Jerusalem residents try to cope with terrorism

This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Yakov Klein, 16, takes the 78 bus every day to school in Armon Hanatziv, a southeastern neighborhood in Jerusalem. This morning, just by chance, he didn’t go to school as his family was traveling to a wedding, and so wasn’t on the bus when two terrorists from the nearby Palestinian neighborhood of Jebal Mukaber opened fire and began stabbing passengers, killing two Israelis and wounding several others seriously.

“Just before the terrorist attack, my son told me he was on a bus to meet us,” Sarah Klein told The Media Line. “I would have had a complete heart attack on hearing the news if I didn’t know that he was in a different location already. OMG. Hashem (God) please spread your protection over Israel…NOW.”

In a second attack, a Palestinian worker for the Israeli phone company Bezek, drove his car into a bus stop, and then got out and started stabbing waiting passengers, killing one man.

The series of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem has shaken many residents, causing them to alter their routines and scramble to find ways to protect themselves. Nadia Levene, a community organizer, said she has organized a one-session self-defense course for women including tips on how to use pepper spray and how to fend off a knife attack. Twenty women have already signed up.

“I’ve been here for over 20 years, and I lived through the second intifada (Palestinian uprising from 2000 to 2005) Levene told The Media Line. “I bought pepper spray this week and I feel safer just holding it, but if you’re going to buy it, you have to know how to use it.”

All school trips in Jerusalem have been cancelled until further notice. Schools sent out notices urging parents not to let children walk to school alone and not to arrive before the gate to school is opened. Facebook was flooded with videos on self-defense and inquiries about where to buy bullet-proof vests such as this one.

“Anyone know where I can get a knife-proof vest (with a collar) for KIDS? They ride the back of my bike every day in some “border” areas and I'd prefer it that they had some protection,” one father posted in a Facebook group called Secret Jerusalem.

In several Jerusalem schools, Arab cleaners have been told that they will be allowed to work only after the students have gone home for the day. Businesses and shops in downtown Jerusalem, and even Jerusalem’s famed fruit and vegetable market, were deserted. People say they feel jumpy and out of sorts.

“We’re all checking the news ever two minutes and it’s really hard to concentrate,” Barry Leff, a Conservative rabbi who moved to Israel with his family eight years ago told The Media Line. He lives very close to Armon Hanatziv and often goes running there. “I’m planning a run later this afternoon and I’ll have to change my route.”

His daughter Katherine, 19, who is doing national service helping a group of young adults with cerebral palsy said her supervisor told her that none of the young adults is allowed to leave the apartment today, and gave her tips on how to discuss the situation.

“It feels like everybody is talking about what’s happening all of te time and you can’t even get a break from it,” she said. “My parents started talking about how bad it would have to get before we went back to America.”

It is not only the Jewish residents of Jerusalem who are feeling the effects of the wave of violence. Palestinians say they worry they could be victims of revenge attacks. Ibrahim al-Hawa, 21, who works at ZARA, an upscale clothing store in Jerusalem’s Mamilla mall, near the Old City, says that many of the Arab workers in the mall have been told to speak Hebrew, rather than Arabic with each other, to cut down on the chance they will be attacked.

 “Everybody – every Israeli and every Palestinian —

  has a mother. We need to live together.”

Al-Hawa says a close friend was beat up by extremist Israelis ten days ago after two Israelis were killed. Some of his friends stayed home from work, and his parents didn’t want him to go either.

“Nobody recognizes me as Palestinian because I don’t look Arab,” he told The Media Line. “None of us want the situation like this. We just want to live in peace, or at least in silence.”

At the scene of the terrorist attack in Armon Hanatizv, a Palestinian bakery owner quickly closed his shop, after police told him to stay inside.

“Everybody just wants respect and to live a normal life,” he told The Media Line, on condition that his name not be used. “Everybody – every Israeli and every Palestinian — has a mother. We need to live together.”