On some mornings during the week, I leave relatively early to the university I attend. By ‘relatively’ I mean around seven thirty in the morning to the service stop though my first class starts at nine o’clock. Along with my siblings who attend school, I put my seatbelt on, and my mother takes us to our various stops.
Our first stop is any supermarket on the way to buy the daily newspaper, which for my family is Al-Quds daily newspaper.
Since the newspaper is written in Arabic, I begin reading the front page headlines, going on to the orbituaries, horoscopes, and the very last page of the paper which has the interesting headlines like those “Man caught with snakes on a plane” type headlines. Then, I skim through the other pages, looking at the various photographs, job offers, advertisments, etc.
There is this one section in the paper, though, that always catches my eye. It is called “Yesterday and Today” in Arabic. This section gives two photographs of an area in Occupia*, one taken a while back and another taken recently. Earlier this month, this section was on page nineteen of the newspaper. The photographs were of a train station in Jaffa. The caption under them read, “1920- Train station in Jaffa that tied the city with Jerusalem and the rest of the Arab world (at that time, of course). It was built in 1863 and is out of use today.”
Well, isn’t that beautiful? It was only a few days before I saw this in the newspaper that I was telling my cousin there should be a train connecting various different areas together so travel could be easy. And to think there was once an actual one!
Yesterday’s photograph is taken from the side view of the train. Two men wearing traditional clothing are standing on th same side. Looking through the windows of the train, people that are already on board can be seen. Behind the train, the station stands with two large trees on both of its sides. Being on its railroad tracks, the train seems to be ready to be on the move.
Reading closely into what ‘yesterday’s’ photo tried to tell me, I began to get a feeling. This feeling was actual a mix of emotions. There was a sense of hope for the future of the city. If the train was still in use, and people were in and out of that train, Jaffa would be extra beautiful…more than it is today. There was a sense of prosperity for the people living there.
Today’s photograph, which is the recent one in comparison with the other, is taken from an angle that is opposite of the rear of the train. Not a single person, not a single soul, is captured in the photo. The train looks like it only exists in a small part with the rest of it missing. However, like yesterday’s photograph, the train station stands next to the train with the same big trees still on each of its sides.
While reading into this photograph, my smile turned into a frown. The feelings I had for the photograph from ‘yesterday’ had suddenly flipped. It left a feeling of abandonment from people. It left a sense of loss of a factor of beauty but an addition of a factor of war and defeat because it closed down in 1948 only to be retored in later years for “entertainment”.
For over one hundred years, this train has been standing on its railroad tracks. At one point, as yesterday’s photograph tells me, the train moved with people on board, be it the Occupied, the British, or German and others. Today’s photo, however, tells me that now, there are no people, and the train only remains as a reminder of a certain time in history. These two photographs of the train taken at two different periods of time reminds me of the change and difference time can make, whether you and I want it to or not. The train that traveled from Jaffa to Jerusalem has reached its final destination, having been deserted from two things that were full of life yesterday, people and the whistle of the train.