Alex Jacobowitz: Der klassischer Klezmer Alex Jacobowitz: Der klassischer Klezmer
Stories by Alex Jacobowitz
Saturday Night in Jerusalem
Here I am, back in Munich. My son, Shmuel, and I were
scheduled to meet on Ben-Yehuda at midnight - he
wanted to accompany me to the airport. On my drive
from Kiryat Arba to Jerusalem, I was passed by an
ambulance driving at full speed, which is a rarity.
Sirens, all the time, but not that fast - the roads of
the West Bank don't allow it.

A bit further down what's known as Tunnel Road, close
to the Green Line, I was passed by another ambulance.
As there was no traffic besides me and the ambulance,
I tried to follow him, to keep up. I couldn't do it,
the ambulance was driving too fast. I thought, hm, I
hope nothing happened. I thought perhaps a car
crash had occurred behind me, and the second ambulance
was bringing the other driver to a hospital in
Jerusalem. Then, a third ambulance passed me. What
could have happened, I wondered. Jittery, I kept on
watching my rear-view mirror, ready to get
off the road in case of another ambulance. Sure
enough, three more cars passed me, not ambulances, but
with a red-light and siren, all driving madly in one
direction - Jerusalem.

I was on Derech Chevron - the street from Jerusalem to
Hebron, though I was driving in the opposite
direction, when I got a phone call at ten
minutes to midnight. It was Shmuel.

"Aba, don't come to the Midrachov!" (The pedestrian
mall on Ben Yehuda Street is known in Hebrew as the
Midrachov) Ten minutes earlier it bad been blown up,
he told me, and that there were dead bodies there.

As I approached what the Israelis now call Ground
Zero, I parked the car on King George Street, two
hundred meters away from Ben-Yehud Street, and started
running there. I'm not sure why - other people were
running there, while other people were running away.
It wasn't a time for walking.

More ambulances, the sky was screaming. Police were
redirecting traffic away from the corner of King
George and Ben-Yehuda - the terrorists knew well that
the reaction of Israelis immediately after a blast is
to help the victims; therefore, the terrorists often
planted second and third bombs, which was the case
this evening. The police knew that the terrorists knew
this, and tried to cordon off the area immediately.
The police even had to strike the bystanders, to
prevent them from "helping" - and possibly becoming
the next wave of victims. It was at this corner where
I found Shmuel.

He said that he saw people missing body parts where
his friends had previously been, watching a concert at
Kikar Tsion. He told me how his white sneakers had
been walking in people's blood, that he had seen a man
with his hand missing, that he had heard at least two
blasts, and seen enough carnage this night, and just
wanted to get away.

I wanted to stay there, to try to - who knows what -
to be helpful, to somehow save someone, maybe several
people, from their pain. A woman police officer made
sure that Shmuel and I could get nowhere near.
She pushed the two of us further and further away from
Ground Zero. A group of teenagers sat on the street
near that intersection, hovering over each other,
crying. Passersby were yelling into their
cellular phones, in Hebrew, English, Russian - "are
you alright?" Other people came to us, "Efshar
l'hitkasher?" I gave them my phone.

I asked Shmuel where Dovid was, his older brother. He
didn't know. He didn't think Dovid was at Ground Zero,
because the brothers usually saw each other at
Saturday night concerts at Kikar Tsion. Not this
evening. Are you sure, Shmuel? There's always a
chance, he said.

He was worried about his friends. Ninety injured, said
the radio report. No word on how many dead - that
would take some time. Ambulances wailed all over
Jerusalem. One-hundred and fifty injured, one-sixty,
one-eighty. Shmuel and I finally drove to the airport
at two o'clock, realizing that we had been spared this
tragedy by a margin of only twenty minutes.

Others weren't spared at all - Shmuel lost two friends
in the blasts.

Alex Jacobowitz

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