After a gloriously sunny day here, the faithful at the Aaron Synagogue were about to start a late evening prayer to conclude Shabbat when a huge explosion rocked the building.
The rabbi paused for a few seconds Saturday as the explosion reverberated in the street outside. Then he returned to Hebrew prayers with a key declaration of Jewish faithfulness — “Bless The Lord, the Blessed One.”
Less than an hour after the bombing, which left nine dead, including a baby, a toddler in a stroller and three other children under 10 years old, the Sephardic congregation continued its Jewish learning session.
Farther down the street, a Bar Mitzvah party continued Saturday night — though without the usual exuberance for such a celebration.
And on Sunday, learning continued at the Mir Yeshiva, also located near the site of the deadly bombing.
About 2,000 of the 4,000 students at this school are American youngsters.
On Saturday night, a Palestinian suicide bomber walked up to a group of young children and an 18-month-old infant sitting in a stroller in a Jerusalem alleyway in the fervently Orthodox Beit Israel neighborhood, near Mea Shearim, soon after dusk and detonated a huge bomb.
Almost immediately, a young woman had to be restrained by police as she rushed down the street screaming and yelling: “My child, my child,” who, she was informed some hours later after sedation, had been one of the dead.
The woman, among a group of newly religious visitors staying at the Sabbath Seminar guest house, was singing psalms during an end-of-Sabbath meal when the suicide bomber detonated his device.
The Al-Aksa Brigade, which is aligned with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization, later said the killer was a 19-year-old member of the group.
Eastern Jerusalem lies just across a wide road that once marked no-man’s land between Jordanian and Israeli-held territory, and it is easy for anyone to walk across the street unhindered.
The bombing splattered blood and body parts onto stone-walled buildings on either side of the street.
Within four hours, the buildings had been washed clean and fragments of vehicles and body parts meticulously collected by yellow-jacketed men with yarmulkes and beards, as well as by detectives and bomb squad experts.
About 1,500 Palestinian men and youths, some shooting in the air, reportedly marched through the Dehaishe camp near Bethlehem to celebrate the killings, chanting in the streets as sweets were thrown to the crowd.
The killer, Mohammed Daraghmeh, is believed to have come from that camp.
The attack left both bystanders and rescue workers calling for stronger Israeli countermeasures to protect their neighborhoods from terrorists.
Yisroel Cohen, 21, a New Yorker who studies at a local yeshiva, described the scene when his apartment was rocked by the explosion nearby: “I saw the car go up in flames. I saw a lady dressed in her smart Sabbath garb, calling for her baby. I saw people running with people on stretchers. It was a very frightening sight.”
Cohen said that despite the bombings he intends to make his home in Israel.
The bomb exploded only yards from where a similar bombing had happened 14 months ago, soon after the Palestinians launched the intifada.
On that occasion, despite the busy time of day, no one died, and a sign was erected at the spot saying, “A great miracle happened here,” echoing the words marking the Chanukah miracle.
Palestinian bombs have usually been set off in major civilian shopping areas or cafes, but these are now heavily guarded in central Jerusalem, making back streets an easier target.
At the bombing scene, a handful of angry youths chanted for revenge.
Other, calmer spectators gathered in small groups for discussions.
Some proposed erecting a wall between eastern and western Jerusalem. Others suggested a military takeover of the West Bank. Still others suggested that the only solution was to pray harder, show Jewish solidarity, do good deeds and hasten the coming of the Messiah.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.