In the world of public transportation, lots of things change in 64 years. Take Egged buses, for example. The “no spitting” signs are no longer posted today, but a lot of history still sticks to these buses.
In an open-air, hands-on museum in Holon, you can discover this history. There Israel’s largest public transport company freely displays its function in the building of modern-day Israel. Sixty restored buses, all painted in their original colors, stand on exhibit.
The museum offers lots of insight into the early days of statehood (and for those who live in Israel, it brings back lots of memories). We don’t ordinarily associate buses and combat. But in Israel’s early wars, buses played a role. The well nicknamed “Tepla” (in Yiddish, “the pot”) covered Route 2094. This bus traveled between the moshavim near Petach Tikva, carrying both people and farm products such as eggs and milk. One of the buses that traveled this line was attacked the morning after the U.N. declaration of Israel’s statehood. In effect, this event began the War of Independence.
On the lot you will notice an armor-plated bus, license number M-872-F. This bus protected police going up to Mount Scopus during the early days of statehood. It was also used in filming Cast a Giant Shadow. As you may recall, Kirk Douglas played the role of the amazing real life American Jew David “Mickey” Marcus, who volunteered as a military adviser for the infant Jewish state.
Another bus has a connection to the Six-Day War. This particular vehicle was found in Beit Jalla after the war. Following its 1940 manufacture, it had transported Jordanians around the Hashemite Kingdom.
When Santa Katarina was still in Israeli hands, bus number 38-598 traveled to this historic site (said to be the place where Moses experienced the “burning bush”) in the Sinai Desert. While this bus was meant for desert travel, there were the occasional breakdowns. At times, passengers had to push the bus out of the sand.
Check out license number 89-299. This was the first air-conditioned bus in Israel. Before AC was installed in Egged buses, riding the bus in the spring and summer months was physically challenging. Your shirt would adhere to the seat back. When Egged still used wooden bus seats, this meant you might get off the bus with the wood dye staining your top.
In the 1990s, we had a brief taste of English life when double-decker Egged buses transported people between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Leg room on the bus was limited, but as yokel-locals like to say, it was a “chavaya,” an experience.
Open on Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., no charge for admission, the museum is located in the Holon Bus Depot. Explanatory signs are provided in Hebrew with English translations on the back side. Note: As all the buses stand out-of-doors, you must come with a hat and water.
Egged buses have been the venue for good times and bad times in Israel. It behooves us to recall those who died in terrorist bus attacks. Below is a sampling of Jerusalem-area memorials to those who were killed:
Intercity bus # 405 July 6, 1989
Location of marker: To the side of the Tel Aviv/Jerusalem Highway across from Kiryat Yearim (Telz Stone). Facing a pastoral view, this memorial is unfortunately not easy to reach. A terrorist seized the wheel of the moving bus causing it to plunge down a hilly embankment. Sixteen people died in this attack, many were hurt.
Local bus # 26 Aug. 21, 1995
Location of marker: In front of the Rene Cassin High School on Levy Eshkol Boulevard in the Ramot Eshkol neighborhood. A Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up, killing four people, injuring many others.
Local bus #18 March 3, 1996
Location of marker: Jaffa Rd. and Shlomzion HaMalka St., facing the Generali Building.
A Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up, killing 19 passengers, injuring many. This was the second attack on this line within a week’s time. The gematria for the number 18 equals the Hebrew word Chai, or Life. The irony made this loss of life even harder to bear.
Local bus # 14 Feb. 2, 2004
Location of marker: Across from Liberty Bell Garden and the Sonol gas station
A suicide bomber blew himself up, killing eight people, causing injury to 60 others.