Of all the things I have never wanted to do or see, a terror attack is quite high on the list.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. today, I was riding on the second car of the Jerusalem light rail train, heading towards Ammunition Hill (Givat HaTachmoshet). As it arrived at Damascus Gate, as far as I know, the only stop where guards are required to wear bullet-proof vests, passengers got off and on, and then suddenly there was a loud disturbance in the back of the rail car in which I was riding.
Everyone starting running forward, a few people were yelling. The doors at the front had already closed. As I looked to the rear, I saw a small cloud of smoke and heard noise coming from outside. Just to the side of the train station platform, I saw very little other than what looked like an attempt by several people to converge on something or someone while there was more yelling both outside and in the train.
The doors to the train closed. People were trying to understand what was happening. Those that had been in the back explained that an Arab had pulled out tear gas and started spraying it and then, as the doors were about to close and people were trying to get away, he ran out onto the platform and presumably beyond.
People attempted to hail the driver, who it seems ignored all signals of distress. A slight amount of the tear gas drifted forward enough to give a slight feeling of it in the air. The train moved to the next stop where many people got out. Someone hailed security. They came into the train and made everyone go to the first car. I can only hope they checked the train before it began to move.
The next stop was the same, and then we arrived at Ammunition Hill where the train was checked again.
The reaction of the people on the train was a combination of anger and shock. As terror attacks go, it was, I know, a minor event. It could have been so much worse - in fact, it is in and of itself a gift and a miracle that it wasn't worse. It could have been a bomb - there was no security person on the train with us and we were, for all intents and purposes, prisoners within a rail car that was shut down with a threat inside the car.
My hands shook as I called Shmulik to see where he was and as I called Davidi was making his way home at the same time. I wanted to tell him not to take the train, but to catch a bus, so he would not have to go through the Damascus Gate stop. He was already on the bus, so I didn't tell him about the tear gas until later.
Life is full of what could have been and it helps to focus on what was. What was, was an act of hate intended to harm, if not permanently, than at least to cause discomfort. No one would allow us to say that Arabs cannot ride the light rail - they would accuse us of apartheid behavior and so, each day, tens of thousands of Arabs go on the light rail to get to work, to school, to shop, and for medical appointments at some of the finest hospitals in the Middle East.
Many Arabs abused that privilege when they attacked the light rail stations in their neighborhoods, burning down the stations and ticketing machines, defacing the structures with graffiti that read "Death to Israel; Death to the Jews." For weeks, they have been stoning the train - so many of the windows on these clean and relatively new rail cars are shattered. The train bears these marks with stoic dignity as it travels along the route planned by some stupid city planner who forgot to take into account violence and security requirements.
And today, about 40 people were subjected to an attempted terror attack...or perhaps it was like the rockets they fire at us just a minute ago, an hour ago, and throughout this day and the last 20 days. I have always said, just because the rocket misses, doesn't mean it isn't a terror attack.
Just because a few of us probably have scratchy throats, and a few people complained of burning eyes rather than more serious injuries, doesn't mean it wasn't a terror attack.