Bulldozer Copycat Attack: On the Scene

by Brian on July 22, 2008

in Only in Israel

Amir and I were downtown when the police cars and ambulances started zooming past us, their sirens blaring. We had just finished an ice coffee at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and were waiting at a bus stop to go home.

One after another, the police sped down Jaffa Road. There must have been at least 100 vehicles in just a few minutes. The reason was clear: there had been a terror attack. But we didn’t know what or where.

I called Jody to see if she had any information. She had been with a client and hadn’t listened to the news. Next I called home to make sure the kids were safe. They were. I asked Merav to check the web. There was nothing. All the while the sirens continued to whiz past. We began to speculate on what had happened.

Was it a suicide bomber on a bus? An explosion at a cafe? The police all seemed to be heading in the direction of the King David Hotel. Wasn’t British Prime Minister Gordon Brown staying there? Had U.S. Democratic candidate Barack Obama already arrived. About that time, my cell phone died, leaving us incommunicado.

The bus came and we got on. The driver had the radio turned up loud and every alighting passenger asked if he’d heard anything. He hadn’t. The news reported everything was as usual (as usual as things can be in Israel).

At the corner of King David and Agron Streets, the police had blocked off the road. We were directed into a monumental traffic jam heading up the hill. We thought we’d turn left onto Keren Hayesod at the summit, but instead we were forced to turn right, back to where we’d come from. We got out and decided to walk.

As we approached Liberty Bell Park, the streets were beginning to fill up. Photographers toting cameras with telescopic lenses, reporters with microphones, a video crew all raced past us on foot. A helicopter hovered overhead.

Traffic was blocked, but pedestrians were getting through. At the foot of King David Street, opposite the King Solomon Hotel, a large crowd had gathered. Police were everywhere. Hundreds of onlookers were sneaking under the police tape to get closer. The atmosphere was like a rock concert, only somber. And still we didn’t know anything.

We pushed our way through the crowd. Finally, a glimpse of destruction. Two crushed cars and a gargantuan yellow tractor. An apparent copy cat attack of the one three weeks ago where a Jerusalem Arab plowed a tractor into a bus downtown killing 3. There were rumors in the crowd that a bus had been flipped here too, but we didn’t see it.

We stayed for a while, craning our necks, trying to learn more, then finally we headed back home. I checked Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, YNET. The story was now up. The similarities to the previous attack were chilling. Bulldozer on the rampage. Driver shot dead by a civilian, followed by a policeman. 16 wounded, one in serious condition.

The bulldozer driver had apparently been working just around the corner in nearby Yemin Moshe, one of Jerusalem’s most fashionable and expensive neighborhoods. Two accomplices fled and the police were sealing off any possible escape routes.

Immediately after the attack, politicians began calling for a ban in the employment of East Jerusalem Arabs as construction workers in the city. But how? Jerusalem these days is one big construction zone. Bulldozers abound. Do we need to fear walking past a new building going up like we once avoided cafes and buses? What means will the terrorists use next?

Amir went down to his room to continue researching his options for when he joins the army. He has his placement interview and examination in just over two weeks. Then he’ll be part of the force protecting the rest of us from such heinous attacks. Merav and Aviv were watching TV, oblivious to what was going on just a few minutes away from our house.

In another hour we have guests coming from overseas for a pizza party. Tonight I have a conference call with the States. Just another day in Jerusalem. Life goes on. But a normal life? Never.

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