In Jerusalem, Waiting for the Number 15 Bus

I am waiting for the number 15 bus at it’s starting point near the Chords Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem.

I am scared. I am waiting for the bus at the same spot where just over two months ago, 14 people were injured when a Palestinian terrorist used his car to randomly, purposefully, maliciously ram into them as part of this continuing wave of terror which began in September, 2015. This wave of terror is known as “Intifada of the Individuals” or “Knife Intifada.”   

I am scared. Sadly, I do not remember a time when riding a bus here was an enjoyable, ordinary activity. Due to the large number of random terrorist attacks against buses and other public transportation over the past 30 years, for me, as for so many other Jerusalemites, taking a bus represents a true challenge, an act of courage wrapped in firm belief in G-d. G-d, I am waiting for the bus are you with me?

I am terrified. I briefly consider taking a taxi, but quickly realize that to do so, would be to cheat myself out of another bit of my ordinary Jerusalem life. No way! I am not prepared to give in to this fear. I firmly believe that to take a taxi is to surrender to the forces of dark hatred, evil, terror.  When did riding a bus become an act of national defense?

Despite knowing how to fire a weapon and having no impediment in passing the grueling licensing requirements to own one. I do not own a gun. I am a pacifist, I walk with G-d, and one who walks with G-d does not need to “pack heat.”

If you were to ride on a Jerusalem bus, you would see that there are many of us who walk with G-d, we openly pray, publicly holding on to our first line of communication – our prayer books and Psalters. You would also see that there are others who are certain that walking with G-d means “open carry” …. that very special form of deterrence which lets the potential terrorist know that the gun owner will not go down without a fight. I am a pacifist, but I understand with all my heart those who choose to “open carry.” I will even admit, perhaps, I am a hypocrite, because when I am REALLY afraid, I am always comforted when I see someone walking tall in “open carry” mode.         

What you would not see is that we have “PAT” – Protection Against Terrorism – practices and rituals.

We silently pray in our own words. We beg, He Who watches over all of us, to please, please, please be personally involved in our lives, to protect us. 

We are vigilant. We profile.
We are on high alert.  We have become security experts. 

We take care to stand apart from the other people waiting at the bus stop.

We actively pay attention to EVERYTHING, absolutely EVERYTHING that is going on around us.

Why does that woman have her hand in her bag? Is she innocently looking for her bus card? her phone? her prayer book? Or is she going to pull out a pair of sharp scissors and go on a rampage?

That young man with the canvas covered grocery cart, is he pulling it along easily or with effort? What’s inside? groceries? a knife? a bomb?  

We take care to wear jewelry that clearly identifies us as Jewish-Israelis. And, just in case, G-d forbid, we cannot speak for ourselves, some of us keep a small card with our name, blood type, and contact information tucked into a shirt or pant’s pocket or inside a bra.   

We take care to stand behind the new barriers which prevent cars from smashing into bus stops.

We breathe a collective sigh of relief when an Egged bus security officer approaches and boards the bus with us.

…and inside of all of this, together with all of it, we live our mundane, ordinary Jerusalem lives. We take time to talk to each other, to suggest that the baby’s jacket be buttoned up, it is cold this morning. We talk on our phones. We send text messages. We smile when the young couple sitting near us starts kissing again! Sometimes we even manage to ignore the abandoned back-pack sitting on the floor of the bus…well, no, that’s an exaggeration, there is always someone who nervously, anxiously asks: “Whose back-pack is this? Why did you leave it behind? Pick it up!” 

We are scared, but we are not frozen and afraid. We are Jerusalemites. We are Israelis. We have learned an incredibly terrifying lesson, we know how to live with our fear, in G-d we trust, He will get us there and back safe and sound. Yes, we know all about carrying on with life in the face of peril.

…and the current government continues to pour its rhetoric over us, as if it were a special brand of soothing political balm that will magically stop the next terror attack which is, I am saddened and afraid to admit, almost within sight…

“Avineu she’ba’shamim Tzur Yisrael v’go’alo, ba’rekh et Medinat Yisrael rey-sheet tze-mi-chat ge-u-la-tei-nu. Hagein aleyha {hagein alaynu} be’ahavat chasdecha….”*

(“Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless The State of Israel, the beginning of the blossoming of our redemption. Shield it {shield us} with Your loving-kindness…”)   

********

(*The opening lines of the Prayer for the State of Israel)     

 

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