Sunday was pretty uneventful. I decided to spend the day wandering the streets of Jerusalem by foot, exploring the shops, and just taking it easy.
After the first five days of this trip, especially with the time change, I was pretty much wasted. So, instead of sitting in a car driving to yet another site worth seeing, I decided to save it for Monday. The last full day of my stay in Israel.
At one gift shop, on a side street just off Ben Yehuda, the owner of a store literally came outside to bring me in. “Look around he said. Even if you don’t buy anything”. As it happened, I was the first customer he had in his store in quite a while; to the point that he kept it open only because he couldn’t think of anything else to do.
We spoke about several things, but mostly about the war and terrorism. “My wife and daughter were in Sbarros when it was blown up”. He said. “Let me show you the newspaper stories”. And sure enough, he produced the stories of the miraculous circumstance which saved the lives of the two people he loved more than anything else in the world.
The shopkeeper’s wife and his young daughter (I believe she was about 12 years old), left his shop to have lunch at Sbarros. And instead of joining them, he decided to stay at work. Once inside Sbarros, the mother and daughter ordered their pizza, paid their bill, and went to sit at the large street level picture window to watch all the people passing by. But; for some unexplained reason, the daughter wanted to sit on the slightly raised upper level, nearer to the back, further within the pizza parlor. So they moved. And the moment they put their food trays down on the table, even before sitting. KABOOM!
The shopkeeper, hearing the blast, ran out onto the street to see who was hit. And when he heard it was Sbarros, he ran to the scene with his heart in his stomach. He ran praying that his wife and child were alive. I guess his prayers were heard. But not so for all the others who were murdered and mangled at Sbarros on that fateful day. His daughter and wife had survived with minor physical injuries, and major psychological scars.
I asked the shopkeeper, if after all this: did he hate Arabs? His answer was no. He hated the people responsible for what happened. And he hated all the terrorists. But he didn’t hate Arabs. He only wished they would make peace. But until such time as that happens, he supported whatever measures the Israeli government decided to implement to ensure Israel’s safety. Including, and especially the security of the Israeli people.
I went back to my room quite early that evening, with my mind so full of everything I had heard and seen since taking off from Pearson Airport in Toronto; and now this. Here is a shopkeeper, who could just as easily be minding his store on a tourist street in “Anytown” North America, who accepts terror as a “normal” function in his daily life.
When the Sbarro blast shook the street, he didn’t hide, wondering what the hell happened. He knew exactly what happened, and ran onto the street to see who got hit.
At about 6:00 o’clock in the Morning, Israeli time: I would be awakened by Stirling Faux’s producer, Raynald, of CKNW Radio, calling from Vancouver, British Columbia, to get a one hour live broadcast set up to be transmitted across all of Western Canada. And after my experience with Leslie Primeau’s audience in Edmonton, Alberta, I really wasn’t sure if I was truly ready for round two.
By now, I was caring less and less about what the anti-Semites, and the ignorant masses were thinking or saying about Israel and Jews. The sensitivity and shock I experienced at the verbal prejudice vomited by these racist vermin, was beginning to change my angst into anger. I was worrying more about self defense, than I was about changing their minds. And that was not the best focus.
Before the phone was to ring, I already knew what to expect from Stirling’s audience. I didn’t sleep well.