TEL AVIV — Mordechai Atar, who owns a vegetable stall near the site of Monday’s deadly suicide bombing in the city’s old bus station, says he has no plans to switch locations.
“I’m already used to terror attacks here,” said Atar. There was another bombing nearby just last January, and he survived then, too. Now, he said, “I have a hard time getting excited. What will be will be. I’m staying here and not moving.”
Pini and Aryeh Sharon, the brothers who own Shawarma Rosh Ha’ir, a nearby fast-food stand, aren’t so sure. Their eatery was the target of both attacks, in January and now. The first time, 20 persons were injured. This time there were nine deaths and more than 60 wounded.
“Last time we had a miracle, but there is no second time,” Pini Sharon said. “Now it’s a lot harder, especially when you see all the dead. That was the worst sight.”
Yaakov Yisraeli, who was in the teeming shopping district to visit a friend who owns a music store, said the area was more crowded than usual just before the blast. Shawarma Rosh Ha’ir, the only kosher stand in the immediate area, was particularly crowded.
“It’s the Passover break, people came to the stall with families to buy a shawarma,” said Yisraeli. “Some of them took a plate and sat down. And then it happened. The explosion was far stronger than last time.”
“Suddenly there was a boom,” said Azi Otmazgo, 35, who was inside. “The whole restaurant flew in the air.” He was wounded on his hands, foot and head.
Another witness, Yisrael Ya’akov, said he saw the blast kill a woman standing nearby with her husband and children, who were lightly wounded. “The children were screaming, ‘Mommy! Mommy!’ and she wasn’t answering,” he said. “She was dead already… it’s a shocking scene.”
The bomb, laced with nails and other projectiles, shattered car windshields, smashed windows of nearby buildings and blew away the restaurant’s sign. Glass shards and blood splattered the ground. Police said the restaurant’s guard was killed by the blast.
Sonia Levy, 62, said she had just finished shopping when the blast went off.
“I was about to get into my car, and boom, there was an explosion,” she said. “A bit of human flesh landed on my car and I started to scream.” Her car was about 150 feet from the explosion, she said, and its windshield was smeared with blood.
Aryeh Sharon, the shawarma stand’s co-owner, told Israel’s Channel 1 television on Monday that after the first attack they had put up a fence and hired a security guard, “so people would feel more relaxed.”
“I don’t know if it is a coincidence,” Aryeh said of the two attacks. “After the first time it was hard to return to work… It’s hard to say if we will open again.”