Sometimes I lay under the moon, and I thank God I’m breathing. Then I pray: don’t take me soon, ‘cause I am here for a reason.
That line is from a Matisyahu song called “One Day.” On Purim the DJ in Tel Aviv played it at the club. On Wednesday it was in my head in Jerusalem when I heard about the bomb.
Next week I’ll continue the story about Moses. Next week he’ll go to Egypt and confront the Pharaoh and tell him to release his people from their lives of fear. But this week I’d like to say something about the bombing.
I’m currently living in Jerusalem on a 5-month program, of which I’ve completed only two weeks. At the time of the bombing I was in my apartment, which is far away from the site of the explosion; nobody I know was hurt, and nobody I know seems to know anyone that was hurt, but everybody is nonetheless a little shaken. Bus 74, one of the two that got hit, stops two blocks away from our building; one person in our group took that bus half an hour before, and another had been planning on taking it two hours after.
This is the first terrorist attack in Jerusalem in three years, and the first attack involving a bus since 2004. Maybe it’s just me, but for a city like Jerusalem even three years without an attack seems like a long time. And again, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel any more scared or less safe than I felt before. As I sit here writing this on Thursday afternoon, 24 hours after the bombing, the only reason I’m not on a bus right now is because the view outside my window looks more like a Minneapolis March than a Mediterranean one.
While the timing of the attack was certainly surprising—one never anticipates a terrorist attack—the attack itself wasn’t unexpected. We have Israelis living in our building, and they said they were surprised, and that to them this was unexpected. I guess for someone that lives here every day, and has lived daily through three years of calm this would come as a surprise. But for us on the program—or at least for me—the possibility of a terrorist attack was forefront in my mind this entire month. When I got on the plane I knew I was coming to a dangerous city. As I left for Israel my parents told me that they were excited for me, but that they wouldn’t sleep well until I came home. We all got the warnings upon arrival about buses and public places. We all were told that some parts of our new city are not safe. So in many ways I had already prepared myself to hear about an attack, albeit one I hoped would never occur.
I had hoped something like this would never happen. I had hoped that the three years of calm would extend to three and a half years of calm, and then to four years, and so on. I hope that this is just a tiny wave in an otherwise calm sea, but the revolutions throughout this region make that hope unlikely. As of today, Thursday, another two rockets were fired on a village just outside Tel Aviv, and there will probably be another attack in Jerusalem before I leave here; but what am I supposed to do?
Israelis, at least, are used to this. The director of my program sent an email to all of us that said in part: “Children will go to school, adults will go to work and many will continue to travel on Jerusalem’s buses.” The Israelis in our building said that their routine would not change—they would still ride buses. Yet that doesn’t mean that Israelis aren’t scared. “The wall is there because people are scared. All the time,” said an Israeli in our building. That contentious Security Fence that separates Israel Proper from the West Bank at least had been working; the culture of living in fear seemed to be dissipating, if only slightly. Yet as that same Israeli said, “You’ll feel it now in the streets.” Feel what, exactly? What happens now?
Setting off a bomb in Jerusalem is not a spontaneous event; this was planned and organized. Yet nobody has claimed credit for the bombing, and it seems unlikely that Hamas was behind it. The Palestinian Authority, conversely, has tried to frame their struggle as a non-violent one, and the strategy seemed to be working; how does this affect their message? Also, this wasn’t a suicide bomber; it was detonated remotely. During the Intifadas the death of a martyr was seen as the ultimate sacrifice for a higher cause, sending a message (however distorted and mutilated that message may have been) that these people were willing to die for a cause they believed in. Is this a deliberate change in tactics, or was this an isolated event? Are things going to get better from here, or worse? Israel has already said it will retaliate, but how? Many people around the world probably believe that the actions of the Israeli government provoked this. Israel is certainly not infallible, yet when will that day come when the people say they don’t want to fight anymore?
Finally, the Red Crescent (the Palestinian ambulance service) helped rush the wounded in this attack to the hospital. I didn’t exactly know how to fit that in, but I thought it was important to mention. My prayers go out to everyone affected by this tragic event, directly, indirectly, or anyone who will be affected by its repercussions. I also wait for that “one day” when parents will raise their kids to treat their neighbors not as enemies, but friends.
Below are a few of the names of the people hurt in the bombing. Please keep them in your hearts:
Odelia Nechama bat Michal – suffered serious head injuries and is in intensive care. Her life is still in danger.
Natan Daniel ben Shulamit – a 17-year-old student who is in serious condition. He suffered massive internal injuries and has had a number of internal organs removed.
Leah Bracha bat Shoshana – is a 19-year-old seminary student. She suffered burns to her legs and arms as well as serious shock.
David Amoyal – David is the owner of the snack stand next to the bus stop. He told everyone to run away and then called the police, and was on the phone with them when the bomb exploded. He suffered injuries to his legs and feet and lower body. He is in moderate condition.
Sasson ben Shulamit – This is the second time Sasson has been injured in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. He suffered lower body injuries and serious post-traumatic symptoms.
Ad Shapira – Ad is 18 years old and just about to complete high school. She suffered light orthopedic injuries and is in good condition in the hospital.
Shilo ben Ofra – Shilo is 15 years old, and suffered burns and fractures to his legs and lower abdomen. He is sedated in intensive care.
Daniel ben Nurit – Daniel is 13 years old, and suffered lacerations and shrapnel injuries to his lower extremities, and is likely to be released from the hospital before Shabbat.
Elchanan ben Alona – Elchanan is 14 years old, and suffered serious injuries to his feet. One ankle and three of his toes were crushed. He has had one operation and will require more surgery. He will likely be in the hospital at least 2-3 weeks.
Netanel ben Shlomit – Netanel is 18 years old and works as a security guard at the bus station. He was injured in the abdomen had surgery. He is now recuperating in the hospital.