Wave of Terror in Israel Blurs Lines Between Routine and Emergency

The terror attack on a Jerusalem bus Monday initially sparked a wave of confused reports.

Israeli security forces and emergency services gather around a burnt-out bus following an attack, Jerusalem, Israel, April 18, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

A terror attack? An accident? No, a terror attack. The hours of conflicting reports and fog around the source of the explosion Monday afternoon in Jerusalem, and about its significance, only added confusion to a situation that has lasted for more than seven months.

This situation has led to the blurring of boundaries between routine and emergency, between silence and the chilling sound of the sirens and screams.

The blast Monday occurred on Egged bus 12, that left East Talpiot in the southern part of the city, in the direction of Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem.

Only a few hundred meters separate that site and the place where Alexander Levlovitz was killed on September 16, 2015, after a stone was thrown at his car. Two incidents, apparently two points on the ruler of escalation in the current clash, between Rosh Hashanah and Passover.

Israeli security forces and emergency services gather around a burnt-out bus following an attack, Jerusalem, Israel, April 18, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

“A bus explodedthere’s an explosion here, many injured. An explosion in the back of the bus. I don’t know how many injured people there areone, two, three, fourI don’t know. There are 20 people here.”

That was the first report made Monday to the police hotline, at 5:49 P.M. Soon all the emergency medical and fire-fighting services were galloping southward, to begin dealing with the incident, the likes of which has not been seen in the current round of violence – and, indeed, not witnessed in Jerusalem since the end of the second intifada in 2005.

One of the first to arrive on the scene was a senior medic of the Magen David Adom emergency organization, Elad Pass, who reported: “When we got there we saw fire in the bus and thick smoke over the whole area. Injured people were lying in the road, they were all conscious, suffering from burns and bleeding. We gave them medical attention at the scene and sent them in ambulances to the hospitals.”

Sammy Grossman, a volunteer with the Zaka emergency rescue service, said people had to be treated for injuries suffered in secondary blasts exploding in the two burning buses.

“Unfortunately," he said, "the attack took me back to the years of the intifada and the horrific scenes of the injured after the blasts. Firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control and after that we went through the buses to make sure no one else was left inside."

The driver of the No. 12 bus, Moshe Levy, said later that he had checked the vehicle before he started out. “The trip was going fine. I got to Talpiot to Baram Street and stopped there; there was a traffic jam. Suddenly there was a blast in the back. I realized right away it was a terror attack. I opened the doors to people could get out, I told them to get out of the bus.”