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Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 00:29 GMT
Blast strikes Israel's most religious
Jews in Me'a She'arim
Ultra-Orthodox watched the scene from their balconies
The suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem hit directly at some of Israel's most religious citizens.

The explosion went off on the edge of Me'a She'arim, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish district which borders on Arab East Jerusalem.

Ultra-Orthodox Jew at scene of bombing
Local residents help rescue the injured
The attack was timed just after dusk on Saturday, as the Jewish Sabbath ended and observant Jews were leaving synagogues and returning to the streets.

The Hazan family were visiting Beit Israel, the neighbouring district, for a relative's Bar Mitzvah when the bomb went off.

"We were... setting up the celebration in the courtyard when the explosion happened and everything went black," said Hagar Hazan.


I heard an explosion, I knew it was big stuff,

Beit Israel resident
Hagar and her family were saved by the thick stone walls of the house they were visiting.

"I heard an explosion, I knew it was big stuff," said Simchas Podolsky, an American Jew from New York state who lives in the neighbourhood.

He ran to the scene of the explosion, where he saw an empty stroller torn to shreds lying in the middle of the street and flames roaring out of a car, which led to early reports of a car bomb attack.

Many residents expressed believe that "Everything that happens is in God's will" and that "God knows what he's doing", based on the traditional ultra-Orthodox view that the adversity facing the Jews is God's way of reminding his children they must come back to him.

Death near home

It is the ultra-Orthodox Jews who form groups of burial society volunteers.

They scour the scene of atrocities, retrieving body parts for burial.

On this occasion, death had come nearer than usual to their own homes.

Jews in traditional coats and hats lined their balconies on houses overlooking the site of the blast chanting "No Arabs, no terror attacks!"

"God should destroy all Arabs," said one man in a Me'a She'arim street.

One woman turned her anger on the Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, a more moderate member of the current government.

"Death to Peres, death to the lefties," she said.

Opposed

The latest attack won't have changed any minds in Me'a She'arim.

Some ultra-Orthodox Jews are already among the most implacably opposed in Israel to negotiations with the Palestinians.

They seek Israeli sovereignty over all of the land which they believe was promised to the Jews by God, whatever the cost of establishing settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

However, some very religious Jews do not recognise the authority of the modern state of Israel established in 1948.

They believe that they are awaiting the Messiah in the Holy Land.

See also:

08 Feb 01 | Middle East
Blasts rock West Jerusalem
16 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
02 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel pulls back from Jenin
01 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel cautioned over raid
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