Fear of terrorists pervades mood in Jerusalem

Following terror attack at synagogue, residents and visitors in the capital are increasingly vigilant, uncertain.

A bullet hole in a door of the Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinian terrorists killed four rabbis and a police officer, November 19, 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A bullet hole in a door of the Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinian terrorists killed four rabbis and a police officer, November 19, 2014
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As a group of young Jewish men danced and sang Am Yisrael Chai while hoisting Israeli flags in downtown Jerusalem’s Zion Square Wednesday afternoon, several nearby residents and visitors to the capital expressed pronounced fear and uncertainly following the Har Nof massacre a day earlier.
Ofer, an Israeli in his 30s who asked that his last name not be published, said he is unable to walk the streets without a foreboding sense of dread.
“I’m not feeling good about yesterday because when I walk outside I now look in every direction – in front, behind, to my sides,” he said.
“I feel fear. I think [the violence] will stop at some point, but it’s very difficult to stop. And even if it does, it will start again.”
Racheli, a petite 19-year-old student, who also requested that her full name not be published, echoed the sentiments.
“It’s scary just standing in the street and being afraid every second that they can jump on you,” she said. “You don’t feel safe. You have to watch your back all the time to look at people and see if they might want to kill you.
“Every time I look in the newspaper and see another murder, I wonder when it’s going to stop,” she added.
Grace Adler, an American from Kansas City who moved to Jerusalem three months ago, said the nature of Tuesday morning’s attack framed terrorism in a more haunting light.
“With the other attacks I couldn’t really feel it as much, but with this one I felt it more,” she said. “I think just the gruesomeness and brutality of the attack – using a meat cleaver, which was more disgusting and gruesome – was meant to put a more emotional fear into people than just physical fear.”
This new-found anxiety, she said, manifested itself at the Mahaneh Yehuda market, when she saw a man have a seizure.
“I thought there had been a terror attack because there was a big crowd around him and police and an ambulance,” she explained. “So, that was the first time I have felt fear.”
Adler’s friend, Rebekah Hare, who is visiting the capital for two months from the US, noted the pronounced contrast of living in America versus Israel.
“It’s interesting because in America we don’t deal with many terrorist attacks or fear for our safety in this kind of way,” she said. “So now I have to think that I should check my surroundings and be aware of standing near groups of people, especially at the light rail, because a [terrorist] might target me. It’s just a whole new thought process to deal with.
“Now I understand the pressure Israelis feel in their daily lives,” she continued, “so, I’m putting myself in the Israeli mindset to keep living my life.”
Hare grudgingly conceded that she has become guarded around most Arabs.
“Unfortunately, I look at them differently than I look at Israelis,” Hare said. “I like to think that I’m unbiased, but I don’t think I am. It’s hard because I have friends in America who are Arab whom I love, and my general concept is innocent until proven guilty, so I like to see the most good I can, but some of the [terrorists] have proven themselves guilty.”
Meanwhile, Roy Vanunu, a 30-year-old Israeli tour guide, struck a decidedly more stoic tone.
“I’m not nervous,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m kind of used to it. This is our place – we’re going to stay here forever and there are a lot of problems... We just hope the government does what it has to do.”
Still, Vanunu acknowledged that chronic and random Arab violence has him on heightened alert.
“I have a lot of Arab friends, but there are Arabs who are citizens of Jerusalem but enemies among us,” he said. “And it’s very difficult to tell them apart.”
Noting that the tourism industry has dropped precipitously in Jerusalem over the last few months of war and rioting, Vanunu’s friend Avichai Avraham, 29, who is also a tour guide, lamented the current state in the capital.
“We don’t have a lot of work now because people are afraid to walk to the supermarket,” he said. “I think the government wants quiet on the streets, but it’s not working.”
Asked how the government should restore order, Avraham responded “by wanting to win” the war on terror.
“And we can [win],” he added. “We don’t have to hate Arabs, but terrorists fight with no mercy, so we should fight back with the police and army. I prefer that the mother of a terrorist will cry over the victims’ mothers in Har Nof.
“I know the [Israeli] people are strong and nothing can beat us,” he continued. “They tried in seven wars and we’re still here.”
Vanunu then took out his smartphone to show images on the Internet of Arab celebrations and of children being rewarded with candy following Tuesday’s massacre.
“When I see pictures like that I know they don’t want peace,” he said. “If Arabs want peace, they have to change this. Then they will have it.”
Until that time, he said, “we will fight back.”