Malki, in October you would have turned 25, if only… if only you hadn’t stopped in at the Sbarro restaurant in the center of Jerusalem with your best friend, Michal, that hot summer afternoon of August 9, 2001.
You were on your way to a camp counselors’ meeting but had some time to spare. At 2 p.m., while you both stood on line, waiting to order, a Palestinian Arab man finished his meal, stood up and detonated the explosives concealed in his guitar case. Fifteen men, women and children perished.
In recent weeks, the pain we have endured for 10 years has become even more intense. We can thank Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for that. Despite our hand-delivered entreaties to keep your murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, in prison — to which Netanyahu never responded — he freed her in the prisoner exchange deal that led to the release of Gilad Shalit. The letter of “explanation” he claimed publicly in October to have mailed to all the affected terror victim families has, for some reason, not yet reached us.
Malki, you never saw your murderer. By her own account, Tamimi scouted Jerusalem for days before she selected the target. She then transported a 10 kilogram bomb and led the suicide bomber to the site. Later, in prison, she smiled for the cameras when she learned that not three (as she had thought) but eight children were among the victims. She proclaimed repeatedly, “I am not sorry for what I did…. I would do it again.”
The judge who sentenced her to 16 life terms appreciated the depths of Tamimi’s evil. In handing down the sentence, he recommended that she never be included in any prisoner exchange. But our prime minister, rejecting those considered rulings, repatriated this woman to her father and brother in Jordan — and assured the public that she had been “exiled.”
Adding salt to our wounds is an avalanche of revelations about the Shalit saga, which was unleashed the moment Gilad returned home.
Ronen Cohen, who recently stepped down from leading the counter-terrorism unit in military intelligence, spoke to Haaretz and Israeli television on the day that Shalit was freed. He declared that the handling of Shalit’s captivity “was a resounding failure of the IDF. There are no other words to describe it. The IDF never took responsibility for the soldier and did not even set up a team to deal with bringing him back. They simply passed it on to the Shin Bet [security service].”
Cohen continued, “It may also be that during [Operation Cast Lead in December 2008] it was still possible to do something under the cover of the chaos of the fighting, but it was not done.”