"...my soul is revived when I return to Jerusalem."

Eyad Bebars (with Hassan)

Location: Arlozorov Train Station, Tel Aviv

Residence: East Jerusalem

Age: 40

The encounter: I met Eyad and his family at the train station in Tel Aviv, where they were waiting for the Train of Smiles, a special Purim celebration for children with cancer. I was accompanying my kids, who had been invited to perform with their circus troupe. Of course, the event started on Middle Eastern time, i.e. an hour later than announced. Those of us who had arrived early were left to wait amidst chaos and confusion. As my kids tried to find out what was going on and where they would perform, I sat down beside Eyad.

What are you doing here right now?
My child is sick and they invited us to come here. I’m not sure what they have planned for us. I think they’re taking us by train to Haifa.

What is you occupation?
I'm a taxi driver.

How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I am a Muslim Israeli Arab. But I don’t make a difference between Jews or Arabs. I have friends from all religions.
I’m an Israeli citizen. Some people in East Jerusalem choose not to become Israeli citizens. I’d say sixty percent are not. But I’m a citizen because my father already had an Israeli passport. He was born in Jerusalem in 1944, under the British occupation. Then, he lived under Jordanian occupation, and then under Israel. The rights we have as Israeli citizens – democracy, health insurance, social security... – we won’t find those anywhere in the Arab world.

Can you tell me a bit about your family?
My wife and I have been married for nineteen years. We grew up in the same neighborhood, so we’ve always known each other. We have four children: three boys and a girl. The youngest is seven, the oldest is eighteen, my daughter is fifteen, and Hassan is thirteen-and-a-half. Six months ago, Hassan was diagnosed. It’s been difficult. The treatments make him sick. Before every hospital appointment, he’s very anxious and distressed. I hope he’ll enjoy himself here today.

Where is your family from?
My family is from Jerusalem.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
I don’t want demonstrations, protests, wars... none of it! I just want to work, live quietly in Jerusalem, and take care of my children.
I want my children to live in peace. I hope these elections will improve the chances for that.
I don’t care about Israel or Palestine. My country is Jerusalem. When I travel elsewhere for a few days, I feel that my soul is revived when I return to Jerusalem.