On Edge

When everyone came home from shul on Shabbos morning, we were relieved that the streets seemed to be quiet. We enjoyed the lingering hashpo’os of simchas yom tov with people sharing simchos. Only at Minchah did we hear news of the attack on two Gerrer chassidim on Shabbos morning as they returned from davening at their regular minyan at the Kosel. Bechasdei Hashem they were saved from serious injury. Our antennas were once again engaged. We had to be aware, yet we had to go to about our lives and the children had to go to school.

As reports of more attacks continued to roll in, we slowly started curtailing some of our less important activities.

On Sunday, although the weather was glorious, few people were on the streets and stores remained relatively empty as shoppers opted to stay home. The foiled attack in Maaleh Adumim early Sunday morning had put us on edge, and by Sunday night, following the terrible attack near Chadera, the severity of the situation became obvious.

Although I still took my daily walk, exhilarated by the panoramic view of Yerushalayim and the warm sunshine, I was careful to avoid isolated areas. Early Monday afternoon, I was walking when my phone started ringing. “Mommy, where are you?” came the panicked voices. Initially, I answered, “Not at Kever Shimon Hatzaddik.” I had thought of getting on the train but service was suspended due to an attack in that area. “No Mommy, where are you? They are chasing a terrorist near Binyan Klal.” I said I was past that area already but would make sure to detour the area. I got on a bus toward the area of the King David, where I continued my walk.

My phone began ringing again with updates, and when things were calmer I headed home through Geulah. On my way home I heard the initial reports of the ruthless attack on the young 13 year old Mifal Torah Vo’daas boy, Yosef Chaim ben Zahava, and the 21 year old man in Pisgat Ze’ev by two young Arabs. How could they be so bloodthirsty and cruel at their age? It seems that the incitement is accelerated by social media, and these young kids got caught up in the ecstasy of murdering for the cause. In addition, there was violence in Beis Lechem and mispallelim were locked in Kever Rochel.

By early evening, a sense of calm had settled. From my porch I could see camera crews at the light rail stop, filming and interviewing bystanders. As I talked on the phone, my daughter asked me where I was. I assured her that I was home. Not half an hour later I was on the phone again when I remarked that there seemed to be a lot of emergency vehicles with screeching sirens in the area, too many to ignore. As I looked out in the dark, I saw red and blue lights of emergency vehicles approaching from all directions, heading towards Binyanei Hauma. As my daughter was checking the news, my son called. “Mommy, where are you?” When I told him I was home, he said, “Just stay put.” He then gave me the first sketchy details of the ongoing attack taking place just past the String Bridge, near Binyanei Hauma, on the #185 Superbus that travels from Neve Ilan to Yerushalayim. As he was talking, I noticed how abruptly the normally busy streets grew quiet and the light rail had stopped running. Only police cars were on the train tracks. I called my younger daughter to tell her to stay at her friend’s house until further notice. The main highways in and out of Yerushalayim were closed to traffic. Hatzalah and MDA volunteers were on the scene within moments, racing from their headquarters in close proximity to the attack. Bechasdei Hashem we soon heard that the terrorist had been killed thanks to the heroic efforts of a soldier and passengers who did not give up until he was shot by a nearby police officer.

As I winded down for the night, I surveyed the scene. To my left was the Knesset, where Prime Minister Netanyhu was holding a cabinet meeting to discuss the situation at the time of the attack on the Superbus, which took place “almost under his nose;” to my right was Binyanei Hauma. Police tape that had closed one side of the road across from Binyanei Hauma had been removed and the traffic flow was back to normal.

On the morning of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, 30 Tishrei, I looked out of my window and beheld the beautiful view of Yerushalayim. How appropriate are the words of Tehillim perek 30, “Boerev yolin bechi velaboker rina.” Men and women were on their way to work. Children in their white shirts were on their way to school. The presence of cars, buses and trains signified business as usual.

The radio host gave divrei chizuk and then announced the 12 names of the wounded, some still in life threatening condition, urging everyone to be mispallel for their refuah sheleimah. At 9:00, when things were still quiet, the host let out a sigh of relief, signing off as he wished listeners a chodesh tov veshaket.

About a half hour later, as I left the house, I heard initial reports of the attacks in Rana’ana lo oleinu. I was sitting at the Tuesday morning shiur in Rebbetzin Sara Finkel’s house at about 10:15 when my phone started ringing again. “Mommy, where are you?” I was shocked to hear initial reports of the attack in Geulah. Within a few minutes, there more of my children called. One of my daughters was in tears. She was in lockdown in her office in Geulah just two minutes away from the ongoing attack. She could hear gunshots and screaming. My aunt’s phone started ringing, and we learned more details. The news was not good. We could hear the sirens of vehicles heading to Geulah. We stopped to say Tehillim during the shiur.

After the shiur we learned that one man had been killed on Malchei Yisroel and there were serious injuries, but the terrorists, including the one who perpetrated the simultaneous attack on the #78 bus in Armon Hanatziv which goes to the Har Nof terminus, were killed or caught. On the bus attack in Armon Hanatziv, two people were killed hy”d and several seriously injured. The streets of Geulah were still closed. The highways in and out of Yerushalayim were also closed temporarily.

We all left the shiur abandoning earlier plans to do errands around town. I went across the street to my daughter, where I stayed until the situation was calmer.

The details kept coming. It was not a pretty picture. Schools called to say children who do not use transportation must be picked up and escorted home by an adult.

My daughter’s babysitter answered her phone and exclaimed “Chasdei Hashem!” Her grandparents had been at the ill-fated bus stop. Her grandfather escaped with scratches while her grandmother was boruch Hashem unharmed.

By 12:30, the toll of the morning’s massacre was confirmed. The ram kol circulated the streets with a particularly mournful tone. “Halevayah shel Horav Hachossid Rav Yeshaya Krishevsky hy”d….” The levayah of the devoted Pinsk Karlin chossid was to leave from Pinsk Karlin in Beis Yisroel at 2:00 p.m. and pass the niftar’s house on Malchei Yisroel on its way to the kevurah on Har Hamenuchos.

I knew the niftar, who was so beloved by neighbors and friends. He would always give their children money to buy candies and nosh.

After the levayah, stunned friends and contemporaries talked about their Yerushalmi friend, a fixture of Geulah and Meah Shearim. “He was the epitome of ohuv labriyos. He was a friend to one and all.” He filled his days doing mitzvos and ma’asim tovim. He didn’t want thanks for his tremendous acts of chessed, since he felt it was a privilege to be an emissary of chessed, particularly hachnosas kallah and hotzo’os Shabbos and yom tov. People described the extent of his discreet chessed. He helped those who did not know how to help themselves. He wrote a sefer and was makpid to be mishtateif in a bris in the Geulah/Meah Shearim area every day.

The terrorist, a Bezeq employee, had rammed his company car into the bus stop on Malchei Yisroel across from Porat Yosef Yeshiva and the Chodosh high school, with thousands of students. Witnesses described him as a huge, morose attacker with murder in his eyes who did not give up even when he was injured. Immediately, bystanders heroically tried to neutralize the terrorist and help the injured. Pandemonium broke as Arabs ran up Malchei Yisroel, mainly workers in the area who did not want to be arrested. This caused panic until calm was restored.

One young man, Matan Shukrin, who was in Geulah not far from the bus stop, realized a terror attack was unfolding. His adrenalin flowed as he looked around at the vulnerable people in the area, including young children, and knew he had to do what he could to save as many people as he could. He ran to his car, which was parked in an alley, took out a stick and some pepper spray and jumped into action, tackling the terrorist until help came.

One young woman who works in a nearby office said that just before 10, she was going to go to Sam’s Bagels but her co-worker told her not to bother since they had bread in the office and she could just make toast. She would have been walking right past the bus stop at the time of the attack. As it was, she was traumatized from the noise and panic. Two young women who had been at the bus stop had run into this office, their faces white as chalk.

Hatzalah volunteer Chezy Roth has worked in his fish store on nearby Rechov Yaakov Meir for close to 25 years. He described the hysteria and panic that ensued as shoppers were screaming, running into the closest store or yeshiva. An American woman and her daughter came bursting into his store and, somewhat incoherent, told him to race to Malchei Yisroel since there was an attack. He had just heard about the Armon Hanatziv attack and thought the woman was mistaken. She urged him to rush and told him it was no mistake. He took his weapon and ran out of the store to Malchei Yisroel in the direction of the screams and came upon what he describes as a particularly tough, grizzly scene. Chezky says that although in the aftermath of the attack, Malchei Yisroel was full of security and investigators, people were afraid and kept away from Geulah. When he left his store at around 4:00 p.m., he went to Geulah to buy a sefer for his son, and the tragedy of the morning was compounded by the sad scene. His heart sank when he saw the streets and stores so empty and quiet. In 24 years, he does not remember such a sight at 4:00 in the afternoon, especially on a Rosh Chodesh afternoon, when Geulah is a popular destination for shopping and treats.

In a cruel turn, the Bezeq terrorist, who was wielding a meat cleaver when he exited his car to attack victims, was a cousin of the two terrorists who carried out the massacre in Har Nof just a year ago. All were residents of east Yerushalayim.

The terrorists in Ra’anana were also from east Yerushalayim. One of them was a municipal sanitation worker.

Many offices near Malchei Yisroel closed for the rest of the day and many Jewish owned businesses and stores sent their Arab workers home until further notice.

I made my way home through Geulah and saw security personnel and investigators as well as reporters and camera crews. One camera man focused his camera on a large picture hanging outside one of the stores with the words, “Im eshkocheich Yerushalayim tishkach yemini.” Although on the surface it looked like things were back to normal, with the hustle and bustle of students who were dismissed early for Rosh Chodesh, the stores were empty.

Just three hours after the attack, the bus stop was full of teachers, students and some shoppers with no visible remnants of the treacherous attack.

In the area of the central bus station, I saw a group of Oriental businessman returning from their lunch recess at the ongoing Annual International Astronautical Congress hosted by the Israel Space Agency at nearby Binyanei Hauma.

As two Arabs approached the ticket machine at the light rail station, they were stopped by Border Police and security. They were searched and their papers were checked before they were allowed to proceed.

On the same day, Udel Binat, the courageous, young almonah of Aharon Binat hy”d, was released from the hospital together with her injured two year-old son. She spoke about her nisoyon and gave words of chizuk. “May Hakodosh Boruch Hu give us the koach to start afresh,” she said

The speaker at a shiur I attend talked about taking the euphoria of the yomim tovim into the long winter months. Then she hesitated. A resident of Geulah, she said in these times, when we feel so fragile, we cannot and must not bury our heads in the sand. We must be alert at all times and if chas veshalom we feel danger lurking, we should invoke protection and say the posuk, “Atah horeisah loda’as ki Hashem Hu Hoelokim ….ein od milvado!”