A Train Ride Back to the Old Israel (New York Times, Oct. 17, 2018)

It takes four times as long as the new high-speed rail. I take it anyway.

JERUSALEM — Last month, the first section of a new high-speed rail line opened in Israel. When it’s fully operational a few months from now, passengers will board fire-engine-red carriages in Tel Aviv and be whisked on electrified track over the country’s longest bridge, then over its highest, and through the longest tunnel, and finally into a new station 260 feet under Jerusalem. The trip, about 35 miles, will take less than 30 minutes, making it, by a wide margin, the fastest way to get between the country’s two most important cities.

The line, more than a decade and many delays in the making, is the new Israel. Or at least what Israel would like to be: a place that can look any Western country in the eye. The Israeli train of 2018 is shiny, fast and travels in a straight line.

But progress has its victims. And here it’s the old country — a small, inefficient but compelling place that Israelis call the “good old land of Israel.”

The old Israel is represented in this case by the main casualty of the new train: the historic Jerusalem-Tel Aviv line, which has been running on and off since 1892 and isn’t likely to run much longer.

Like the old Israel, the old train is sporadically functional. It can take four times as long as the new service and twice as long as driving. It’s so impractical for most commuters that even before the appearance of its flashy rival, it was nearly empty much of the time. But the old train has a modest cult following, of which I’m a proud member, and I’d hate to see it pass from the world without proper tribute.

(Read the whole thing here.)