French Israel

Sunday, February 22, 2004

This morning, a bus on the 14A line was running its route between southwest Jerusalem and Har 'Homa by way of Talpiot, crowded with passengers. On this bus was a suicide bomber who decided that his life and that of at least eight others (the current toll) no longer deserved to continue. He was right on only one account. Sixty-some more were injured.

I was running a tad late for yeshiva anyway -- today being Rosh 'Hodesh, the tefillah took a long time, and I had slightly overslept, enough to miss my 6:00a.m. minyan. So by 8:36a.m., when I got the notice on my telephone, it seemed more appropriate to find out what had happened than to run and jump on the bus in order to continue studies as usual. Can we really continue as normal, almost as if nothing happened, providing someone we know isn't on the bus when it happens? (I'm still trying to figure this one out, and plan to write more about it in the future, hoping to get your comments on the subject.)

A search of the local radio stations proved to be no help, as they were no doubt not yet ready to report the news. I'm spoiled by my instant messages on the telephone just when big things like this happen (the slaughter occurred at 8:30; the news was on my telephone display six minutes later). Radio MiKol HaLev was running its typical English-language programming for that time slot: back-to-back adverts for Jewish businesses, all presumably in New York, leading up to Dov Sherin's talk show. Surely they know what's going on, I thought. But apparently not. Just one clueless commercial after another.

Only Radio France Internationale gave me all the details available at that instant, and they reported it in an appropriately distraught, caring, and non-pro-palestinian way. The other news programming I have heard from them also seems not anti-Israeli or antisemitic. (Their nearest broadcast point, mind you, is located in Amman.) You francophobes can chew on that for a while.

The last time this happened was three weeks ago, in nearly the same place. Today's murder took place opposite the Gan HaPa'amon [Liberty Bell Park]. The pigoua [terrorist attack] of 29 January, an equally beautiful Thursday morning, took place on a number 19 bus on Re'hov Aza [Gaza street -- no connexion to the Gaza region].

If you have no images, you're unfortunate indeed.

I was already in the yeshiva at that point, standing in the Beit Medrash when we began hearing sirens, one after the other, and the messages started arriving on my phone. We were encouraged to say a couple of tehillim [Psalms]. After Gemara class, my 'havrouta [study partner] Asher and I decided to go down as close as we could to the scene of the crime.

If you have no images, you're unfortunate indeed.The area in which the exploded shell of the bus was well guarded. So we took a walk around the neighbourhood, noting undercover security officers along the way. (One of the dangers in past attacks has been a repeated attack on the people who arrive on the scene to help the victims.)

If you have no images, you're unfortunate indeed.Even a couple of blocks away, one could see the effects of the shock of the bomb. Shattered storefront windows...

If you have no images, you're unfortunate indeed....and shattered car windows.

But of course property damage, which has no doubt been repaired and covered by insurance, is a trifle compared to the carnage. In this particular case, the aftermath is documented . The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a video of the aftermath available oneline so that all can see the reality of this gruesome act. Maybe you are ready for it; maybe not. My personal tact, as I fumble seeking the proper response, is not to avoid reality but to be as familiar with it as possible. For those who would tend to agree, you can see the Foreign Ministry's report at this site. A link to the video can be found on that page.

The blasted hull of this bus is now on display in a downtown plaza of the Hague, as an international tribunal tries to decide whether Israel has the right to try to monitor access into free territory of the Arab squatters living in their settlements. Presumably the blood and entrails have been cleaned off the handrails inside and properly buried.

HaShem yikom damam.
PinḼas Ivri 22:32


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