Shooting at the Western Wall

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There is a simple, absolute rule that I have created for myself.

“Shmeel: Always take all your equipment.”

Always.

So that when you find yourself in the right place at the right time, you also have the right tools.

Let me qualify this though. It doesn’t mean that I need to carry around a defibrillator at my kid’s school graduation.

 

Take to Graduation List

Camera

Water

Snacks

Defibrillator

 

That wouldn’t go down well with my wife, or my kids, or the school, or my self-image.

What it does mean is that:

  1. Always carry your communication devices on your person, so that you can be alerted to an emergency in your vicinity. It would be a shame to be shopping in Store #1, oblivious to someone dying in Store #2.
  2. When responding to an emergency, always take all your equipment. Don’t assume the EMT that arrived before you followed protocol, and don’t assume you won’t need that Burn cream. Because actually, you will.

 

But I find it hard to follow rules; even my own – which brings me to the beginning of my story.

 

I zip through the opening between the barriers and head towards Jerusalem’s Old City. Private cars are no longer allowed to enter the old city area and the municipality has set up a barrier that scans license plates and only opens for public transportation or emergency services. It’s a completely automated system and no amount of Israeli Chutzpah will help.

Authorized = Open Sesame.

Unauthorized = Shut as a clam

I whiz through the cobblestone streets – Jaffa Gate on my left and King David’s Tower on my right; my final destination is the Western Wall. Ambucycles are not allowed into the actual Kotel compound unless there is a medical emergency. So I park my bike in a dedicated but unofficial motorcycle parking area and dismount.

Security is tight at the entrance, not dissimilar to what you would find at an airport. Every entrance is manned by several armed guards and visitors need to pass through a metal detector, while their bags get a ride through an X-ray machine.

I beep whenever I go through the detector. Actually I don’t just beep, I chorus. The reason is simple – the extensive collection of electronic devices on my belt. I always seem to forget a radio, or beeper, or keys, or small change and make a fool of myself with a manual search.

Not this time. This time I would leave all my paraphernalia locked up under the seat of the bike and pass security, without a symphony.

“There won’t be an emergency in the next few minutes anyway, right?”

WRONG!

I make it to the wall and Pray. Several minutes pass and all is calm around me. It is early evening and the sun is setting swiftly. There is a cool breeze blowing and except for the birds chirping, men praying, and kids laughing, all is serene.

 

BOOM – First a quiet one and then,

BOOM – A louder one.

 

Most people run away from an explosion. We run towards it.

 

When I say ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ and when I say ‘I’ I mean ‘I would normally run towards the sound, IF I thought it was an emergency.

But I didn’t think it was an emergency. The absurd reality of a Jerusalemite’s existence lately, is that loud explosion type noises are part and parcel of daily life.

 

It might be the Iron Dome intercepting a Hamas missile.

It might be typical construction type sounds from one of the countless building sites.

It might even be fireworks emanating from E. Jerusalem celebrating the end of Ramadan.

 

“It’s certainly not an emergency, right?”

WRONG!

I end my prayers, take several steps backwards, and head towards the exit. The exit, however, is blocked by several burly guards.

“You ain’t going anywhere, brother!”

As it dawns on me that something is drastically wrong, a medic in uniform and carrying a backpack EMT kit brushes past me. The guards wave him through.

“I’m with him,” I blurt out, “I’m an Ambucycle medic!”

“And I’m Elvis Presley – Show me some ID,” came the cynical reply.

“I don’t have any. All my stuff is in the bike.” Even as the words came out, I knew it sounded meek.

“You ain’t going anywhere, brother!”

So I peek over the barricade and behold. A lady, covered from head to toe in ‘coverings’ is lying on the floor and about a dozen army / police / security stand around her. Something funky is definitely going on! I’m about to make another go at convincing my captors to let me free, when the all-clear is given and civilians are allowed to wander once more. I run towards the center of attention and glean the following from the EMS personnel on scene.

The lady, covered entirely with only her eyes showing, had attempted to bypass security and rush into the complex. An ever alert policeman noticed the breach and shouted for her to stop. She ignored the call and he fired a warning shot in the air. She continued walking, and fearing the worst he shot at her legs. The bullet grazed her foot and she fell to the floor. She was found not to be carrying any weapons, but the reason for her strange behavior was as yet unclear.

She was loaded into the waiting ambulance and sent to hospital with a police chaperon.

 

All’s well that ends well, but like I said at the start;

 

“Shmeel: Always take all your equipment.”

Always.