Saturday, October 8, 2005

The Terror of Hailing Rocks

I was just paying a simple visit to smooth's blog when I realized that the post was about a terror attack on my family. We weren't the only ones there that day. I'm referring to that Succot afternoon when Arabs threw heavy stones onto the kotel (western wall) plaza from Har HaBayit, the Temple Mount.

We used to have a family custom, every Succot holiday we would pack a nice picnic lunch and travel to the kotel and then eat in the large succah in the back of the plaza. We did this when we lived in Jerusalem and continued even after moving to Shiloh. I'd bring fruit and sandwiches, and I could never understand how other Israeli families could schlepp pots of food and serve proper meals on the narrow tables. We were always lucky just to find a chair or two.

We were in the succah eating when we heard noise, a sort of shooting sound but didn't really pay any attention at first. Then we realized that others were acting concerned, peeking through cracks trying to see what was going on. Looking at the kotel, we saw what seemed like hundreds of giant white balls raining on the kotel. But they weren't balls, they were large rocks, and people were fleeing. And these rocks were being thrown by Arabs from Har HaBayit.

Israeli soldiers were trying to stop them by shooting tear gas. In the succah, we could see and we could hear it all, but we didn't "feel the tear gas." The succah walls and the leafy schach roof protected us. We felt very safe.

Then soldiers came in and ordered us to leave, for our own "safety" of course. Unfortunately, once we left the protection of the succah, we felt the tear gas. Let me tell you about tear gas. It hurts, burns the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. The longer you're exposed the worse it is. And the more physical effort you have to make, the worse it is.

We were instructed to go into the "Jewish Quarter," which meant that we had to climb lots of stairs and breathe deeply. Of course it just made everything more painful. And the air wasn't clean up there.

I'm not going to lie to you. It was our last big family visit to the kotel succah, though I did manage to convince my young sons to go with me a couple of years later, accompanied by two "body guards," olim chadashim, new immigrants from Russia, who had become like family. That way I was able to doven on the ladies' side, and each son had an adult man with him.

There are things one just never forgets. I could taste the tear gas as I wrote this.


Esther said...

How horrible! I'm so sorry you went through this. I'm so sorry people can be so cruel as to rain down rocks on their fellow man -- never mind blow themselves up to kill others.

Batya said...

It was terribly traumatic for the kids.