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Jerusalem–It’s da Bomb (Squad)!

14 July 2008

During our orientation here, a coordinator delivered a stern message about the undesirable outcomes that result from leaving a backpack lying around anywhere.  To paraphrase her words: “If someone sees it and notifies security—which you should do, if you can’t find the owner of the bag—then the bomb squad comes and blows it up.  So don’t do it.  It’s not fun.”  It goes without saying that in some dark recess of everyone’s mind, the thought of getting a really, really cheap backpack, and leave it unnoticed somewhere was instantly born and filed away in the ‘things to do on a rainy day’ vault.

After an aborted trip to Masada on Thursday—long story—some friends and I were walking toward Ben Yehuda street, one of the main drags in the New City of Jerusalem, and the site of a truly world-class ice cream establishment, when we ran across two fellows from our program heading to the bus station and then on to Tel Aviv.  We got to chatting a little bit, and then noticed, across the intersection, that a bus was pulled over, with police cars all around.

We asked these two if they knew what was going on, and they responded quite nonchalantly: “Oh, there is a bomb over there”.  These guys are Turkish, and their English sometimes lacks important distinguishing details.  After a double-take, of course, we realized that what they had meant to say was “There is a suspicious looking package over there”.  The streets were cordoned off, with a police officer shouting at everyone who thought about crossing the street.  And then, of course, we saw the robot:

It looked like one of those miniature tanks that one might find at a mid-level county fair.  In its long maneuverable arm, it clasped what looked from a distance to be a small red package about the size of a cake box  (evidently, it was found underneath a bus seat).  Steered by remote control the entire way, the thing took it over against a wall, sort of rolled on top of the thing, and apparently blew it up.  We didn’t hear or see a thing, except that on some sort of cue, everyone could cross the street again.  The whole thing took about 20 minutes, and shut down in all directions one of the biggest intersections in the city.  We walked for nearly a half-mile before the traffic seemed anything but bumper-to-bumper as a result. 

Having now seen this, I think that secret desire has been extinguished, although I’m told that the Israeli police do this with suspicious cars as well—now that I would pay to see, as long as it was someone else’s car.

At this point, though, my only question is: Where can I get one of those robots?  Maybe ResLife could cover it…can you really imagine a more fun way to clean up puke?

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