Visiting family in Jerusalem, we were less than 2 miles from where a bomb destroyed two buses and a car yesterday, injuring almost two dozen people. The experience definitely put a different face on life in Israel for me.
To be clear, we were never personally in danger. Our personal experience of the incident was to see a cloud of smoke rise to the south of us, and to see and hear dozens of responders whiz and screech past us.
I was walking with my brother in law when we heard the first sirens. I asked if he had a different reaction when hearing sirens than I might, because of the wider range of likely possibilities that exist here than at home in America.
By the time we’d walked the half a block to Hebron Road, it was clear that this wasn’t a fire or a car accident they were racing to. It was bigger, and had the potential to be catastrophic. Fear rose in me viscerally, not because I felt in danger, but because it seemed sure that something awful had happened.
In addition to the responders, the other notable-to-me reaction was how it seemed everyone immediately turned to their phones, to surf for news or call a friend. My brother in law reached my sister, “because she gets these alerts.” People were gathering in knots on the sidewalk, or stepping into shops that had TVs. Unquestionably, it was a shared experience.
I’ve been here 10 times, and have always scoffed at Americans’ questions about personal safety here. I always said, it’s like the Midwesterner who thinks there’s a mugging on every NY street corner. Yes, a terrorist is more likely to strike in Israel than in Boston, but still, it’s pretty much the same as the risk from crossing a street or driving a car. If your number is called, it’s been called.
I still feel that way. Completely. I don’t feel unsafe, and we’re still going about our lives. But it may be a while before I see a terror-attack headline in Israel, especially Jerusalem, and just dismiss it as “some news happened somewhere.”