Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Nissan 5761 - March 28, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Another Meah Shearim Miracle
by Betzalel Kahn and M. Plaut

Residents of Meah Shearim were saved last Wednesday from a huge explosion from a bomb planted in a parked car that was dismantled before it could explode. This is the fourth such incident in the last two months. The first bomb was neutralized on Shivtei Yisroel Street, the second on Shomrei Emunim Street. The third bomb, placed in a car in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood, actually exploded, but bechasdei Hashem, there were no casualties.

"HaKodosh Boruch Hu sent me to save lives," said the inspector who discovered the suspicious car on Meah Shearim Street.

It all began at three in the afternoon. The car was first reported by a taxi driver from Eisenbach cab station, who found the Mazda Lantis parked in a spot reserved for the company's cabbies. He called the city inspector's office to complain. The car was in such a way that it disturbed the flow of traffic, and it seemed as if the driver had rushed out of the car without checking to see how he had parked.

Shimon Roash, a 37-year-old Kiryat Arba man who works for the city as a parking inspector, came and began preparing a parking ticket. When he typed the car's license number into his hand-held computer linked to the central police vehicle database, he saw the car was stolen.

This modern hand-held data-terminal has only recently been put in use by the city. When he looked inside the car, he also saw a cellular telephone connected with wires to an electrical switch. This aroused his suspicion and he immediately summoned the police and began telling people to leave the area.

Within a few moments, sappers and scores of policemen arrived on the scene. They quickly evacuated the pedestrians and all of the streets leading to Kikar Shabbos were closed, causing prolonged traffic jams in the center of Jerusalem. More police were summoned. Scores of police combed the region with dogs to determine that there were no more bombs in the area.

After it had become clear that the car contained a bomb that was liable to explode at any moment, it was decided to evacuate the residents from their homes. The buildings in the area are very old, and an explosion could have caused many of them to collapse.

Working slowly and carefully, the police sappers tried to open the trunk, but without success. At that stage, it was decided to conduct a supervised explosion with a robot in order to break into the car. That attempt revealed a number of powerful bombs made from fifteen-centimeter pipes.

A police helicopter with a powerful public address system hovered over the area, calling upon residents to evacuate their homes. They were also asked to open their windows, so that in the event of an explosion, damage would be minimized. The residents cooperated and left their homes from back entrances leading to Chagai Street.

At eight in the evening, the stolen car was placed onto a tow truck and transferred to the Ramot Forest, where the car was detonated. The police closed all of the roads over which the car passed. These roads remained closed for a long time.

Traffic was snarled throughout the city. It became almost impossible to go from north to south or from south to north for several hours. There were reports that a chosson came very late for his own wedding because of the tie- ups.

All roads leading to the forest were closed to traffic. "A levaya for a car which is being taken on its final journey," someone who had been saved from a severe disaster joked, with a mixture of happiness and excitement.

No one attended the "levaya." All remained at the site. After the removal of the bomb, remaining on the site no longer constituted a safety problem. Before, it had caused unnecessary inconvenience, for despite the great restraint it displays under such circumstances, the chareidi community -- as we have written countless numbers of times, but must say again -- crowds the areas near terrorist attacks (or impending-terrorist attacks), making it hard for the police to do their work.

As if it wasn't enough that scores of thoroughfares in Jerusalem were closed for many hours, masses of people gathered in Kikar Shabbos after the bomb was removed, making it impossible to reopen the road. (Students in educational institutions who regularly finish their day at four or five in the afternoon, had to remain in their classrooms until seven.) It was impossible to make headway on the roads.

Commander of the Police Shlomo Aharonishki, Commander of the Jerusalem Area Mickey Levi and senior officers in the Jerusalem region remained on the scene throughout the many hours in which efforts to deactivate the bomb took place.

Police commander Levi refused to describe the type of bomb and its size. In addition, Levi said that police have received warnings about attempts to bring bombs into areas within the green line. He stressed once again that this case is a good example of civilian alertness preventing a disaster. The Jerusalem Police Department has issued a call to all civilians to continue to be wary of suspicious objects.

The inspector was able to ascertain quickly that the suspicious car was stolen because of the hand-held computer he carried. At a discussion about the purchasing of the those data-terminals a number of weeks ago, the members the city council were told that it connects the Municipal computers to those of the Police, enabling the detection of suspicious cars, a measure vital due to the security situation in Jerusalem. Although the Meretz members in the City Council opposed the plan, the Council approved the initiative to purchase it.

Last week, it was clear that the new computer system was instrumental in saving the lives of many people on Meah Shearim Street.

The city parking inspector had recently taken a police- sponsored course on how to identify suspicious objects as potential bombs, especially parked cars. Police now plan to repeat the program throughout the country with an emphasis on training parking inspectors.

Internal Affairs Minister Uzi Landau praised the city inspector for his outstanding alertness, and the sappers of the Jerusalem Police Department for their expertise and courage. "The successful teamwork of the Municipal inspectors and the Jerusalem Police Department was achieved as a result of the implementation of the lessons the Police Department have derived from past occurrences. Thanks to this teamwork, a terrorist attack was averted."

Defense Minister Binyamin ben Eliezer called the inspector who discovered the mined car and praised him for his alertness.

But the behavior of the police was also baffling and irritating. The police, for some reason, weren't interested in seeing joyous dancing until the wee hours of the night, and after the car was removed they tried to disperse the thousands who overflowed Kikar Shabbos. To try? No, not just to try, but to do so at all costs -- with force.

Eyewitnesses report that the moment it was decided to vacate those who had assembled at the site, after the removal of the bomb, the police acted with brutality, with horses and scores of policemen. "I don't understand why it was necessary to bring horses and large numbers of police to disperse the curious throng. Couldn't they have politely asked the people to move away and to clear the junction? Instead, the officers decided to charge into the throng with horses and riders," an eyewitness said with pain.

Many Circles

But this sorry occurrence didn't unduly affect the mood of the throng. A short while later, many circles of dancers were formed -- circles of ecstatic Jews, who know how to thank HaKodosh Boruch Hu for His daily kindness to us, and for the great miracle which occurred in the neighborhood. "Tehei hasho'oh hazos, she'as rachamim ve'eis rotzon milfonecho," the celebrants -- more than ten thousand, it is estimated -- hoarsely sang to the strains of an accompanying band.

"It is impossible to describe the great miracle which occurred here. Everyone here at this moment, might have, at this very same time, had to participate in the levayos of victims, Rachmono litzlan. But instead, we are participating in a celebration of those who were saved by an enormous miracle from a dangerous bomb," one of the celebrants told Yated Ne'eman.

There was dancing in the streets and praise for Hashem until around two in the morning.

Since the start of the Intifadah and except for one car bombing in the Machane Yehuda open market, all attempted car bombings in Jerusalem have been in the Meah Shearim area. Security services are increasingly concerned that Palestinian terrorist cells have accumulated large amounts of explosives for car bombs. But they are also convinced there are fewer "professionals" capable of preparing these devices.

Residents near where the car was found said: "They placed the bomb in our neighborhood, but it didn't explode, because Torah protects and saves. This is the fourth time in which a bomb was placed in our neighborhood and nothing happened. It's all Hashgocho protis. Shomayim wants to arouse us to do teshuva..

The first attempted attack on Meah Shearim Street took place at almost precisely at the same place nearly 14 years ago. It was erev Succos. Thousands of people crowded the arba minim market, which was jam-packed. Suddenly, a suspicious car was discovered and in moments the entire street was evacuated and the bomb deactivated. (Then it was harder to vacate the street, because it was filled with thousands of people.)

Soon we will recite, "Vehi she'omdo la'avoseinu velonu . . . veHaKodosh Boruch Hu matzileinu miyodom" at the Seder. A few days before rosh chodesh Nisan, which recalls the great miracles -- nissim -- which occurred to the Jewish Nation during that month, we have been given a rousing reminder of Hashem's kindness in every generation, and a prompting which should make us realize that we have no one on whom to lean, except on Ovinu shebaShomayim. A great miracle happened here. Boruch she'osoh lonu ness bamokom hazeh.


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