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About Howard Linett
Howard Linett is an attorney, an independent journalist, a lecturer, sniper instructor in the Israeli Police Civil Guard and the author of "Living With Terrorism: Survival Lessons from the Streets of Jerusalem."

Howard Linett

It Didn’t Take Long!
July 23, 2008

"Get us as close as you can to the sight of the attack,” my wife yelled as she jumped into the front seat of our car and three other middle-aged female social workers piled into our car’s backseat. I live for such orders! So I did not waste time getting my blue-red flashing police dashboard light out of the trunk. I just hit the gas as my wife unfolded her Emergency Responder Social Worker vest. She waved it to the police as we raced through the roadblocks they had set up between City Hall and the King David Hotel.


For my wife and I, racing to the scene of a terrorist attack in our own car, really is not quite as exciting as it sounds. Unfortunately it has become routine. This was the fourth, perhaps fifth time we were doing it.


It is now two and one-half hours since the attack. As I sit at home writing this article my wife Varda and her team are in the field dealing with the "aftermath;” twenty-eight wounded, one moderate-to-severe (may loose a leg) and significant property damage.


Social workers employed by the Municipality of Jerusalem are First Responders when terror strikes. The Department of Social Welfare has its own "Standing Orders” for deployment of social workers in case of terror attacks. The social workers are organized into teams that rotate the "on-alert” duty. Varda’s team’s rotation began last Friday. So far this summer every team has caught an attack. Jerusalem seems to be undergoing its own wave of terror.


Yesterday, Sunday is the first day of the workweek in Israel, Varda made sure to take her Emergency Responder vest out of our car’s trunk and put it in her shoulder bag. I had been nagging her to do so. I’m more the Boy Scout than she is. I am also more the worrier. I realize that every time I drop her off at work and she might be sent to the sight of an attack, she might not come home. Her team goes in with the EMTs and body-parts collection volunteers, the moment the Bomb Squad completes a "hasty search” for unexploded parts of the primary explosive device and for secondary explosive devices. The bomb squad, even in Jerusalem, is not infallible. Secondary devices specifically targeting First Responders have taken their toll of Jerusalem’s emergency personnel.


On one occasion a car bomb almost blew-up, just as Varda and her team were passing within a few feet of it. The car bomb had been planted on a side street, just around the corner from where the homicide/suicide bomber had gotten off an inner-city bus and detonated the explosive garment she wore. The car bomb’s detonator exploded, but failed to set-off the bomb’s main charge. Varda and one of her teammates were showered with glass from the car’s windows, but came away alive, none the worse for wear. I just take a deep breath each time I relive the episode.


Today I was downtown to pick-up Varda and had just parked on the street behind City Hall when the sirens started. In Jerusalem one learns to differentiate among the sirens of the various emergency vehicles. These were police sirens. In my rear-view mirror I could see green Border Police jeeps and Blue/White Police vans and cruisers racing through the intersection of Jaffa Road and Route 1. I counted well over 18 vehicles in about four minutes, then the ambulances started running. It was clear there had been an attack.


I called Varda on her cell phone. She had heard the sirens and was rushing upstairs to the City Command Center to find out what had happened. In the meantime I turned on Jerusalem’s local radio station. 101.FM was already on the scene broadcasting that another Tractor Rampage had just concluded. The copycat attack had been carried-out less than 200 yards from where Senator Obama will be sleeping tonight. I made a U-turn and sat waiting on the opposite side of the street, now facing the Jaffa/Route 1 intersection. Minutes later Varda’s team of social workers stormed the car and we were off.


The tractor is the terrorists’ weapon of choice for the moment. A tractor is a formidable moving object capable of overturning a bus and crushing passenger cars. Most tractors in Jerusalem have a scoop up-front used for hitting and smashing and a small claw on the back employed like the stinger on a scorpion’s tail. These are fast, agile wheeled vehicles. And they are all over Jerusalem in large numbers.


The area comprising downtown Jerusalem is undergoing a transformation. Every property that can be bought is being bought, torn down and in its place a "luxury apartments” high-rise building is under construction. All over Jerusalem the "Light Rail” (a mini above ground subway) is being built. Tractors are everywhere tearing up our roads. Their drivers use them to compute from home to work and back. At 06:30 this morning, while taking my dog out, I counted no less than four tractors drive past on their way to where they are working on the Light Rail, a half mile further down our neighborhood’s main street.


Since today’s 3:00 pm Press Conference by Israel’s Top Cop, being a tractor operator is a high-risk job. Police Commissioner Cohen praised the civilian who drew his personal handgun and unhesitatingly fired several rounds into the terrorist tractor driver stopping his rampage. "We expect no less from the civilians who are licensed to carry firearms,” is what he said. In the first attack employing a tractor, it was a civilian who "borrowed” a security guard’s handgun, jumped up on the tractor, entered the driver’s cabin and fired three rounds in the terrorist tractor driver’s head, stopping his rampage. Both attacks read like they are from "the armed citizen” column of the NRA’s American Rifleman Magazine. It is worth noting that in today’s attack, the driver had locked his cabin so no one had easy access to him.
Howard Linett is an attorney, an independent journalist, a lecturer, sniper instructor in the Israeli Police Civil Guard and the author of "Living With Terrorism: Survival Lessons from the Streets of Jerusalem." The author's blog is

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