It's getting harder and harder to avoid them in Jerusalem

By Robert Sarner, Canadian Jewish News, Oct. 17, 2002

JERUSALEM - To live in Jerusalem these days is to be constantly reminded you are a target of Palestinian terrorists. Never mind the frequent threats from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad that more attacks are coming, evidence of their previous atrocities is everywhere.

Just stroll through many of the city's neighborhoods and you'll pass the site of a past bombing or shooting rampage. Such is the predilection of terrorists for Jerusalem and the scope of their onslaught that few areas in central Jerusalem have been spared their murderous acts.

It's a particularly sobering experience to walk downtown and confront - as one inevitably does - the sites of so many past slaughters. Within a two-block radius, you see where 10 massacres were carried out since the Palestinians launched their current war against Israel two years ago.

The stone plaques and small memorials scattered throughout the city testify to the scale of tragedy that Jerusalem has suffered - scores of men, women and children killed and hundreds seriously wounded. And to think it would be far worse if not for the heroic efforts of Israeli security services, which have foiled countless other planned attacks.

Lately, when foreign dignitaries or Jewish solidarity missions visit Jerusalem, they invariably make a pilgrimage to the place where a major attack has occurred in homage to the victims. The visitors have a gruesomely wide selection to choose from: Hebrew University, CafÇ Moment, Sbarro Restaurant, Mehane Yehuda Market, Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Mall, Jaffa Road, King George Street, French Hill intersection, the bust stop next to Beit Zafafa.

These places were already well known before the violence. Now they carved into the collective memory of Jerusalemites thanks to Palestinian mass murderers who put them on the map for the most repulsive reason possible. As a result, these sites have become unofficial landmarks of inhumanity.

These high profile acts of terror are well documented, but they do not tell the whole story. Police statistics show there have been nearly 150 terrorist attacks of varying severity in Jerusalem since late 2000. The list - and extent of premeditated killing - is chilling. Few, if any other, cities in the world have ever had to face such a sustained assault.

Looking back further, it's staggering to see what Jerusalemites have experienced in the way of Palestinian terror since the so-called peace process began in 1993. Those with the time and inclination - to say nothing of the stomach - could spend several days just visiting the places in Jerusalem where Palestinians have carried out suicide bombings - or as they call them, martyr operations - and other attacks. It would be a shocking tour of deliberate death and destruction.

When I was 19 and first moved to Paris, I was taken back by the many plaques on the facades of buildings, which detailed how during World War II at a particular location on such a date, Jews were arrested and deported to Nazi death camps. Or that anti-Nazi Resistance members were killed fighting the Germans. These reminders of a loaded past gave each location an added dimension. The juxtaposition between the seemingly ordinary, peaceful buildings and the terrible events that had occurred there decades earlier was haunting.

Sadly, Jerusalem is now home to many such plaques. Of course, a simple plaque cannot even begin to describe the horror of what happened on a certain day - innocent people blown to smithereens; others horribly maimed and traumatized forever; and those whose lives have been shattered by the loss of loved ones.

For Jerusalem, a city steeped in history, regrettably so much of the latest chapter is being written in blood. No one can really say what will be the lasting impact of this evil on the city and the country at large. It's sure to be a long time before Jerusalemites forget what they have had to live through in recent years - and continue to face every day. If nothing else, the plaques will be there to remind them and future generations.

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