Three Real Bombers, A Fake One, Plus A Vacant Lot
The bartenders dumped the beers on the bar into hastily grabbed plastic cups. Waitresses were shooing clientele out the door but Liverpool fans were refusing to leave without their drinks. If they were going to be blown to kingdom come, they wanted drink in hand. Naturally, I lingered with the Liverpool fans.
This was a 9-11 at Mike's Place, the renown ex-pat hangout located along the sea shore in Tel Aviv. Bomb threats - especially around 9-11 - randomly occurred, almost always ending with a fizzle instead of a bang. But because the pub had been blown up by two Hamas suicide bombers during the Second Intifada (without warning) and claiming the life of an acquaintance of mine, a grain of graveness mushroomed to the point where patrons were frantically piling out onto the street. Except the Liverpool fans of course, who were waiting on their beers.
Next door, guards, shades covering their eyes, military grade weapons slung over their shoulders, added to the suspense. One never knew if the pub was the real target or if the American Embassy looming above it next door secretly had the 'X' marks the spot. And there was discussion on the street about how far was far enough to be safe.
The pictures posted here are from that day. I thought of this because this week, Mike's Place moved up the street a few meters. They say the old place will be torn down. I'm not sure by whom or for what purpose, just that a vacant lot shall mark the spot. It is as though history itself is playing traffic cop, saying, move along people. Keep it moving.
A mile or so up the road is the place where but for one little stroke of divine intervention, I would have been - like the waitress I knew at Mike's Place - blown up. And I wondered to myself if that had happened, and they tore down the building .... then I stopped myself. If that had happened, history would still have moved on as it should. Least we forget, the universe is perpetual motion.
Unlike all the real bombers who ended up dead, the man who planned my early demise is now out of prison and living a semi-normal life in Ramallah. For a while, I thought about arranging a meeting to ask, "Why did you want to kill me?" But I think I can anticipate the answer and beyond that question, I'm not sure truthful responses are to be obtained. Who knows, I may still bump into him in a Ramallah cafe some day and strike up that conversation.
While this post may be a little more sentimental than normal, in retrospect it is a human trait to pause in one's tracks and reflect on the path being forged. And in the future, if you happen to pass the American Embassy in Tel Aviv and notice an empty lot next to it, allow this post to help recall that a pub once occupied the ground there, where on a Saturday there'd be 150 fans watching European football, on Sundays 150 fans watching American football. Fans served by a waitress with a smile that brought joy to anyone she met. By the way, that smile lingers longer than any Liverpool fan can imagine.