A woman’s terrified screams at a cafe in Tel Aviv sparked widespread panic on Saturday evening as patrons at the venue and in an adjacent eatery started fleeing, overturning tables and chairs, for fear of a suspected terror attack.
Two people were lightly injured by broken glass in their attempt to bolt for the exits, and police units rushed to the scene at the Dizengoff Cafe to begin a sweep for suspects.
But amid the chaos, they determined that the woman’s panicked screaming was in response to the sight of a cockroach, a common pest and general nuisance in the coastal city and across Israel.
The Walla news site reported Saturday that in her panicked screaming, the woman had overturned the table she was sitting at, causing a commotion and setting off the fears of an attack.
“It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me,” said an eyewitness at the eatery on the central Dizengoff Street.
The witness told Channel 12 news that patrons at the restaurant suddenly heard screaming from the bar, and “people overturned tables and everyone around started screaming and running and trampling each other. A lot of glasses shattered on the way, and people fell on the glass and got cut.”
“I don’t blame the girl who screamed because of a cockroach. In a normal country, it passes with humor,” said the witness, who is eight months pregnant and had to go straight to an emergency clinic to check that her pregnancy was unharmed, according to Channel 12.
בהלה בת״א, הערב בקפה בדיזנגוף: סועדת בבר צעקה ״ג׳וק״, יושבי בית קפה סמוך חשבו שמדובר בפיגוע והחלו להימלט תוך שהם הופכים שולחנות.כמה נזקקו לטיפול רפואי.. pic.twitter.com/y5EUecv85E
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Israelis are on heightened alert following a spate of Palestinian terror attacks this year in Israel and in the West Bank, which have so far killed 19 people and left several more seriously hurt.
Tel Aviv has been the site of several of these attacks, including a deadly shooting in March in which a terrorist opened fire outside a cafe on the corner of Dizengoff and Ben Gurion streets, wounding three people, one of whom died of his critical wounds days later. Last April, a terrorist opened fire at patrons at the Ilka bar on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, killing three people.
“This should be a lesson for people, to be restrained and understand what is happening around them before they start screaming in the street,” said the witness.
Another person on the scene Saturday also described the chaos: “People were frightened by the screams and started running in all directions, turning tables.”
“I saw a man with blood on his face, he was in shock. Two young girls were sitting in the cafe with blood on their feet. Terrible,” the witness went on, noting that they saw at least five police vehicles, an ambulance and paramedics on scooters rush to the scene.
Israel is home to the common cockroach, but also has the large, flying species, all known to spark a deep fight-or-flight response in people.
Fear of cockroaches is called katsaridaphobia.