Grapevine: Remembering bus No.2

ATTEMPTS TO bring opera to Jerusalem are on the rise.

Western Wall (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Western Wall
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
SEVERAL ORGANIZATIONS are dedicated to helping victims of terrorism and their families. One is the Chabad Terror Victims Project, whose activists joined last month in one of the most heartfelt of bar mitzva ceremonies at the Western Wall. Exactly 13 years ago today, on August 19, 2003, a No. 2 bus filled with haredi passengers – including children and babies who were returning home from the Western Wall and traveling via Shmuel Hanavi Street – was boarded by someone who appeared to be another haredi. Well-disguised, it later transpired that he wasn’t even Jewish; he was a Hamas suicide bomber. Once ensconced in the bus, he detonated the five-kilogram bomb that was attached to his waist, taking the lives of 23 people and seriously injuring more than 130 others including children and babies. One of the injured babies was Elhanan Cohen, who had been cradled in the arms of his mother Ora at the time of the blast. Ora was rendered temporarily unconscious, but when she came to and realized that her baby was no longer on her lap, she became frantic. Elhanan had fallen under bodies of people who were many times his weight.
The whole family, though critically injured, was fortunate to survive. Initially the parents, Shalom and Ora, and their 18-month-old daughter Shira, together with Elhanan, were treated at Hadassah University Medical Center and later transferred to Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Throughout their long recuperation and rehabilitation process, they were taken to the bosom of Chabad, which continued to support them over the years. Naturally, there was a strong Chabad presence at Elhanan’s bar-mitzva.
ATTEMPTS TO bring opera to Jerusalem are on the rise. One of the early efforts in this direction was by Michael Ajzenstadt, the artistic administrator of the Israel Opera and a former Jerusalem Post opera critic, who well over a decade ago brought opera singers to entertain the public at Mahaneh Yehuda market. Chairs were set up in what was then the parking area, and concerts were given free of charge to large audiences. Further developments toward the appreciation of opera included the screening of operas at the Cinematheque, the formation of a Jerusalem Opera Society, Israel Opera presentations at the Sultan’s Pool and in the Old City, museum concerts featuring opera singers, and in June this year, the Israel Opera Festival, which featured groups of singers from the Israel Opera performing in different venues throughout the city. Now they’re back with greater frequency, and will be performing monthly at YES Planet beginning on September 19.
The idea is to foster not only an appreciation of opera, but to also teach audiences to distinguish between good singing voices and mediocre ones. Opera singers don’t confine themselves solely to opera, and can sing in many other genres. They did this in June and will be doing it again in their YES Planet appearances with folk songs, the most popular songs from Broadway shows, the hits of great singers such as Frank Sinatra, and of course opera.
FOR THE 22nd consecutive year, the Women in Green organized a reading of Lamentations in Independence Park directly opposite the American Consulate on the night of Tisha Be’av.
Agron Street was temporarily closed to motorized traffic, and the security in the area was overwhelming with police vans, cars, motorcycles as well as a jeep used by Border Guard personnel.
There was only one minor incident caused by a man waving a Third Temple flag. Using raucus foul language, he deliberately tried to provoke the Arab security guards outside the Consulate, but was persuaded to cross the road and join the gathering at Independence Park, from where he continued to shout that Jews control Jerusalem. Nadia Matar, the longtime leader of Women in Green – who used to be quite a firebrand herself – asked him to tone it down and not cause any trouble, and he reluctantly complied.
Following the reading, participants accompanied by police went on their annual march around the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, many of them carrying national flags provided by Women in Green. At the Lions Gate, they were addressed