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Café Hillel Delivers
by Judy Lash Balint
25 February 2004Jerusalem

In solidarity with the new latest crop of Jerusalem terror victims, the Café where seven people lost their lives last September, sent refreshments for the ZAKA workers and police.


About an hour after the #14 bus blew up at the corner of Bethlehem Road and King David Streets just below the Inbal Hotel this weekend, a delivery arrived from Café Hillel, a few bus stops back on Emek Refaim.

In solidarity with the new latest crop of Jerusalem terror victims, the Café where seven people lost their lives last September, sent refreshments for the ZAKA workers and police.

The bodies of the eight people whose lives had just ended had been quietly loaded onto ambulances and driven away.  It took three ZAKA workers, dressed in white plastic, to get each body into a bag.  Police photographers documented everything, as their colleagues combed the interior of the blown out bus, carefully extracting whatever personal material remained.  Backpacks, pocket books, shoes, coats, books all emerged and were taken for investigation.

The ZAKA crew fanned out in all directions scraping the sidewalk for pieces of flesh. Where I was standing in the gas station opposite, glass littered the ground, along with a saucer-size piece of scalp. 

Apart from the press, no more than a few hundred people stood quietly around, watching the well-oiled clean-up process.  There was no yelling, no wailing, no one offering solutions.

Someone’s cell-phone rang and a conversation ensued about the best place to get a car fixed.  Another woman called her dentist to say she’d be a little late.  Border police did their best to keep the press photographers behind the barricades, but a few self-important Jewish leaders visiting from abroad pushed themselves in front and were led closer.

At the gas station, the owner of a vehicle that had pulled up for gas at the moment of the explosion was allowed to return to get his belongings out of his undamaged car.  A friend hugged him as he got in and pulled out a few things—they both looked across the street at the carnage a few yards away.

Mayor Uri Lupolianski showed up an hour after the bomb went off.  He obediently went through the ritual of Channel I and 2 interviews, but had nothing significant to say.  Jerusalem Police Commander Mickey Levy announced that the police had informed the hospitals treating the 40 wounded, that some kind of toxic material had been used in the bomb.

A little more than seventy minutes after the “event” as it’s known in Hebrew, an Egged truck pulled up and hauled off the bus, allowing ZAKA to complete their flesh search among the glass that had been underneath, before the bitter cold wind blew pieces of paper and plastic all over the place.

Oh, I almost forgot—today is the start of Tourism Week.  Tonight is the official opening of the Prime Minister’s Conference on Tourism, at Binyanei Haooma just across town.  Of course it’s going ahead as planned, with 500 foreign guests arriving today from all over the world.

One event was cancelled –Transport Minister Avigdor Lieberman had scheduled a ceremony at noon today in Jerusalem, to deliver the first specially fitted buses equipped with a “protection system” against homicide bombers to Egged.


Judy Lash Balint is a Jerusalem based writer and author of Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times (Gefen).  Reprinted by permission of the author.

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