Haredim Grapple With Terror Attack

Some terror attacks are referred to by the name of the place hit, like the Cafe Moment attack in Jerusalem. There are those attacks that stick in the mind because of when they took place, like the Seder night attack at Netanya's Park Hotel. Others are remembered because of the trauma they wrought on a certain sector; we will always remember the attack at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium as the "Russians' terror attack."

The brutal terror attack which struck the number 2 bus as it passed through Jerusalem's Shimon Hanavi neighborhood on Tuesday night, killing 20 people, is destined to be thought of as the ultra-Orthodox's terror attack. In March 2002, 10 people, again mostly ultra-Orthodox, were killed in the capital's Beit Yisrael neighborhood, but Tuesday's attack was the "helicopter crash disaster" for the Haredi community, says publisher of the weekly ultra-Orthodox newspaper B'Kehila (in the community), a reference to the 1997 disaster in which two IDF helicopters crashed, killing 73 soldiers in the North of the country.

The attack may have struck at one particular sector, but in many ways, it was a very "Jerusalem" attack. Shmuel Hanavi Street, where the blast happened, is not just the seam line between East and West Jerusalem, but it is also the seam line between so many other components of the capital: between old Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem of after the 1967 war, between the ultra-Orthodox and secular neighborhoods, between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. This particular street was also very "Jerusalem" because of the complacency Jerusalemites are quick to adopt during a lull between attacks.

They were so complacent that many residents of the street were slow to absorb that a terror attack had actually happened. Unlike other residents, here they refused to believe that the horror could have reached the "holy area," as Doron Gandian, a newly-religious Jew who lives in the area, calls it. The sanctity of the place, the locals believed, would protect them. Gandian found out yesterday that his uncle's grandson, 11-month-old Shmuel Zargari, was among the 20 killed.

At 11:30 A.M. yesterday, a car fitted with a speaker system drove around the neighborhood's streets, inviting residents to attend the funerals. At that moment, Gad Ben-Ami went to see what was the state of his rabbi's room, right next to the Torah school in front of which the bus exploded. To his shock, he discovered body parts on the floor of the room. Ben-Ami was immensely releaved that his rabbi was away at the time. "The rabbi is very sensitive to the pain of the people of Israel. He cries after every terror attack," he said.

Ben-Ami says that one can learn from the book of Zohar, the basic book in Kaballah teachings, that everyone who died in the attack died in the name of God. This statement also appeared on the death notices for 24-year-old Menachem Liebel, who was laid to rest in the capital yesterday.

Candles were lit yesterday next to Liebel's death notice, a tradition that has become almost an inseparable part of terror attacks, and two wreaths of flowers were placed next to the notice, which is not a Haredi tradition. The neighbors say that a nun from a nearby nunnery laid the flowers, and even crossed herself as she did it. "No one said a word," the neighbors said. "It is not right to point such things out at such a time."

A somewhat surprising quiet hung over the scene of the attack. The walls of the neighborhood may be full with the usual graffiti of "death to Arabs" and "Kahane was right," but the oppressive vibe which followed the attack had completely vanished yesterday. The graffiti was quickly covered up with posters stating the "Nation of Israel must return to religion and take a hard look at one's actions, especially between man and his friend."

Groups of ultra-Orthodox Jews came together, as happens in every neighborhood after an attack. But here, they did not speak of Yasser Arafat or Ariel Sharon, but on God Almighty, about themselves, taking responsibility for what had happened to them and claiming that all this had happened because of their wicked deeds, the ins and outs of which they do not know.

The restraint and soul-searching that has replaced the blame game here is only momentarily disturbed when Alexander, a new immigrant from Russia who has joined the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, appears. "The Rebbe warned we must not give back territories," he shouts, referring to the movement's spiritual leader Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn. "Your rabbi allowed giving land to Arabs," he continues, refering to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

This was the only time that tensions ran high. Shas activists who had been talking to Hasidim and members of the Lithuanian community could not just let such a slur to the Rabbi Yosef's name pass and Alexander was extracted.

In the not too distant past, this area was filled with drugs and crime. There has been a thorough change in recent years with waves of newly religious and newly Orthodox Jews moving into the neighborhood. The veteran residents still remember how when there was a stabbing, "protests and a whole mess" would ensue, as they put it. "Yesterday," said the older residents, "they asked `how many?' and not `why?'"

Instead of protests yesterday, a mourning procession, both so typically Jerusalem and yet so distinct, took place in this terror-struck neighborhood.