Sunday, January 13, 2008


What happens to a hefetz hashud after it gets blown up? What if it's YOUR hefetz hashud?

Last Erev Yom Kippur I took the bus from Haifa to Jerusalem, on the way to Gush. I got off at the first stop in Jerusalem - and totally forgot about the bag I'd left in the luggage compartment. A few minutes later, walking down Yafo, I suddenly remembered! I jumped into the nearest taxi and went straight to the end of the bus route, hoping to intercept my bus along the way. At the final destination I waited for half an hour in case the bus would finally show up - but it didn't, and in order to catch the last bus to Gush I had to leave. And so my bag was presumably blown up, on the suspicion that it contained a bomb.

Calling the bus company a few days later, I was directed to the Jerusalem police lost-and-found: if my bag still existed, it existed with them. I called the lost-and-found, but they couldn't find the bag. They said to come in myself and look, just in case. Since I rarely get the chance to spend weekday mornings in Jerusalem, the matter rested there for three months. In any case, the chances of getting anything back looked pretty slim. After all, I hadn't even put my name on the bag.

Today I finally had the chance to spend the morning running errands around Jerusalem. I went to the police station, described my bag and the circumstances I'd lost it in, and was taken to a drafty room lined with shelves full of backpacks and suitcases. After a little looking around I found my bag!!! As soon as I saw it I knew it was mine; its shape was unmistakable.

But when I took it off the shelf, I saw it looked... interesting. The closing flap was undone - not unzipped, but rather the seams had burst - and plastic rope was wrapped around the bag to keep it closed. It turns out they HAD blown it up after all. But since 90% of the contents consisted of either pillow or blanket, the damage had been relatively minor, and the bag contents had survived mostly intact.

After filling out some forms I left, very happy at this turn of events. They even gave me a form with which I could go to another government office and be reimbursed for the damage caused by the explosion!

Now that I'm home again, I did an inventory of the bag's contents. The pillow had absorbed most of the explosive energy, and was rather uglily disembowled. Some of the pillow stuffing had absorbed so much energy that it punched a hole and went straight through the sole of my shower shoes. (The shoes were otherwise in perfect condition.) The blanket received tears and punctures in several places, but is still quite usable. And everything in the side pockets is in perfect shape - including a shaver, which despite being "blown up" still works flawlessly. The bag itself is torn in too many places to be used again. But the items of value inside - the shaver and blanket - were successfully recovered.

It's unfortunate that I could not get pictures of the damaged goods - in particular, the pair of shower shoes, held together by a thick tuft of pillow stuffing embedded in the newly created sole-holes. I now understand that weapons design is not simply a matter of "stick some explosives together, have a beer, and watch it explode". If you do it incorrectly, then all the energy will be dissipated in the wrong places, and the target will survive. Such was the case with my shaver. I just hope the explosion would have been more effective against an actual bomb.

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