One Week After by Judy Lash Balint www.jewsweek.com
December 8, 2001
Last Saturday night, yeshiva student Netanel Miller,18, lay in a Jerusalem hospital with shrapnel in his leg. Today, Miller's apartment was full of his young friends who came to celebrate Shabbat with the fortunate survivor of the Ben Yehuda terror attack. They came to sing, and rejoice that their friend is home and alive.
Netanel, my neighbor, was released from the hospital earlier in the week, and has been hobbling around on crutches ever since. His answer to anyone who inquires after his health is "Baruch Hashem," Thank God.
Tonight, after Shabbat, the scene at the Ben Yehuda mall could not be more different than one week ago. There are few people about. An air of quiet sadness hangs in the air. The main center of activity is the frantic preparations going on to ready the renovated plaza in Zion Square at the bottom of the mall for tomorrow's Chanukah candle lighting ceremony. Guests of honor will be NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani and NY Governor Pataki.
There are pairs of soldiers every ten yards throughout the downtown area. Stores whose windows were blown out last Saturday night are open for business tonight. The cellphone store that was destroyed, reopened on Tuesday. The young clerk working there tonight tells me she doesn't feel anything anymore. "I ignore everything" she says, as she recounts how she'd closed the store last Saturday night twenty minutes before the bombs ripped through the ice cream shop across the way.
There are two memorials set up on the mall to the boys who died there. Both have memorial candles, flowers and notes set on them. There's a prayer shawl belonging to one victim draped over one corner. Passers by stop to say a quiet prayer, then move on.
A few people sit in Cafe Rimon, where one of the explosions went off. Some kids sit defiantly at the ice cream store too. Burger King, normally full of kids enjoying a kosher Saturday night treat, has a lone customer. The owner of one store can be seen painting over the patches where shrapnel has been removed. Police SWAT teams in their trademark black uniforms drive up and down the mall on motorcycles.
At around 8:45pm a group of people from a Nachlaot synagogue gather to begin a memorial service. They're led by the young, US born rabbi of Shir Hadash, Ian Pear. Rav Ian and his wife Rachel are building a vibrant, young community around them in the central Jerusalem neighborhood that's just up the street from Ben Yehuda. Tonight, in front of cameras from CNN and several Israeli and foreign stations, Rav Ian speaks about the importance of remembrance. He reminds those present that our victims are all innocent children who were enjoying a night out. He pointedly notes that Palestinian casualties are almost always struck down while committing acts of violence.
As he speaks, a distraught young man with tears in his eyes and slicked back hair approaches him and whispers in his ear. He tells Rav Ian that his friend, Ido Cohen, 18, one of those injured last week has just died in the hospital. Pushing his way back through the crowd, the leather clad boy sobs that he's on his way to comfort the family.
The havdala band that has created a Saturday night tradition in Kikar Tzion, begins to play the soulful Shlomo Carlebach tune, "Nachamu, Nachamu Ami". Be comforted my people.