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As Bombing’s Dead Are Buried, Life Goes on As Normal in Jerusalem

June 13, 2003
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A day after a Hamas bomber blew himself up on a bus here, taking at least 17 people with him, it seemed like everybody had a story to tell about the bombing — but that few people cared.

The rhythm of life flowed as usual in Israel’s capital. Flags for an upcoming gay-pride parade fluttered on lampposts on Agrippas Street, just a few yards from the attack near the Mahane Yehuda market.

On Jaffa Road, the scene of more than a dozen attacks over the past two years, Israeli youth with their cell phones hanging from their necks like dog tags strode down the street, sometimes stopping to admire their reflection in shop windows.

A small memorial — a rectangular box studded with sputtering candles — sat in the bombed bus stop, as if waiting for the No. 14 bus.

Some bystanders turned their heads for a fleeting glimpse of the memorials and the kipah-clad yeshiva students who came to sing hymns at the site. Others stood and munched their lunchtime falafel sandwiches.

In contrast to cities such as Haifa and Tel Aviv, which have suffered fewer bombings, Jerusalem makes informal affairs of its memorials.

Following a March bus bombing in Haifa, local high school students pasted a nearby wall with 50 yards of memorial placards, and the streets ran with wax from memorial candles. Cracks of the stone wall were stuffed with little notes to the dead.

Not so in Jerusalem. One bystander, Menashe Hamo, spun around in his wheelchair to look at the little memorial in the bus stop.

Hamo, 50, had been waiting near the bus stop at the time of the attack and had been slightly wounded, his wheelchair knocked backward by the force of the blast.

“But who cares anymore?” he asked. “We are being blown up in the streets daily and nothing changes, nothing happens. This is our routine.”

In his pudgy hands, Hamo clutched a copy of Thursday’s Ma’ariv newspaper. It ran a picture of him being carted off to an ambulance, his mouth gaping.

“I’ve read the article four times, and still I can’t believe that I am here, standing on my own two feet,” he said.

It was an unfortunate choice of words for a man debilitated by another bus bombing in Jerusalem in 1995.

Many Israeli left-wingers indirectly blamed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the bombing, as Hamas cited Tuesday’s botched assassination attempt on a Hamas leader as the catalyst — though Israeli security officials said the bombing must have been in the works for some time.

But many of those interviewed in Jerusalem placed the blame elsewhere.

“We have to invade Gaza. We have to boot Arafat and Hamas from here,” Hamo said.

A few curious men leaned closer, clapping Hamo on the back in encouragement.

“Hell, we know we need two states, an Arab and Jewish one,” he said. “That’s why theirs has to be on the other side of the Jordan river” — that is to say, in place of Jordan.

Hamo did not sleep Wednesday night after the bombing.

“But still,” he said, chuckling uneasily, “I feel lucky that I’m not permanently asleep.”

Beside Hamo, a group of yeshiva students sat playing guitar and looking generally forlorn.

On the metal construction girder behind them they had put up a placard, reading, “An eternal people is undaunted by the long road.”

Pasted to the cardboard was an Israeli flag and front-page photographs of the bomb site from Israel’s daily papers.

Next to the montage was a sign from the company installing Jerusalem’s light rail system, which sounded like a commentary on the pursuit of peace over the past decade: “Thanks for the patience,” it read.

“This scene is even sadder than it might be otherwise,” said Idan Tzemach, who was wearing an Israeli flag knotted around his neck like a cape. “Everybody seems to have forgotten the terrible deed that happened here yesterday. Life continues and bodies are buried.”

Tzemach and 15 schoolmates had taken the day off from yeshiva because “it would have been hard to study on a day like this,” he said. “We thought it important to identify with the people of Jerusalem.”

About 30 yards from the bus stop, Nissim Mizrahi sat in Ilan Kalimi’s bourekas shop. Asked if he was well, Mizrahi, 74, did not reply.

A call came from the steaming kitchen: “Yeah, Nissim is suffering from post-traumatic stress. He’s in shock from the bombing.”

Kalimi explained that he had invited Mizrahi — who was 50 yards away when the bus exploded — to sit in his shop in order to “cheer him up.”

“I was saved by God, you know,” Mizrahi said, lifting up his shiny domed head and tapping his gnarled knuckles three times on the table.

A man named Yossi, who said he nearly had been killed in a bus bombing in May, strode to the bourekas counter.

“You see,” said Kalimi, playing the role of court philosopher in his greasy stained shirt, “almost everyone in this city suffers from a near-death experience. This is how we live. It’s not good, but it’s reality.”

Aside from the yeshiva students and a few stunned survivors like Hamo, the scene was given over to prowling journalists. Even some of the more cynical among them were stunned by the sparseness of emotion.

“Things here seem so normal, it’s kind of weird,” said one photojournalist, who had arrived in Israel just two months ago.

Meanwhile, funerals were held Wednesday for several of the victims, who represented a cross-section of Israel.

Alan Beer, 47, a 1974 graduate of the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland Mesifta, had immigrated to Israel from Cleveland five years ago with a masters degree in physical chemistry.

Even when he had trouble finding work in Israel, Beer kept his spirits up, friends said.

Beer’s niece described her uncle as a movie buff who frequented the Jerusalem Cinematheque. Roommate Heidi Friedman described Beer as having a “happy, infectious laugh.”

Alan was returning from a condolence visit in Hadera at the time of the bombing. He is survived by his mother and three siblings.

Yaniv Obayed, 22, of Herzliya and Bat-El Ohana, 21, of Kiryat Ata, were planning to marry. Instead, the young couple were killed on the bus as Obayed was on his way to a job interview as a security guard.

The couple met several years ago but the relationship blossomed only in recent months, the daily Yediot Achronot reported.

As an albino, Ohana suffered vision problems. After graduating high school, she had spent the past two years at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in a special preparatory course for the visually impaired.

Ohana’s aunt told Yediot that after every terrorist attack in Jerusalem, Bat-El would phone her parents to let them know she was okay.

After Wednesday’s “attack, the whole family waited for her phone call,” her aunt said. “We tried to reach her, but only her voice mail picked up.”

Ohana is survived by her parents. Obayed is survived by his parents and two siblings.

The family of Tamar Ben-Eliahu, 19, of Moshav Paran in the south of Israel, told Yediot that the army sergeant usually fell asleep on the bus, often waking to find love notes from other passengers.

The notes often said Tamar looked liked an angel, and included the phone numbers of her hopeful suitors, Yediot reported.

Tamar was doing her army service as an educational guide for soldiers in Jerusalem’s Old City.

After the attack, Tamar’s parents drove to Jerusalem to scour the hospitals for a sign of their daughter. At Shaare Zedek hospital, they were informed by army representatives and doctors that Tamar had been brought to the hospital in critical condition and had died of her injuries.

She is survived by her parents and three siblings.

Eugenia Berman, 50, was born in Lvov, Poland and moved to Israel at age 7.

Berman taught English, art and art history at a Jerusalem high school. She was on her way to a professional meeting when the attack occurred.

Berman’s family did not worry at first, thinking she was already at the meeting, Yediot reported. Family members described Berman as a happy person with a good heart who enjoyed traveling and hiking.

She is survived by her husband, five children, her father and a brother.

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