiers, wine and cookies were passed out to all. After the blessings were recited over the loud speaker, cups were raised and everyone wished Eli and his family much happiness. For the rest of the ride, everyone smiled. The regular routine of the commute was turned into one big schmooze as we sipped an early morning plastic cup of wine. Only in Israel, only in Israel…

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