The Felafel and the Bulldozer

This posting was contributed by David Farer, a Sderot resident we hope will become a regular writer for this blog.

Coming to Jerusalem to work for a few days seemed like a welcome break from the Kassam rockets that Arab terrorists fire at Sderot. 

In Jerusalem, the method Arab terrorists prefer is suicide-bombing, but the Israeli army has largely controlled that kind of murder by building a barrier to prevent terrorists from infiltrating Israel. Whenever I come to Jerusalem, I feel liberated, because I do not automatically look around me for a wall to crouch behind as I walk down the street. 

People living in Sderot develop skills to use when the alarm announces that a rocket is flying in their general direction and will detonate in about fifteen seconds. We automatically, almost unconsciously, look for potential shelter where ever we go. In Jerusalem I need not do this.

Today, Wednesday, about noon, I decided it was time for a felafel break from the primitive form of SEO my employer naively thinks I know how to do. Some of the best felafels in Jerusalem are in and around Mahaneh Yehuda, the open-air market near where I am staying.

While walking through the market to get to Jaffa Road, I noticed many people standing in little groups talking; they seemed tense to me.  Many looked like they had been running seconds earlier. They looked around to see if they might need to sprint again.

Police and soldiers were walking pretty briskly toward Jaffa Road, where I was going for my felafel.  Sirens wailed in the distance; ambulances were on their way. Helicopters flew overhead. Right after a rocket hits us down in Sderot, there is usually a lot of air action as the helicopters and the jets go looking for the bad guys in Gaza; in Jerusalem, the helicopters are used to observe the area where the attack took place. Attacks on Sderot come from elsewhere, but the terrorists who attack Jerusalem are almost always physically present at the target they attack.

I asked people what had happened. They said that a bulldozer had just driven down Jaffa Road running people over, smashing cars, and that it had attacked a couple of buses. Jaffa Road is one of the major thoroughfares of Jerusalem and was once the link to the port of Jaffa, along which pilgrims of many religions, camels carrying the goods for the merchants who whipped them, and the armies of the Ottoman and British Empires had marched.

I turned out of the street through Mahaneh Yehuda market and into Jaffa Road. My first reaction was silence. Cars sat broken and bleeding gas and water, which dripped onto the pavement. Most of the ruined cars seemed to be flattened on one half, but with the other half in good shape but for some reason sticking straight up in the air. One car seemed to consist of two pieces, each in good condition, but improperly connected, as if a giant had taken each end in one of his hands and twisted it. The dinosaur-looking creature that had wrought this carnage stood with its huge shovel of a mouth, ringed by jagged, steel teeth, pointing defiantly upward. An ambulance crew had covered a corpse on a stretcher next to it. I was later to learn that this was the corpse of the murderer.

Women were walking around crying; the medics and ambulance staff, almost all Chassidim, looked into broken cars for broken people. A bus was on its side, medics were delicately placing wounded into stretchers. The huge bulldozer loomed silently, threateningly over the chaos it had created.

The authorities began to impose order. Police hung tape around the crime scene. A young policewoman told me and those with whom I spoke to leave. As she shooed us away, hundreds and hundreds of high school-aged Chassidim began collecting on the sidewalks and on the roofs of neighboring buildings to watch. Professional camera crews began filming people. A terrorist attack in Israel unfortunately produces many people to interview, because such an attack takes place in public. I chatted with an Italian journalist for a while, because I speak Italian.

I looked over at one of the buses the bulldozer had attacked. It lay on its side; its front window was broken. I later learned that a policewoman had smashed the window to let the passengers out. When the Arab terrorist used his front-loading shovel to turn the bus over, the passengers being flipped had landed in a heap on a wall that had suddenly become a floor. The stains on that wall were made with their blood.

"Now you must GO!", the policewoman ordered. I looked around me. Everybody in the perimeter either had a job to do or was wounded. I walked out, beyond the tape. I stared at the yellow monster, the bulldozer that had killed three people and wounded dozens more, and would have killed everybody in that neighborhood had not an Israeli soldier and an ordinary cop killed its driver. Israel is lucky to have such citizens.

I walked back to Mahane Yehuda market, which was again a hub of business activity. I found the felafel place that had been my aim in coming to this neighborhood. While eating my felafel, I fell into conversation with the owner. He told me what he had seen during today's attack. We talked about the several suicide attacks he had seen and heard. When I mentioned that I had moved to Sderot, he expressed doubts about my sanity for going to a town where rockets come down at any moment. I replied that I was not sure which of us would take the gold medal in the Crazy Olympics, if he continued to sell felafel in a place where suicide bombers and bulldozer drivers might kill him at any moment.

In the end, we decided that the best way to live our lives was for him to make his felafels, and for me to eat them, and for life to proceed, no matter what the terrorists do. We defy the enemy by living.

And his felafel was damn good!

David Farer is a freelance writer who lives and works in Sderot, where he is writing a book about the life of that town. He was born in Wheeling , West Virginia . He has degrees from Columbia in history and ancient languages and an MA from NYU Film School.  He served as a saboteur in the Israel Armed Forces. He has published articles in Israeli and American publications, and authored a book for Lulu.com. He also maintains DavidFarer.com and his editing service is PrestigeWriters.com.