We were on our way to service on Shabbat. It’s always a nice feeling when you know you are going to be on time to the meeting (not that being late to a service has ever caused family stress…eh). Suddenly all the traffic stopped on the Ayalon. The Ayalon is one of Israel’s major interstates that starts in Herzilya, goes through Tel Aviv and ends just south of Jaffa.
It is not normal for traffic to be at a standstill on a Saturday morning. In addition to the fact that nobody works, a large minority of the country won’t drive on the Sabbath. So that meant one of two things: A traffic accident or a havila hashuda (a suspicious package). It turned out to be the latter.
In Israel, any time one leaves a package, a book bag or what appears to be a bag of groceries unattended, the police are likely to be called. About ten years ago my sister-n-law walked out of her apartment building and noticed an unattended bag. She called the police and within minutes the roads were blocked off and the bomb unit was called in. Fortunately it was nothing.
And thank God that in recent years terrorism has fallen dramatically (not for lack of desire, but because of the security fence that the whole world rails against). But on this Saturday, with temperatures in the 90s, realizing that I would be late to service, needing gas, I had to wonder how long I would be stuck there and if there was indeed a bomb.
Of course I was confident it wasn’t because most of the time it isn’t. But in a country that is so used to terrorism, you can’t let anything slide. And for me personally, after the death of my young cousin, Daniel Cantor Wultz, a few Passovers ago, when a terrorist’s bomb ripped through his backside, things changed. You can’t think anymore, “It could never touch me,” because it has.
I got out of my car like many others and began to walk down the highway towards the roadblock. I asked someone “Ma Kore?” (What’s going on?). “Havila Hashuda,” came the reply. As I walked back someone asked me the same thing and I gave the same answer. He was wearing a Black Sabbath T-shirt. Now there is irony I thought. Is this indeed going to be a Black Sabbath?
Suddenly, the bomb squad pulled away and we all jumped back in our cars and began to move. This would not be a Black Sabbath after all, just a typical episode in Israeli life. Suspicious package, bomb scare, stopped traffic, bomb squad…wait…continue.