Terrorism returned to Tel Aviv today. I knew there was something wrong this morning when I saw two ambulances racing together down the street as I was walking back from accompanying my son to his school bus stop. Seeing an ambulance in my neighborhood is not an unusual occurrence, since we live close to the largest hospital in the city. However, when you see two or more ambulances racing down the boulevard together, you know something dreadful has happened. The ambulances were heading toward an intersection about 7 blocks away that I often cross.
Then a news bulletin came on the radio: A terrorist attacked the driver and several passengers on a Dan bus traveling from the southern suburb of Holon to Tel Aviv University. The terrorist was later identified as 23 year old from the West Bank town of Tulkarem, who was working in Israeli illegally. Herzl Biton, the 56 year old, unarmed driver, struggled with the terrorist, punching him repeatedly and delaying his ability to attack additional bus riders. The bus driver brought the bus to a stop at the intersection of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Sadeh streets. Biton opened the doors and most of the riders managed to escape, despite the fact that a number of them were stabbed by the terrorist who was wielding a long sharp knife. All together 11 people were injured seven of the seriously.
A prison authority van bringing prisoners to their court appearances at various trials was traveling behind the bus. Seeing the bus zig-zag down the road, caused prison authority police to realize something was terribly wrong. When the bus came to a stop, the prison authorities stopped as well. Two of the guards went immediately to help the bus driver the others pursued the terrorist. First they fired in the air and then fired at his legs, stopping him and then handcuffing him. In the meantime, the bus driver managed to call his boss and inform him that he had been stabbed by a terrorist and alerting him to call an ambulance. Finally, in the event something were to happen to him, Biton asked his boss to “please take care of my kids.”
Within a few hours Tel Aviv returned to a semblance of normal. But what is normal? When asked, a young women in her mid-twenties waiting for a bus, said that the stabbing did not effect her. “I am always a little nervous on buses, and this incident is unlikely to make my suspicions greater.” She was, of course, sad for the victims.
A young man at another bus stop said the terror attack this morning will not change anything, declaring “our victory over terror is to continue our daily routine”. An older proprietor of a Boureka Restaurant near a stop for the same bus on which the attack took place, had a different take. He was angry. He felt this would effect the way people acted. This more senior gentleman believed as a result of this morning’s tragedy people would be more suspicious and less of them would take buses. He was concerned there would be copycat lone terrorists. He was frustrated that it only takes a few extremists to change the situation. In addition, he verbalized sadness at his feeling we would never be able to reach peace – since there would always be some extremist who would not accept that possibility, who will go and knife or shoot someone, or blow up themselves and others with a bomb. His words were particularly poignant as we were standing directly across the street from the place where another extremist changed history by assassinating Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. All three, claimed that the terror attack would not impact their vote in the upcoming elections,
The streets and coffee houses of Tel Aviv are full of people this afternoon. Iit was announced today, that another Israeli start-up was acquired by an American company. (This purchase was made by Drop Box.) Life just seems go on. Last summer the residents of Tel Aviv worried about the missiles being fired on us from the South. Yesterday, the concern was the possibility of war in the North. Today, apprehension abounds regarding the potential ‘lone terrorists’ in our midst. Unfortunately, a lifetime of conflict has prepared the average resident of Tel Aviv to deal with these various threats. Threats that residents of few cities in the world are called upon to cope with on regular basis.