‘Transportation Man’ Retires

Nahum Gabbay, longtime transportation coordinator in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, retired. "The future will be as good as the present," he says.

Elad Benari , | updated: 5:12 AM

Israel News photo: IDF Website archive

Nahum Gabbay, the longtime transportation coordinator of the Civil Administration in Yesha (Judea, Samaria, and Gaza), retired in a moving ceremony on Sunday after 46 years of service.

As part of his job, Gabbay would oversee the movement of both Arabs and Jews. His many travels around Judea and Samaria are equal to circling the earth 29 times. During his 46 years of service, he has written 22,000 reviews on operational issues. One day before he retired, he told the IDF website a bit about his job and his experiences.

“When we came here we had roads with no signage and without any basic conditions,” he recalled. “All the roads, even the major ones, looked like paths to villages. Our ambition was to bring them up to the standards of the roads in the State of Israel, and while we're still not quite there, today, compared to 1967, we're travelling on roads of the highest standards.”

Today, Judea and Samaria has 2,000 kilometers of roads, 1,400 of which are looked after by Israel, reported the IDF’s website. The area has 15 traffic lights and nearly 3,000 kilometers of safety railings. There is also public transportation, and all the credit for that fact goes to Gabbay.

“The person who created the public transportation system for Jewish residents of the area and for soldiers was yours truly,” said Gabbay. “We divided the routes into three types: routes that cross Judea and Samaria, routes between major cities, and routes in urban areas. Today we have over 200 public transportation routes.”

He noted that due to the rural character of the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of the region, the bigger busses were rendered ineffective.

“Today, transportation is based on minibuses. Because of its success, the model is used in east Jerusalem as well,” said Gabbay. “But the greatest achievement, I believe, is reducing the PA public transport companies from 386 to 86. We integrated companies. They became more consolidated, stronger, and more organized. You cannot compare the level of efficiency now to what it was before.”

He noted that throughout all his years in service, he worked with civilians, including Arab ones. “I tried to convince the Arab mayors to hire traffic engineers, since the roads in their cities were casually built. Today, they all work with professionals.”

Gabbay recalled that the first traffic light in the region was launched in 1987 and was stationed at the intersection of Beit Jala and Bethlehem. “Unfortunately, immediately after [the launch] the intifada broke out,” he said. “Everything symbolizing Israel was smashed, including the traffic light.”

Gabbay ended the interviewing by expressing his deep gratitude for the people with whom he had worked over the years, both local residents (Jewish and Arab) as well as security officers.

“I’m not a resident of Judea and Samaria but I devoted my heart and soul to this place,” he said. “I tried my best, without fear or discrimination, to fulfill any obligation that I had toward the Jewish and Arab population alike.”

He also thanked those in uniform with whom he has worked. “It was fun to work with the military officers,” he said. “We were a family. You cannot do things like we did without working as a team.”

Gabbay said that he believes the future of Judea and Samaria will be as good as the past and the present, despite the difficulties. “No matter what decision you make, there will be people who are satisfied and there will be people who oppose it. I always aimed to be balanced and, ultimately, I believe I made the right decisions.”

He said that “there's still plenty to do, not only in the public transport system but also in terms of security infrastructure and the welfare of the population itself. We need to invest both in the budget as well as in the attention we give to these issues. But it will happen! It will happen because many people work here straight from their hearts. It’s not about political considerations. People live here. You have to allow them to live.”