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Evening commute panic-less bomb scare

May 27, 2011

It’s not unusual to find police cars blocking major bottleneck intersections during the evening rush hour commute, peering into each car with flashlights, looking for whatever or whoever they have reason to look for. It’s not a daily thing by any means, but there’s one particular major intersection just outside Tel Aviv that I pass through twice a day that is targeted now and then, and for some reason it got hit twice this week, adding an hour or more of standstill traffic to my commute each time.

Yesterday, however, after creeping inch by inch for miles and finally getting past the roadblock, traffic didn’t let up very much. Within ten minutes, police cars did crazy reckless things — above and beyond what has ceased being shocking in terms of Israeli driving — to get beyond traffic that was too congested to move out of their way. Traffic finally stopped all movement, people got antsy, and it became clear something unusual was happening.

Soon the bus driver told all the passengers they probably wanted to get off the bus because the downtown roundabout up ahead was blocked while police investigated a חפץ חשוד (chefetz chashud, suspicious object — a very common phrase, unfortunately). No one panicked whatsoever even as police corralled us, and even as crowds gathered to watch from a distance as an armored robot carried the chefetz chashud out into the cleared 100 yards’ worth of space in the center of the city.

I called my husband to ask what I should do to get home and how long it would take, though it was hard to be concerned when everyone was so calm. He said it was no big deal and usually resolved very quickly — the police would find the object and probably blow it up in a controlled way, then open everything back up to pedestrians and traffic. Which is exactly what happened, and I was back on my way home in about fifteen minutes.

I captured this picture of the police van the robot climbed back inside of, though I couldn’t get a picture of the robot himself:

Police robot mobile

Though hard to image, maybe after a few more of these I can be as nonchalant around robots and suspected bombs as everyone else.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2011 1:30 pm

    We had one in my little town about two weeks ago. It is not possible to panic at every bomb scare, you’ll end up in the psychiatric ward. Sadly, it is far too common in Israel.

    • May 30, 2011 3:14 pm

      That’s very true. This was only the second one I’ve witnessed, and the first where the police brought out the robot thing. I admire how well everyone handles it and am always intrigued by how emergencies or pseudo-emergencies so readily bring out the best in people here.

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