Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another terrorist attack in Jerusalem

This afternoon there was another terrorist attack in Jerusalem, also committed by a driver who took his tractor and attacked a bus, cars, and pedestrians on King David St., close to the intersection with Keren ha-Yesod St. A friend of mine works in an office right there and heard (and saw) what happened. No one was killed by the terrorist, although quite a few were injured, one very seriously (leg severed). The terrorist himself was killed by a Border Policeman.

I happened to be near Jaffa Gate at the time - I had just come to the end of Mamilla St. closest to Jaffa Gate (after strolling down there - my intention was to go into the Old City and buy some photographs of old Jerusalem as gifts), and when I walked up the steps to the plaza before Jaffa Gate I heard a lot of police and ambulance sirens. With a lot of other people, I looked over the bridge towards the King David Hotel and wondered what was going on. Lots of police cars went under the bridge and up the road to where they could turn onto Hebron Rd. It didn't seem so good.

I started asking people what was going on and it turned out that there had been another tractor attack, this time on King David St. I called my friend and she told me what she had seen. I was rather shaken up and wondered what I should be doing. I walked inside the Jaffa Gate and stood around. The usual men trying to get one to buy from their shops came up to me, and I asked them if they had heard anything about what was happening - which they hadn't. I then saw more police and soldiers rushing out of the gate - two policemen on horses and a number of soldiers on foot. I went out a few minutes after they had gone and talked to a haredi guy I had previously spoken to - he said that they had headed for the Sultan's Pool area and further on below Yemin Moshe. They told people to get away. (I read on the news just now that apparently the police were chasing two men they thought were accomplices of the terrorist).

My friend on King David St. told me that there were shots then - this is when they shot at the driver and killed him. I went back inside the Jaffa Gate and went into a shop at the beginning of David St. - a watchseller where there was a television on showing the Israeli news. The shopkeeper and I watched the news for a while and then I went out again.

After I had calmed down a bit, I went into the Old City and found the photo shop that I had been looking for - Elia's Photos on 14 Hanka Rd., in the Christian Quarter. The man who owns the shop is Armenian, and the photos he sells were taken by his father, a refugee from the Armenian genocide, who came to Jerusalem in 1924. I bought a few for gifts and then decided it was time to go.

I went back to the Jaffa Gate and tried to figure out what to do. It seemed unlikely that a cab would be able to get me back to my apartment on Shimon St., because the police had closed off King David St. I started to walk, going back on Mamilla St. to King David and then walking down towards Gan ha-Pa'amon. At Mapu St. the road was blocked by police tape, so I turned onto Mapu St. and passed the bus that had been damaged by the tractor - the windows had been knocked out.

I then turned on Keren Ha-Yesod heading towards Baka and came to the intersection with King David, where there were still many police and soldiers, as well as the international press. People were standing around and looking - including me - and I could see a damaged car and the tractor itself. It wasn't as big as the one that wreaked havoc on Jaffa Rd. three weeks ago, but sufficiently big to overturn a car and run into others. It's really a miracle that no one was killed.

The Lubavitchers had set up a big banner right in the intersection - something about how the Rebbe thinks the government should be overturned. (Of course, the rebbe is dead, something these particular Lubavitchers don't acknowledge, since they think he's the Messiah and still alive - shades of Christianity). I thought it was pretty disgraceful that they had decide to come here to this place to shove their political opinions in our faces, and I told them so. I then continued down Keren ha-Yesod to where Emek Refaim and Bethelehem Rd. meet, and there my friend picked me up in a (thankfully) air-conditioned cab. And so I came home and took a shower.

Not what I wanted to experience on my last day in Jerusalem.

Oh, and by the way, this was actually a terrorist attack - the previous attack was considered by the BBC (but not by any Israelis) to be the attack of a disturbed man. The perpetrator of this assault is related to a Hamas official who is currently in an Israeli prison.

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