A Tale of One City

The latest suicide bomber blew himself up no more than 300 yards from my Jerusalem apartment. The windows shuddered as the deafening sound filled the air. Then came a moment of silence followed by the loud echo of sirens. A friend who had seen the attack was still traumatized a week later. The vivid images of dead bodies scattered on the road could not be erased. There were seven of them, she said, not counting the wounded.

Another suicide bomber detonated himself on a bus in a different part of town a day earlier. He killed 20 people and wounded many more. Immediately after the assault, I called friends who live close to where the bus exploded to make sure they were okay. These chilling phone calls have become routine in Israel. A busy signal on the other end is considered good news.

Not surprising, the Jerusalem landscape has also changed. Police and military checkpoints have been erected not only on many of the roads leading into the metropolis, but also in the city itself. Every supermarket, bank, cafe, hotel, and restaurant is now obliged to employ security guards who search customers as they enter. Despite these and other measures, many Jerusalemites continue to feel insecure. The once bustling downtown is often empty, since residents prefer to stay home rather than risk a night out on the town. They know that no military operation can stop the suicide bombers.

WHILE THE MEDIA spend much time covering the attacks in West Jerusalem, most commentators have often blurred the difference between the personal and national dimension of the threat. The very real personal threat every Israeli feels when he or she enters a mall, takes a bus, or walks into a crowded pub should not be mistaken for a national threat. The random killings of civilians in no way jeopardize Israel's existence.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2002
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