The Bomb In The Backpack

A funny, no, more like typically Israeli, thing happened to my wife and I last Tuesday evening. We had just returned to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem after an evening in Tel Aviv at a delightful dinner in a “real” Chinese restaurant. No, I will not apologize for experiencing the cuisine that is forbidden by my faith as I never indulge these items at home. Call me a hypocrite if you wish, but my thought is simply this-any Jew can eat in my home without trepidation that he will ingest “forbidden fruit” (is any fruit forbidden, I don’t think so, maybe, prunes might be except after a heavy holiday feast). However, when traveling, I resort to my old non-kosher habit that I acquired as a consequence of my misspent youth in the Bronx-after all, how many kosher delis can you eat in and not get a little tired of hot pastrami sandwiches( oy, who am I kidding?)?

Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Jerusalem, there is a terrific conveyance that shuttles folks across the city along a main street known as Jaffa Road.  It is called the “Light Rail” and it is an electric powered train that reminds me of photographs of the trolleys that once carried passengers on the streets of New York and probably, other major cities. The difference is that this train is super modern, sleek, and really fast.

One of the stops is directly opposite the central bus station and this makes it very convenient for folks to get where they need to go in the city. To get to the train platform, which is parallel to the street, one has to cross a wide avenue where, in the middle, sits a concrete circle surrounding a truly magnificent tree. People often sit here and grab a quick smoke before getting on the train or walking into the bus depot as smoking is forbidden in both places.

So, my wife and I are waiting for the train and the electric sign on the platform says that the train will arrive in 2 minutes and, believe me, after a long bus ride, after a heavy meal, that was comforting news indeed. However, all of a sudden, the sign started to flash a message (oh, the words are lit up in Hebrew, English and Arabic) that service was “temporarily suspended” due to a security issue. Then, from both sides of the street, police vehicles arrived, their lights flashing, and several uniformed border police started to rope off the area around this tree and tell us all to move back and away from the front of the train platform.

Why? Because someone had left an unattended backpack resting on the concrete circle around the tree. You must understand, that with all the attacks by terrorists in Jerusalem and elsewhere in this country, it is definitely not a wise thing to leave a purse, satchel, suitcase,book bag, or shopping bag sitting by itself as these items have been used to disguise deadly bombs loaded with nails, razor blades, ball bearings soaked in rat poison and other vicious weapons along with high explosives.

Even our young children are taught never to approach anything that stands alone, or even to pick up what might appear to be a lost ball, doll or toy as our enemies have booby trapped these items to kill and maim our kids.

Dear reader, you must understand that we are fighting a foe without any hint of morality lacking any compunction in their savage war against us-that to kill an innocent child, for them, is a victory in their monstrous endeavor to exterminate my country and murder us all. They have even boasted that our children are “legitimate targets” as they will grow up to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and, ergo, to kill them now, is to stop them from fulfilling their national duty. As they educate their youngsters (unfortunately) that to murder a Jew is something worthwhile, that it’s alright to seek martyrdom in death, as we teach our kids to love life and seek peace.

So, when an Israeli notices something awry, like an unattended package, the essential obligation is to notify a police officer who will take charge of the situation. That is what occurred the night we were there.

A large police van pulled up and a sapper (one who is trained to handle bombs) in an outfit consisting of an armored suit and helmet, approached the back pack with a halogen light and and carefully examined the object. I also believe that he might have had a fiber-optic cable to peer inside the bag and make note of what was within. All this time, the rest of the folks on the train platform were, typical for Israel, taking pictures with their phones!!! Call it arrogance or just plain stupid, no one was cowering in fear, no one was laying on the ground with their hands over their heads, no one was crying, in fact, most of what I heard was people bitching that they didn’t get on the train before the one which was delayed! Were some folks afraid, I’m sure of that, but to give in to fear is to be defeated and to do what is necessary despite your fear is the key to surviving.

In any event, the package must have contained books or fruit or used underwear and laundry, because the sapper, after spending around 15 minutes with the object, picked it up and tossed it into the back of the police van and it drove off. Sure enough, 2 minutes later, the train showed up and I had to stand all the way to my stop as the darn thing was super crowded.

Some people might say that this is a terrible way to live, but, where in the world is anyone any safer? Here, the police, the bomb squad, the train service and even these crazy Jews, cooperated and the issue was done with alacrity and professionalism. Can you imagine anyone noticing and calling the police if someone had left a book bag on a New York City subway car? Or on a bus in Chicago? What about an errant book bag sitting on a chair in a train depot or any large public building? Even in a rest room in a stadium? I firmly believe that I am much safer here, in Israel, than anywhere else in the world.

Call me crazy. Call me a raving lunatic. Call me nuts for living in this tiny Jewish country. Call me an Israeli.

About the Author
Irwin was born in New York City and is now retired. He lives in Maaleh Adumim since making aliyah 7 years ago.