(WikiMedia Commons)

(WikiMedia Commons)

In case you haven’t heard, there is a new campaign in effect on the Jerusalem Light Rail. “First Out, Then In” (“Kodem Yotzim, Achar Kach Nichnasim”), sponsored by the capital’s municipality and the Transportation Ministry, has one mission: Teach passengers waiting to board the train to let disembarking passengers out first.

When the campaign was launched a few weeks ago, I heard quite a few Anglos disparage it. “Why is the city/state spending so much sorely needed money on something that is so obvious and basically common sense?” they demanded.

I, on the other hand, was ecstatic.

A daily user of the light rail – taking it a minimum of 3 stops a minimum of twice a day, but often up to 4 times daily, as I go from home to work to the shuk and back again – I was sick to death of the horrific passenger etiquette. Each time I rode the train, I had been required to gird my loins to frantically push my way through crowds of people, who planted themselves directly in front of the doors so they wouldn’t miss the train and could get on as fast as possible. Never mind the fact that I needed to get out, or I would miss my stop and be late for work/appointments/life.

And that’s not even mentioning the many elderly rail-riders and pregnant women who had to do the same. Or the time delay this added on to the average ride.

In an interesting twist, I learned of the campaign the day after I had arrived at work and ranted and raved to my (Israeli) co-workers about such behaviors. I told them how a crowd of old men had gotten on at Mahaneh Yehuda market and nearly blocked me in with their bubby (zaidy?) shopping carts, since I had the “nerve” to ask them to move away from the door 10 seconds before the train arrived at my stop.

“You’re never getting off the train, you’re with us forever!” one of the elderly chaps said loudly, prompting laughter at the silly American girl (moi). It was probably said half in jest, but I was not in the mood, sighing loudly and hightailing it out of there.

And, improbably, it appeared the government had heard me! Sadly, despite the fact that most Anglos were taught what is known as “manners” growing up, such etiquette is far from being obvious and ingrained in Israel – in fact, what Anglos consider rudeness is often just par for the course in the Land of Milk and Honey. Nobody wants to be a friar, or sucker, and jumps to act before others can – often resulting in actions such as line-cutting that are very frustrating and hard to deal with. You either sink to their level, yell, or ignore it – none of which are good options.

Now that the light rail campaign has been in effect – replete with: designated people handing out simple, colorful flyers that get the message across, along with the incentive of some surprisingly tasty candies; arrows drawn on station floors showing waiting passengers where to stand; and the same designated people verbally directing people to stand aside and also taking surveys of customer attitudes – I have noticed some very positive changes. The majority of people are actually listening and deliberately waiting on the side to let passengers out. Plus, they are more considerate in general, with younger passengers almost always getting up for the old and/or pregnant. (To be fair, Israel is essentially a caring society underneath, and passengers usually got up in the past – but not in the overwhelming numbers I see now.)

These positive changes might wear off slightly when the campaign newness wears off and the designated flyer (er) hander-outers are no more, but I think much of the newly learned good behaviors are here to stay.

It’s been encouraging and even thrilling to see the state address something that I (and many others I know) have been complaining about, but never really thought would be dealt with. Hopefully this is just the beginning of transformations to come.