With the New York and New Jersey bombings still fresh, and the tri-state area recently on high alert, someone spotted an unattended box with Arabic print at a Gulf gas station and called the police.
The police were called. The bomb squad came. The area was shut down. Until they realized that this unattended Arabic box was a box of cookies.
Not just any cookies, but ma'amool cookies. They are a delicate, crumbly semolina and butter cookie, stuffed with spiced dates or nuts, and then either formed by hand or pressed in a mold, and sprinkled with powdered sugar when cooled. They are the quintessential Middle Eastern holiday cookie, used by both Muslims and Christians to celebrate their high feasts. Before Easter, and Eid, women gather in kitchens to turn out hundreds of these cookies, which are sealed into containers and served with coffee throughout the holiday season.
But on that day, in that box, those cookies struck terror.
Living with Bomb Scares
To me, this story is new, and yet also familiar. In Jerusalem, we were trained to always keep an eye out for any suspicious, unattended packages in public spaces. Bus stops, buses, benches, trash cans, everyone was always on high alert. If you stepped away from your things for a moment, someone would ask, loudly, Is that yours? If no one claimed the item immediately, the bomb squad would be called, and then, it would be blown up.
So, yeah, this happened a lot.