- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

JERUSALEM On the final day of a Passover holiday that began a week ago with the massacre of two dozen people, Israelis yesterday stayed close to their homes in a sign that fear is taking hold.
Jerusalem's promenades and commercial areas were nearly deserted on what should have been a busy shopping day for tourists and office workers even with a slashing rain. Many shopkeepers never opened their doors.
After six bombings in as many days, Israelis have abandoned the coffee shops and public squares that normally make Jerusalem's city center so lively. One-third of all Israeli victims of the intifada have been killed in the last month, most of them in suicide attacks.
"I don't know why we are here. I don't like it. I don't like being here," said an elderly woman selling flowers near the bus station. "My customers are at home."
Parents have pulled children out of schools and sporting events. Pharmacists are reporting a run on low-dose sedatives and powerful antidepressants. Long lines form at the entrances to banks and shopping centers, with security guards patting down every visitor and examining bags and strollers for weapons.
Israel's vaunted nightlife has dropped both in decibels and wattage. Across Jerusalem, the population at large seems to have developed a kind of collective stress disorder.
Naomi Ehrlich said her 12-year-old son calls her cell phone incessantly, making sure she is going to come home.
"It makes me so sad every time it rings," she sighed. "He is a little boy. He shouldn't worry about me this way."
Mrs. Ehrlich, who works in a lingerie store in the bustling new bus terminal, says her sales staff is so skittish that they disappeared yesterday morning when a Palestinian teen-ager laden with bags and bundles walked into their shop.
"When I turned around pfft! they were all gone," said Mrs. Ehrlich, who acknowledged that she too felt a moment of queasiness when the customer walked in.
As American leaders did in mid-September, Israeli officials are urging citizens to get out, act normally and not give in to their fears.
But for the United States, one Israeli woman said, terrorism is an abstract threat posed by biological or chemical weapons, or the previously unimaginable impact of four fuel-laden jets.
In Israel, "we are afraid of the ordinary, the Arab neighbor, the ordinary people we want to live in peace with."
The fear of Arabs is palpable on the No. 6 bus, which travels through western Jerusalem to the enclosed shopping mall at the southern end of the city. Each time the bus stops, people seem to lean toward the door to see who is boarding. Even when seats are available, people prefer to stand.
Israeli authorities say 123 civilians were killed by bombings in March alone. In the last two weeks, Palestinian suicide bombers have struck at such varied targets as a seaside hotel, a supermarket, a bakery and a cafe.
Two more persons wounded in last Wednesday's blast died yesterday, bringing the total killed in Netanya's Park Hotel bombing to 24.
The Palestinians, for their part, say Israel's occupation of their land since 1967 is the most extreme form of terrorism. The Israeli military's weeklong incursion into the West Bank has drawn criticism from dozens of governments, the U.N. Security Council and religious leaders.
Israelis say their grief and fear is compounded by the intrusion of hundreds of reporters who have materialized since the Passover bombing in Netanya.
They complain that reporters are glorifying the Palestinians with coverage of the bombings and generating sympathy for them with pictures of the siege in the West Bank.
One place where business is merely slow is the Jerusalem Mall, at the southern edge of the city. Cars pass through a checkpoint before they can park, and shoppers are inspected before they can enter.
The layers of security give people an illusion of safety that is easily shattered.
Only two weeks ago, a car sped through the mall's checkpoint and then exploded, injuring no one but shaking nerves throughout the city.
"I am not afraid," said Schus Etzold, a saleswoman. "But I am not going to go around [downtown] Ben Yehuda Street for a very long time."


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