Shop owners and bystanders stood in awe in downtown Nablus as they heard and saw a miniature train full of children touring the area of the northern West Bank city. Overcome with surprise and curiosity, residents watched the miniature train drive through the streets, full of children singing along with the music coming out of some speakers on the little train.
The children expressed the joy that is so rare in their lives due to the daily scenes of killing, destruction by the Israeli army, which targets the city on a daily basis. 'Mini Train Asurfi' is how the people of Nablus city know the little train, which is mainly used by local schools for field trips and entertaining the schoolchildren.
This has become a popular substitute to trips outside of the city, as schools are unable to coordinate such activities due to the Israeli army's closures on the area. Khamees Asurfi, an old man who lives in Askar refugee camp located inside Nablus, is the owner of the mini train.
He says that he bought the train earlier this year from Tiberius city inside the Green Line, and after putting some folk Palestinian decorations on it he put it to use in the city of Nablus in an attempt to bring joy and happiness to the children of the city. Asurfi also stated that a lot of local schools are now using the miniature train for field trips inside the boundaries of the city; even local couples are using the train to be photographed in on their wedding day.
Anybody can experience the thrill of the miniature train in Nablus, the first of its kind in the city, by buying a ticket for only half a US dollar.
"Riding the train around Nablus while a children's song plays all the ride long is a wonderful form of entertainment for the children who have been trapped inside the city for the past five years, unable to leave because of the Israeli occupation", a local teacher commented.
Ola, an 8 year old girl from Nablus, said that she had seen these trains on television and that she had always dreamt of riding one. Now that dream has come true.
This is not the first train to travel through the city of Nablus. During the 1940's the Hijassi Railway went through Nablus, connecting Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt together and reaching all the way to the holy city of Mecca. Visiting the city of Nablus, you can still see the remains of this railway with its old disused stations.