Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

The Mood of a Town

Posted by Andy Hockley on 8 March, 2003

It is sometimes said that cities have personalities. New York is brash and arrogant, Paris elegant and snobbish. It’s much less common that a mood or a feeling is ascribed to an entire town, but then it is rare that all the inhabitants of an entire town have the same feelings, simultaneously.

On the afternoon of March 5th a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded bus in Haifa, killing himself and 15 Israeli civilians, many of them children, and injuring many others. When news of this terrible event came through I was in Hebron. As word filtered into the town, the atmosphere changed. From being just an average day in a war-zone, people trying to go about their lives despite the closures and the barricades and the soldiers, a cloud descended, a cloud of tension and of fear. Like the child of an abusive alcoholic father, who knows his dad will be home soon, drunk and angry. He hopes to lie low and remain unnoticed, torn between a desire to protect his siblings and a guilty hope that it will be one of them that is singled out for tonight’s beating.

As evening fell, still no group had claimed responsibility for the attack, and there was still no information on the identity of the terrorist. The city fell into a fitful and anxious sleep waiting for word to come.

In the morning, we woke to the news that the bomber was from Hebron itself. The mood changed again, not as dramatically as the previous day, but equally tangible. From a feeling of tension, the air was filled with deep foreboding, a black anticipation. We left our hosts’ house and travelled downhill toward the city centre in a taxi, the driver untypically subdued, his radio playing the news rather than music.

A crowd had gathered on one street we passed along, a large group of men milling around and blocking the way. We inched through the sea of gaunt faces, as our driver told us that this was the house of the bomber’s family. Contrary to popular myth this was no crowd exalting the memory of a new “martyr”, no Hamas delegation to thank the family for giving up their son – and, by association and in the near future, their house, their possessions, their freedom. At least in this particular snapshot moment, it was plain to see that this was nothing but mourning and grief. No doubt a scene not greatly different was being played out in 15 different homes in Haifa that same morning.

As we left Hebron the mood of the city was still dark. The storm clouds of revenge were gathering over the city, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

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