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Tel Aviv Market Bombing Shatters Site Known As Haven for Coexistence

When a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a Tel Aviv market known as a rare oasis of Arab-Jewish coexistence, he shattered not only victims’ bodies, but the market’s peaceful — if sometimes raucous — give and take. Splattered sweet potatoes and toppled stacks of children’s clothing lay strewn alongside the dead and injured on the singed pavement of the open-air Carmel Market after Monday’s deadly bombing, which took place amid the bustle of mid-morning shopping.

Here in the market’s narrow alleyways, Arabs and Jews work side by side, and foreign workers, immigrants and native Israelis pick over the same tomatoes.

“The people here are real, they yell, they shout, but they are the most genuine people you will ever meet,” said Ronen Gil, 37, who runs his family’s butcher shop a few yards from where the bomb went off.

“You don’t know who is Arab and who is Jewish, we are all together here,” he said.

Both Arabs and Jews own shops in the market, and Gil said one of the injured was an Arab who makes a living selling dates and guavas. Both Arabs and Jews rushed to help the injured.

The bombing killed three people — Shmuel Levy, 65, of Jaffa; Tatiyana Akerman, 32, of Tel Aviv; and Lea Levin, 64, of Givatayim — and about 32 were injured. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility and identified the bomber as teenager Amar al-Far, from a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Police officials on the scene said the bomb itself was relatively small.

The sign over the Shamai Cheese Shop hung broken in two, its glass shattered on the ground below. Nearby, in one of the market’s busiest sections, the bomber had detonated his explosives.

“The bomber probably knew quite well where he was,” said Avi Chayo, 28, who was slicing chicken breasts at his family’s store when the bomb went off, turning everything into a haze of smoke and screams.

Police detectives and forensic experts swarmed the area along with religious members of the chevra kadisha burial society, who wore white plastic gloves as they picked through the debris to collect body parts and other human remains.

Each time a body was removed, cameramen and photographers moved like a crashing wave to capture the shot.

Dozens of journalists clamored onto stalls brimming with potatoes, ginger, carrots and zucchini as they struggled to get a better view of the bomb’s aftermath.

But when a vegetable stand’s owner saw them, he barked, “Get off! Get off! You are causing more damage than the bomb itself!”

Nearby shop owners shook their heads and exchanged bits of news as they emerged. Was the bomber male or female? Who saw the injured? Could anyone identify the dead?

In the midst of the jumbled scene, a Foreign Ministry spokesman turned to the T.V. cameras to condemn the attack and blame the Palestinian Authority for continuing to let terrorism thrive.

Ya’akov Noah, 43, owns a cleaning supply store diagonally across from where the bomber blew up. He said that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat — ailing, alive or dead — should just leave Israel alone.

“He should just leave already, leave us alone,” Noah said.

Arafat is in Paris undergoing tests for an undiagnosed illness.

Despite the chaos, a handful of shoppers still arrived at a fruit stand north of the bombing site. Money was exchanged, bags of bananas bought.

“It’s natural that we are still open,” said Moshe Avraham, 32, as he ate an avocado sandwich at his stand. “You cannot just close. This is our living.”

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