A bomb went off today. Less than a minute away from where I live. Next to the post office that I was in not 24 hours prior. On the bus I sometimes take.
The fact that it was so close to home – and not just in the geographical sense – is neither here nor there. I wasn’t on that bus or near the bombsite at the time of explosion. I was down the road in the newsroom, trying to gather facts and trying harder to ignore the screaming sirens and helicopter hums from outside.
Over the past few days, column inches have been filled with remarks along the lines of “Operation Pillar of Defense is a replay of 2008/9’s Operation Cast Lead.” Yet today’s bus bombing harks back to the second Intifada and the plethora of explosions courtesy of bomb-belted barbarians. The reason I’m able to blithely say “whatever” in response to a bombing right next to my house is because – as much as I will it – my memory of that horrific period just won’t erase itself. It was a period in which, with each consecutive suicide bombing, things got progressively closer to home. At first, I knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who was blown up. With the next round of blasts, that sentence became truncated to knowing someone who knew someone, until eventually the gap was closed entirely.
After a while it seemed that everyone in Israel knew of someone who ended up becoming just another statistic.
In fact, today is the day that marks the Kiryat Menachem bus bombing a decade ago. On November 21, 2002, 50 people were injured and 11 people lost their lives when a suicide bomber detonated a powerful explosive on the Number 20 bus in Jerusalem. This was when the Intifada was at its peak. When getting on a bus, or sitting at a café or even walking down the road was considered a dangerous activity.
But let’s get back to today. Following the bus explosion, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri made the following proclamation: "Hamas blesses the attack in Tel Aviv and sees it as a natural response to the Israeli massacres...in Gaza." Meanwhile, celebratory gunfire rang out from the streets of Gaza, and in the city’s main hospital, Al Shifa, the merry-making continued with the distribution of sweet cakes.
By contrast, Israeli hospitals continue to disregard creed, race or religion in the treatment they administer to people, whether Palestinian or Israeli. Amir Marom, spokesman for Sheba hospital in Beer Sheba, told The Jerusalem Post about one of his current patients: “Just two days ago, a nine-year- old girl from Gaza who was hurt in her palm was brought to Sheba. Her father is an Arab journalist who writes from Gaza for an Israeli newspaper. She was accompanied by her mother. An Israeli boy who was wounded by a Gazan rocket that fell in Kiryat Malachi last week is in the same room with a Gazan girl whose fingers were amputated due to injury,” Marom said. “We regard our hospital as a bridge to peace.”
Of course, you won’t hear any of this in the international media. Just like you won’t hear about some of the other truly absurd idiosyncrasies that this conflict has given rise to. Take, for example, what happens when a siren goes off in Jaffa or Jerusalem or indeed, any other location that has mixed populations. The siren will go off and suddenly you’ll find yourself darting into the nearest bomb shelter or “safe room,” only to find yourself surrounded by both Arabs and Jews.
And let me tell you, just as the blood spilled in Tel Aviv is no redder than the blood spilled in Sderot, the look of terror in the eyes of an Arab is no different to the terror in the eyes of a Jew.
Here’s hoping that that look of terror will be replaced with one of love and compassion. Here’s hoping that today’s bombing does not mark the beginning of a third Intifada.