TEL AVIV — Not 12 hours after a devastating Palestinian terror attack left four Israelis dead on Wednesday night, by morning the Max Brenner cafe at the Sarona Market and the surrounding coffee shops are greeting their first customers with morning coffee and breakfast.
The calm, almost serene setting belies the horrors of the attack the night before, when two Palestinian men opened fire indiscriminately at customers enjoying an evening out. The ground has been scrubbed of the blood; the shattered glass has been swept away; the belongings of the people who died here and of those who ran for their lives are gone too. About a dozen patrons sit quietly in wicker chairs, ordering Israeli breakfasts and listening to soft rock on the playlist.
All across the pastoral plaza, people walk their dogs, mothers lie on blankets with their babies, and workers arrive for their shifts at restaurants and stores.
At the Landver Cafe across the way from Max Brenner, a manager gathers her staff of four servers for a quick briefing shortly after opening for business.
“Thank you for coming in today. We don’t know what lies ahead but I want you to know that I am here and we’ll get through this together,” she tells them.
“If you need anything, let me know. I love you and I’m with you,” she says.
Inside Max Brenner, the waitress wears a sticker reading, “Tel Aviv takes a deep breath.” She refuses to be interviewed by the dozens of local and international journalists in and near the establishment.
“None of us were on shift last night and we just want to go back to normal,” is all she says, as she serves an order of ginger-cocoa tea.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Construction Minister Yoav Galant, Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz and Labor MK Erel Margalit are among the parade of politicians who come to the cafe, and stop at the makeshift memorial of candles and flowers outside.
Margalit tells reporters that he expects decisive action on the part of Palestinians to stop terror, and has also asked Google, Facebook and Twitter to block inciting messages on their networks.
“People are seeing the photos and this is inspiring other people to go out an act,” he says. “The Palestinian Authority must shut down all those sites. If you want to control terror on the ground, control it over social networks.”
Inside the Sarona Market, the proprietress of a bakery stall wraps a caramelized almond tart for a customer before describing Wednesday night’s ordeal.
“I wasn’t here but one of our employees broke her shoulder. When the shooting happened, everyone started running, and she got trampled.”
‘This is our life’
Charles Peguine, the owner of Le Palais des Thes, a gourmet tea shop in the market, says that it was the third terror attack in Tel Aviv that he and his family narrowly avoided. On January 1, when Israeli-Arab terrorist Nashat Milhelm opened fire near the corner of Dizengoff and Gordon, his wife and daughter were in the family’s other store across the street, and hid in the bathroom with their customers. On March 8, his daughter was exercising in Charles Clore park when she witnessed a Palestinian terrorist running along the seaside on a stabbing spree.
“This is our life,” says Peguine, who grew up in Belgium. “Unfortunately four people died; but there haven’t been fewer customers today. We are used to this.”
For Dimitri, the father of a six-year-old boy who has one of the plaza’s many playgrounds all to himself, the attack was another reminder that “even though we can’t escape this reality, we have to keep living. Life is beautiful and we must live it.”
Having emigrated from Moscow just three months ago, he said he had a clear idea of what living in Israel entails.
“There is a war here but in Russia, it’s much worse; we have many more problems. Terrorism, violence, economic troubles, so yes, we are not scared,” he tells The Times of Israel.
“Israel will win,” he adds, with a smile and a crossing of his fingers.
In another grassy area across from the Max Brenner cafe, a group of some 40 teenagers stand in a wide circle and softly sing “Shir Lamaalot” (A song for Ascents) from Psalms.
It is the opening tune to an unofficial ceremony for the dead and wounded.
The group is made up of members of a pre-army program based in Nahal Oz, in southern Israel, near the Gaza Strip. They say they cut short a hike in Kiryat Shmona in the upper Galilee to come to Tel Aviv to show solidarity.
“We have to be strong. We survive as Israelis because people wake up the next morning [from an attack like this] and do what needs to be done,” Revi Eliovson, 19, says.
Originally from New Jersey, Eliovson will start her army service in two months and hopes to become a paramedic.
“I have no concerns about starting my service. Events like these remind me why it’s important to serve in the army,” she says.
A Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi near the improvised memorial site tries to lure passers-by to put on tefillin.
“My thoughts on the terror attack are that we’re in the last moments of the long Jewish exile and expecting the arrival of moshiach at any moment,” he tells The Times of Israel.
“To that end, we all need to do good, to create a chain effect in our own surroundings, among our family and friends and workplace and to be better people. If we go out of our way to do good, it will hasten our redemption.”