Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A bomb explodes in Jerusalem.

busstationI was sitting in the Ministry of the Interior office in the center of town in Jerusalem, I was applying for my Israeli passport. I was sucked into a fairly successful game of angry birds on my ipod. I looked up, the “take a number” board listed 32, only 10 more numbers until it was my turn. Then, the piercing sound of an ambulance roared past the office. I thought nothing of it… there are always ambulances running around. But the sounds didn’t stop… it wasn’t one ambulance, it sounded like an army of sirens. Everyone in the office was looking around. People started crowding onto the balcony to see what was going on outside. The room became tense. Something was wrong- we all felt it. I quickly checked the news on my ipod. Nothing at 15:05. But the sirens grew louder… what was happening? 5 minutes later, I checked the news again. “Breaking news: The entrance to the city has been closed after an explosion was heard near the central bus station.” Cell phones began to ring. My phone rang, it my cousin.

“Where are you? Are you still at the Ministry of the Interior?”

“Yes I’m still here… what happened? There was a bomb? What’s going on? ”

She wasn’t sure… she replied, “I think it’s a bus bombing… it’s the 74.”

I had just taken the 74 to get to the office. My heart sank. I started to shake. Then, my number appeared… it was my turn.

As I left the office, I took a deep breath- perhaps it’s better to walk home.

In the time that followed the attack, everyone in Jerusalem was on the phone. As I walked through the center of town to get to my neighborhood, I didn’t pass one person who didn’t have a phone stuck to their ear. I was bombarded by calls and texts, making sure I was Ok. I was calling my friends… I just needed to know no one was there, no one was hurt. Networks began to fail as the lines were overloaded. As I spoke to people, more information began to be revealed… the bomb was not on the bus, no ones was killed, the bomb was detonated at Benyamin HaUma near a phone booth(beside the Central Bus Station). I was still shaking… honestly I was scared. I decided to call my mom, I wanted her to know about the attack and that I was fine before she saw it on CNN and started to freak out. The moment I heard her voice, I started to cry.

When you are living in Israel, and experiencing your day to day activities, it’s easy to get lulled into a sense of security. I had read earlier in the day that there had been Katyusha rockets fired at both Be’er Sheva and Ashdod. But that was in Be’er Sheva and Ashdod, I was in Jerusalem. Just last week, Israel suffered the tragedy of a family being slain in their sleep. But that was in Itamar, I was in Jerusalem. There hasn’t been a bombing in Jerusalem since 2004. I know that Jerusalem doesn’t feel as safe as my home town of Toronto… but it doesn’t feel so bad. Today, knocked me out of that feeling. I didn’t just read about it in Haaretz or J-post, or hear about it on TV. I was minutes away.

When I spoke to my mom, after we got through the shock, and the worry, she was angry. Angry that ’someone’ could detonate a bomb and try to kill innocent people. That’s the feeling now.. anger at that ’someone’. We all know who that ’someone’ is…it’s that “homogeneous group” we call Palestinians. They are the ones trying to blow up Jews at crowded bus stops, and they are the ones throwing rockets into our southern cities. But be warned our Prime Minister says, “Israel will act firmly”. Violence begets violence.

The truth is, when something like this happens, it’s natural to feel like that. We are scared, we are nervous, and we translate it to anger. We want to defend ourselves. We want to be strong. I don’t know what is going to happen in Israel in the next few days. I don’t know what acting firmly means. I do know that this city is going to feel a little different tomorrow. We’ll do the same things we did today, and we did the day before, and we’ll continue to do in the future. But something has changed… our quiet has been disturbed.

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