After Scuds, bomb, Ramat Gan asks: When will terrorism end

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RAMAT GAN, Israel — Anyone who believes that lightning doesn't strike twice hasn't been to Ramat Gan.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, one of several Scud missiles that rained down on this sprawling suburb north of Tel Aviv obliterated nearly an entire street. Several people were injured, and scores were left homeless.

On Monday, just three blocks away, a terrorist bomb destroyed a crowded commuter bus, killing five Israelis and maiming many more.

Yet just a day after the latest terror attack, there were few outward signs that the suicide bombing ever took place.

The busy street where the incident occurred was open to traffic, and the adjoining shops and restaurants were open for business.

Most of the shattered windows in the nearby Diamond Exchange, the site of the blast, were already repaired. The battered bus had been spirited away, the blood washed from the pavement.

But the lack of physical evidence has not stopped Israelis from visiting the site.

Sometime during the long day and night after the blast, someone had constructed a makeshift memorial from the red-and-white plastic police barricades erected at the site. Dozens of others had placed yahrzeit memorial candles and flowers on top of the barricades.

And when the flames flickered out, hundreds of other visitors came to rekindle them.

For the most part, visitors — young and old, religious and secular — stood together, lit candles and said a prayer.

They stared mutely at pages from the morning's newspapers, which blared out the headlines from the tragedy and had been taped onto the barricades.

Unlike the previous day, when angry crowds gathered at the site to denounce the government's peace policies, those assembled Tuesday stood in silence.

Although few tears were shed publicly, local residents and those employed in the bustling shopping district were visibly shaken by the latest tragedy.

"I stopped here especially to light a candle," said Izzy Land, a middle-aged diamond merchant. "There are no words to describe what happened yesterday. I feel very insecure, and I'm worried about my daughter, who rides the bus every day."

Land, who has "always been against the peace process," added: "This gives me another reason to be against it."

"I needed to come, to show my respect," said Racheli Gad, a 13-year-old from the neighborhood.

The shorts-clad teen, placing a red rose on the barricades, said: "What happened yesterday makes me hurt inside. I don't understand how such things can happen."

Nitza Salkov, a nursery school teacher in her 30s, spent hours at the site, staring at the memorial candles.

"My father died recently," she said quietly, "and this just adds to the suffering."

Salkov blasted the government, saying: "We don't have any security in this country. Terrorists who carry out such acts should get the death penalty."

At a hair salon around the corner from the blast site, hairdresser Sharli Idol, 30, recalled how he had come to the aid of the bomb victims.

"I heard the ambulances arriving and I rushed outside," he said. "The police asked me to bring drinking water, so I ran back and forth to do what I could. There were body parts everywhere, and I saw people dying."

"I'm very disappointed with the peace negotiations," Idol added. "I've never been in favor of the peace process, but I was giving it a chance. We try to touch peace, but somehow it eludes us."

"Remember the Scuds? They fell down the street," Idol said. "It gives you the feeling that everyone wants to kill you. When will this all end?"

But 28-year-old Amos Mazur, the owner of a candy store next door, said he was not ready to give up on the peace talks.

"Things like this happen all the time in Israel," he said. "They have been happening since I was 5 years old. I support the peace process and hope it will make a difference."

Stopping momentarily to sell a candy bar to a youngster, Mazur added, "There's no such thing as instant peace, but discussions and negotiations are our only hope."