On Traffic and Territories

October 12, 2008 by

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Living in Modiin, and commuting most days to Jerusalem, I am presented each day with what appears to be a relatively simple dilemma: what’s the best way to get to work?

Like most things in Israel though, it turns out to be not quite so simple. The quickest way is to take the lovely new Road 443 which zips you from Modiin to Jerusalem in under half an hour. It’s a beautiful new road, straight as a die, no traffic, stress-free, brilliant. The alternative is to take good old “kvish mispar echad” (Road Number 1), which is the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, full of winding bends and steep ascents and descents,. In the middle of the day, or later on in the evening, when there is no traffic, this is only about 10 minutes longer than the 443. But any other time that has the faintest whiff of rush hour about it turns Road Number 1 into a parking lot. “So what’s the problem? Just take the 443!”

Well, one of the reasons that the 443 is so quick is that it cuts through over the Green Line, into territories captured by Israel in the 6 day war. And while the road was originally designed for use by, and indeed was used by, the Palestinian Arab communities who live alongside it (it also zips you to Ramallah in no time at all), the entrance/exit roads to those Palestinian villages were closed off after several drive-by shootings, some fatal, during the Al-Aksa intifada in 2001 or 2002. So now it’s one of those, ahem, “apartheid” roads, that you read about on the news.

Now, I happen to think that the commuting traffic issue is one that has not yet been fully explored by right-wing media and politicians. I mean, it’s all very well that the Palestinians want their own state, but what about my commute? Why should I sit in traffic for 20 minutes just so that 5 million people can have self-determination?

For me personally, this dilemma is an enormous tension between two very important things in my life: (i) Middle East Peace and (ii) 10 minutes’ extra sleep at night. So here is the solution I have come up with:

Peace offsets.

You know, like carbon offsets? When Al Gore gets all upset about global warming but then runs up a huge bill air conditioning his mansion, he gives money to various organizations that promise to “offset” his carbon footprint by planting trees, investing in renewable energy, etc. Just about every airline is getting in on the act now too. I figure, why not do the same with Road 443? Every time I drive on it, I will make a small donation to Peace Now or a similarly worthy group. So just as Al Gore can have his cake and eat it too, so can I! I can be self-righteous and lefty-liberal about the Peace Process, and go to bed to enjoy my extra 10 minutes’ sleep with a clear conscience! Hurray! Who said living in Israel was complicated?

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