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The Morning After the Tel Aviv Bombing

02/26/2005

A first hand account of the morning after the bombing, by MidEastWeb News Service editor Joseph M. Hochstein.

TEL AVIV, Feb. 26, 2005 -- As is usual on Saturdays, Tel Aviv's beachfront promenade is full of people. At 10:30 a.m., hundreds are strolling, chatting, eating breakfast, jogging, bicycling and enjoying the sun. A few swim in the Mediterranean. Two snorkelers in black wetsuits are looking for something in the sea. An artist who does portraits in pastels is setting up his easel.

Across the shore road, about 20 people mill around a broadcast van with a three-story antenna that stands near a shattered building entrance on Jonah the Prophet Street. This is the side street where Abdullah Badaran, 21, described as a university student, blew himself up late Friday night near a group of party guests waiting to enter the Stage nightclub. As of midday Saturday, four people are dead and 35 remain in hospitals, at least one of them in critical condition.

Some people gawk. A boy who couldn't be more than four or five years old insists that his father take him across the street to see where the bomb went off. Many people talk about it, but no one is expressing surprise.

On this morning after, people are buying bread at Abulafia's, a popular bakery in the former movie theater that houses the night club. This bakery is Arab-owned, and it suffered broken windows and other vandalism a few years ago after a suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium, farther south along the Promenade.

At the corner by the damaged night club, people come and go at a convenience store of the type Israelis call a "kiosk." A sign in big letters proclaims, "Star of the Promenade: cigarettes and nargilas." Another sign says the Star of the Promenade will also sell you beer, soft drinks, nuts, candies, ice cream and popsicles.

People keep on arriving at the promenade. Thousands arrive over the next few hours. At lunchtime, most of the tables are taken at London, a seaside restaurant that seats several hundred people. A weekly folk-dance gathering has filled a plaza near three hotels, and white sails at sea indicate that a regatta is in progress. The restaurant at Jerusalem Beach, across the road from the bombing site, has empty tables, but that's not unusual.

Along the promenade, a little crowd watches a card shark win money at three-card monte. Farther south, a few dozen people stand in a group that blocks foot traffic. Inside this human mass, a man with an instant camera is photographing a smiling father and four-year-old son with an eight-foot reticulated python wrapped around both of them and a brightly colored parrot perched on the boy's arm.

These are typical scenes of Tel Aviv on the Jewish Sabbath. People are out enjoying a day free from work. None of this should be taken to indicate indifference. It does show that Israelis have become quick at returning to regular life after an attack. On this day, the context is a general alert, declared by the police for at least the next few days.

Green-uniformed members of the Border Police armed with rifles are evident at a few points along the promenade. A blue-uniformed member of the regular police brings hot midday meals in aluminum containers to four border policemen sitting on a bench across from the U.S. embassy. Two border policemen display their weapons across from the French embassy.

At 1:30 p.m., some 26 hours after the bombing, a Fox television van pulls into the blast site. A couple of Israel television vans are parked nearby. The police are controlling access to the site.

As is ordinarily the case with suicide attacks, the media weren't there when this one happened. A story like this has to be put together in retrospect. Foreign correspondents, most of whom were a world away in Jerusalem, didn't necessarily bother to do that. Their main interest is in what happens next. CNN conjured up word pictures of a Tel Aviv beachfront teeming with young people in search of entertainment on a warm night. They relied on Israeli television channels for shots of ambulances, victims, police and structural damage.

Actually, Friday night by the sea was chilly. The big reason several dozen people were standing outside the night club waiting for it to open is that they were going to a party which Ravital Grayevsky of Jerusalem organized to surprise her husband, Yaron, on his 30th birthday. She took him to dinner at a restaurant, and they arrived at the nightclub only minutes after the bomb went off. They had to visit Ichilov hospital to see some of their guests.

After an event like this, it does not ordinarily take long for the Suicide-Bomb Groupies to put in their appearances. Within hours of the bombing, the managing editor of Rabbi Michael Lerner's Tikkun magazine distributed an email manifesto stating, "This cannot be the pretext for another Operation Defensive Shield. We strongly insist that the Israeli government react in the most intelligent and sensitive of ways..." CNN, even before it could report the details of the story, also was expressing concern whether Israel would use this as a "pretext" for a response.

Other major Dispensers of Advice are yet to be heard from. One comment from the United States on the internet says this bombing means that either all of the Jews leave Israel, or we kick out all of the Arabs. But this is from a bush-league Dispenser of Advice. Additional major leaguers may yet let us know what they in their non-Israeli wisdom insist that the government of Israel must do.

Conspicuously absent among the Suicide-Bomb Groupies, so far, are the Agitators and Hooligans. They often show up after suicide bombings, carrying signs which they had ready and waiting for such occasions. They shout "Death to the Arabs" and other nasty slogans for the media.

The Dolphinarium bombing that killed 21 people in 2001 also took place on a Friday night. The next day, crowds who didn't have to report to work gathered at the bombing site. They threw missiles that broke windows at the Hassan Bek mosque across the street. Some went to the extra trouble of marching a few blocks north along the promenade to attack the Abulafia bakery and break all of its windows. The bakery's owner went on television to say he still believes in coexistence between Arabs and Jews.

Whatever Israel does or doesn't do now in reaction to Friday night's bombing, a much bigger question is how Israel should respond if something like this happens again. Almost certainly, it will happen again.

Joseph M. Hochstein

Copyright Joseph M. Hochstein and MidEastWeb for Coexistence

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000337.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Joseph M. Hochstein @ 10:53 PM CST [Link]

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