Brian Blum
August 22, 2011
Hutzot HaYotzer arts and crafts festival

While it’s the big news that gets all the headlines, sometimes it’s the small stuff that’s the hardest to sweat. Last week, terrorists attacked along the Israel-Egypt border just north of Eilat. The ensuing days have been filled with IDF strikes and Gazan counterattacks. More people have died.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, the seminal rap-rock band HaDag Nahash was playing a concert at Sultan’s Pool as part of the annual Hutzot HaYotzer arts and crafts festival. Our 17-year-old daughter Merav had a plan to dance up a storm with her friends at the show. She got all dolled up, then received a phone call.

“There’s a terror alert in Mamila (the mall that is adjacent to Sultan’s Pool). Everyone’s been ordered to get off the street and hide in the stores. There are police everywhere. It’s really serious,” her friend on the phone said.

“What should I do?” Merav asked us. “I want to go…”

“…but you don’t want to die,” I finished her sentence.

“Right,” she responded.

We checked the news. There was indeed a “high alert” going on in Jerusalem, but it was mostly along the highways entering the city from the north and west – Highway 443 was reported to have back-ups for up to 10 km coming towards the checkpost from Modi’in. But nothing written about trouble in town.

“If they’re locking down the mall, they must have some good lead,” I speculated.

“Maybe I could get to the concert from the other side,” Merav offered.

“No, they’ll have closed everything,” I said.

“And the other way is kind of dark,” Merav remembered. “Oof, this sucks! I really like HaDag Nahash.”

“And I really like you…alive,” I replied. I wish I were trying to be ironic.

Merav sat in the kitchen, now with two of her friends. While we’d tried to leave the decision up to Merav (with some strongly worded parental advice), one of her friends had much stricter marching orders.

“My mom says I can’t even leave your house,” she said gloomily.

The truth is, this kind of terror lock down has been pretty rare in recent years. During the early 2000s, it was a nearly daily occurrence, but nowadays we take for granted that we can sit at a Café Aroma and sip an iced limon-nana on a warm Jerusalem night with carefree abandon.

But an arts and crafts festival with tens of thousands of nightly attendees makes a pretty good spot for an attack. It’s a reminder that, despite our protestations and blogs to the contrary, Israel is not quite yet that “normal” nation we proffer it to be.

And yet the contrary is just as true: we say (and we mean it) that we won’t let the bad guys stop us from living our lives. If Merav had received a call just then saying the threat had passed, she would have been on the next bus to town, with our blessing.

The girls wound up reluctantly taking a pass on the show. We watched a family movie instead: “The Invention of Lying.” It was an amusing distraction.

Later, Merav talked to a friend of hers who had made it to the show. It was amazing, Merav quoted. “But he said everyone was terrified. They spent the whole concert looking around, trying to spot if there was a terrorist in the crowd.” She added, almost parenthetically, that she was, in fact, glad she hadn’t gone in the end.

There was no terror attack and the threat level was lifted by morning. My wife and I are scheduled to attend the festival and show on Tuesday (Ehud Banai is playing live). And unless the roads are closed, we’ll be there, defiant, proud and enjoying a warm Jerusalem evening.

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