Twelve years ago when I took a bus from one city to another in Israel, the ride was anything but quiet. By the end of one’s destination, not only did one know the entire life story of one’s seatmate (and s/he knew yours), there was constant talking, arguing, moving around, joking and jostling.
What happened to the Israeli bus ride I once knew?
Big changes are afoot amongst young people in Israel today. They seem to be kinder and gentler, with a lot less yelling, less aggressive behavior, and less general rudeness. I also noticed that young, secular Israelis are not nearly as spontaneous and curious as they used to be. Dare I say it? They seem almost . . . passive. This spacey sabra quietness almost feels like it’s against the laws of nature.
Everyone under the age of 40 in Israel, and I do mean everyone, is connected to a IPod, an IPad, a DVD player, netbook or cellphone.
Simply put, they are plugged in.
For longer bus rides, movies, TV episodes and games are downloaded and played on their tiny personal screens. Young Israelis are focused on their music, but not on the guy next to them. They’re simply not interested. Spared from conversation, there is little for them to get into an argument about. Frankly, they’re kind of spaced out. And since they’re connected only to a world of bytes and bits, instead of the real one, when you do wake them from their other-worldly state in virtual reality-land with an earnest question, they respond groggily – – albeit – – (are you sitting down?) politely.
Within the chareidi and/or elderly population, electronic devices are not as prevalent. Hence, people still talk to one another. They interact. They shout. Yentas and bubbies still “tsk” at young mothers for not putting socks on their babies’ feet. Bais Yaakov girls and middle-school-aged yeshiva bochrim push their way up and down the standing-room-only bus to visit back and forth with various acquaintences seated at opposite ends of the bus.
Yet, here in Israel, where chutzpah is worn like a badge of honor, the krechtsing, kvetching and tumult somehow seems more normal – – for better or worse – – than the eerily silent, wire-connected young sabras I will now, sadly, never get to know . . . at least, not on the bus.