Blogging Jerusalem Terror

Reuters_ammar_awad2_2I was on a bus on Jaffa St. near Davidka Square when the wail of approaching sirens filled my ears. Police cars — a dozen at least — raced by at full speed.

What happened? And where?

The bus driver had turned on the radio, but I was sitting too far back to hear anything above the cacophony of sirens, people talking excitedly on their cell-phones and the din of the engine. More importantly, the bus was moving. I called two colleagues. They were online, but didn’t know anything. Was there a terror attack? Or just a bad traffic accident? Hamas doesn’t take credit for every fender-bender and multi-car pileup on Israeli roads. Maybe it was an emergency drill?

They police cars were soon followed by another wave of emergency vehicles — police vans, Hatzalah scooters, ambulances, and the ubiquitous black-clad counter-terror units seen around Jerusalem on their motorcycles.

Whatever happened, this was clearly more than the bomb squad closing off a thoroughfare to defuse a suspicious object.

That meant checking in with my wife. She was okay, even sitting on a bus on Jaffa St. further behind me. And no, she didn’t know what happened either. It was difficult to talk. Emergency vehicles were passing my bus, and more wailed in the background past my wife’s bus.

After getting off the phone, I heard someone say something about a man with a gun. I also heard a woman a few rows away say to nobody in particular something about a bulldozer on Jaffa St. near the old Shaarei Tzedek hospital. They’re digging up that section of Jaffa St. between the central bus station and the Mahane Yehuda shuk to lay tracks for light rail.

Reuters_ammar_awadThat’s the next stop!

I peered out the window down the road. Jaffa St. angles off near the gas station just past the shuk’s bus stop. I could make off down the road a lot of flashing blue lights. If there was a disgruntled road worker impatient with the slow pace of the light rail’s construction — a sentiment shared by most of Jerusalem — I wasn’t interested in meeting him.

Being close enough to the scene, I knew nothing had exploded. We would’ve heard a bomb.

More passengers boarded the bus at the shuk bus stop. The bus started to pull away from the curb.

And then the inner voice that all bloggers can relate to kicked in:

How are you going to blog this?

Good question. I didn’t have a camera on me and my cell-phone was running out of juice. My Hebrew is lousy and I don’t carry a weapon. And did I really think I’d get past the phalanx of Israeli security ahead and score an exclusive interview with a terrorist? What would Kevin Sites do?

More importantly, what kind of risk would I be putting myself in? When the police close off a road, it’s for the well-being of people like me, capable of nothing more macho than duck-and-cover.

Instead of going straight, the bus made a turnabout and headed back towards downtown. I got off near Davidka Square, not far from where I boarded, only on the other side of the street. I began walking towards HonestReporting’s downtown office. It’ll be a while till I get home.

Reuters_baz_ratnerNot far from the office, my colleague, Simon Plosker called. Above the continuining din of sirens, he told me a Palestinian on a bulldozer ran into an Egged bus and several cars.

Postscript: While writing this post, I had to juggle A) my desire to get something online quickly, and B) calls between my wife and the summer activities my kids are in. My wife is now waiting for a bus across from the convention center so she can go pick up our son (we hastily arranged for him to play at a friend’s) and then get home where our daughter is waiting. If blogging makes the world a better place, it’s for them.

Its now known that a bulldozer driver from eastern Jerusalem went on a rampage, killing three and injuring more than 40 people before being shot. You can watch from the comfort of your home.

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