Israel Resource Review 15th June, 2003


A Blast Kills 2 Mothers, and Bewilders 2 Sons
Greg Myre
Jerusalem correspondent, The New York Times

The two elderly Israeli women, Elsa Cohen, 70, and Bianca Shachrur, 63, had so much in common.

Both were born in Europe, survived World War II and came to Israel as adults, just a year apart. Both lost their husbands years ago. But the strongest bond was that each had a mentally disabled son living at the same group home in suburban Jerusalem.

Last weekend, the two women and their sons all went together to a cottage outside Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, the two women got on the 14/A bus, apparently at different stops, and a few moments later were among the 16 civilians killed when a Hamas suicide bomber, dressed as an Orthodox Jew, stepped aboard and blew himself up. A 17th victim died today.

Their disabled sons, Roni Cohen, 30, and Shmuel Shachrur, 24, did not learn of the deaths until today. They were devastated.

"It was a terrible task to tell them," said Reuven Feuerstein, a retired professor of psychology who is responsible for the group home, called the Azriely Dedcher Hadassah Wizo Canada Center. "It was so stunning to lose the mothers of two young men at the same time."

It was not clear whether the two women had been planning to meet each other or were on the same bus by coincidence. Workers at the group home, who happened to be passing by shortly before the blast, said they had seen the women at two different bus stops on Jaffa Street.

Rivka Bedein, who works at the group home, was only 50 yards from the explosion. "I wanted to help but people were yelling, `Go away,' because they thought there might be a second bomb," she said.

She headed to the group home, and having no knowledge of the identities of the victims, took the young men and women for a regular Wednesday night outing to the Israel Museum.

Because of the bombing, the group decided to walk rather than take a bus. When they returned to the home at 10 p.m., reports of the bombing were on the news, but the names of Mrs. Cohen and Mrs. Shachrur were not announced.

Still, such bombings often trouble the 30 men and women who spend the night at the home, and Mr. Shachrur called his mother.

When he could not reach her, he had trouble going to sleep. He put his mattress on the floor and slept there, in line with a Jewish tradition of sitting close to the floor during the mourning period for a relative, Mr. Feuerstein said.

Ms. Bedein said Mr. Shachrur kept saying: "Sixteen people were killed on the bus. It's a terrible thing."

She added, "I told him, It's O.K., God is with us."

This morning, the Israeli authorities were still trying to positively identify the remains of Mrs. Shachrur, and they went to the home to take a blood sample from Mr. Shachrur to compare DNA. When the results proved positive, they told him of his mother's death this evening.

Earlier in the day, he sobbed intensely when he learned of Mrs. Cohen's death, but he just kept blinking when he was told that his mother had died, Mr. Feuerstein said.

Mr. Shachrur is among the more functional men at the home and has been studying for a high school equivalency exam. Like many of the young men, he works part time at an army base doing odd jobs.

When he arrived at the home three years ago, he would walk around all day eating from a bag of cornflakes. He was frequently depressed, something he gradually overcame.

"Your mother has left this world knowing you have achieved so much," Mr. Feuerstein told him.

Mrs. Shachrur was born in Italy, and came to Israel in 1969. Her husband, Immanuel, died 18 years ago, leaving her to raise her son and a daughter, Rachel, who is Mr. Shachrur's one close surviving relative.

Mrs. Cohen was born in Germany in 1933 and lost her family in the Holocaust. She was smuggled into Britain, moving from one foster family to another.

She came to Israel in 1970 and married Hananya Cohen, who became the chief rabbi in a suburb of Haifa. He died of cancer, leaving her with Roni and a daughter, Margalit, who is also mentally disabled.

Her son has been spending mornings working a in gum-making factory where he packed boxes. He lived for the weekends, when he could visit his mother.

When told of his mother's death this morning, he had difficulty comprehending it.

"She promised to be with me on the Sabbath," he kept repeating. "Why did this man bomb my mother? What did she do to bother him?"

This piece ran in the June 13th, 2003 issue of the New York Times

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NJ State Senator: "I'll Tell Bush My Feelings as The Father of a Terror Victim
Merav David
Correspondent, Maariv

"I want to share with President Bush my thoughts about relations between Israel and the Palestinians, the pain for my daughter who was a victim of terrorism. I want to tell him that the Israelis want the peace process, but the Palestinian government has to make a real effort to fight terrorism, in deeds and not in words."

So spoke Republican State Senator Bob Singer, whose daughter Sari Singer was wounded last week in the terror attack on Bus No. 14. The President and the senator will meet soon, and then Bush will hear the voices of Israelis wounded in terror attacks, but this time the statements will not come from official spokespeople but from the mouth of a person who was harmed and whom the President knows well from before he was President.

"The Palestinians," Singer said, "must resist the occupation in legal ways, through negotiation. Murder doesn't solve problems. I do not see the Palestinians with the Syrians and the Jordanians, dismantling the refugee camps, getting jobs and education for the Palestinians in order to create a better life for them, and so that they will not be dependent on Hamas. I do not see Saudi Arabia investing money there. And if that is the situation, another generation of terrorists will grow up among the Palestinians."

Sari Singer said the day after the attack that President Bush does not understand the situation in Israel. Senator Singer agrees with her. "Bush should talk with my daughter. He should speak with Americans who live in Israel and have lost loved ones to terrorism. Though I must say that since September 11th, there is greater understanding for Israel. We experienced once what Israel has been experiencing for years."

Last Wednesday, Singer saw on television what happened in Jerusalem. He never guessed that his daughter was there. "Suddenly a friend of hers called and said Sari was hurt. At first I was very frightened, but later on I spoke with her doctor at Hadassah, and he told me she was not in any danger. After that, I felt anger. Why my daughter? Now I know she was really lucky, and the person standing next to her did not survive. The moment I heard about what happened, I got on the first flight to Israel. I asked the governor of New Jersey for his helicopter so I could get to the airport on time."

Singer arrived at Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital last Thursday at noon, anxiety plain on his face. "Until I saw her, kissed her and hugged her, I didn't feel it was all right," he said.

The senator spent Shabbat at his daughter's bedside. Her condition has improved, and she is due to be discharged soon. "I want her to come home with me because I want her near me, safe, but she has chosen to remain in Israel. As a Jew, I cannot prevent my daughter from doing that. I only ask that she travel in taxis more."

Singer supports the Israeli government's assassination policy completely despite the possibility that innocent bystanders might be harmed. "As long as the Palestinian government does not arrest the leaders who are involved in terrorism, Israel has no other possibility. The Israelis apologize every time a woman or child is killed in such an attack. Who of the Palestinians has apologized for killing seventeen Israelis? It is inconceivable that people should be allowed to kill in the streets and Israel restrain itself. Even the United States would not act that way. Let the Palestinians say what they need to fight terrorism, and they will get it. But let them say it."

This piece ran on June 15th, 2003 in Maariv

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US Ambassador to Israel Mourns for a Cousin, Murdered on the 14A Bus
Alex Fishman
Correspondent, Yediot Aharonot

One of those killed in the terror attack in Jerusalem was a relative of American Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer. On Friday the ambassador attended the funeral of Anna Orgal, 55, who was buried in the Yarkon cemetery.

Dozens of friends and family members crowded around the fresh grave, including her elderly parents, Holocaust survivors. Her mother arrived at the gravesite with great difficulty, supported by relatives. Her father, Baruch Orgal, came in a wheelchair. The ambassador stood not far from her parents, tears in his eyes. There were no eulogies.

One day after the attack Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who heard that a relative of Ambassador Kurtzer was among the dead, requested a meeting with the ambassador without delay. The two met on Thursday afternoon for an emotional conversation, during which Kurtzer's eyes filled with tears. The ambassador told Sharon about his late relative, about her parents, and about the deep connection that existed between them for many years, and the prime minister consoled him with words of a very personal nature.

Dan Kurtzer, 53, is the most Israeli US ambassador ever to serve here. He is a religious Jew who speaks Hebrew and whose children were educated here. The attack on the Number 14 bus last week turned his connection to this land to one of blood.

Ambassador Kurtzer's mother is the cousin of the mourning father. As in many Ashkenazi families, the Holocaust did not leave them a large family tree. The branches were cut off, and the small Orgal family from Tel Aviv became the close family of Ambassador Kurtzer.

Anna, who was almost the same age as her American cousin, grew up and was educated in Tel Aviv. She studied at university and settled in Jerusalem. In recent years she worked in cultural institutions-at the Cinematheque and later at the Bible Lands Museum.

Anna did not build her own family; culture was her whole world. "She was a smart, beautiful girl," a friend said of her, "a woman with a passion for culture, a lover of books and people."

This piece ran on June 15th, 2003 in Yediot Ahronot

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US Vs. Syria: Stop Supporting Hamas
Yitzhak Ben-Horin
Correspondent, Maariv

[The question remains: When will the US make the same demand of Saudi Arabia??]

Stop supporting Hamas and the other terrorist organizations, the American Secretary of State told his Syrian counterpart two days ago.

Colin Powell gave Farouk Ashara his explicit demand two days ago by telephone. The American official attempted all weekend to calm the violence between Israel and the Palestinians, and also spoke with the foreign ministers of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He told them to act as they promised at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, to stop supporting terrorism, and to stop financing terrorist groups.

Powell also spoke with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, European Union representatives and United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan. Powell said that the problem in the progress of diplomatic contacts is not Israel, but the cessation of Palestinian terrorism. What we want is clear. Hamas must stop. Intifada must stop. El-Aksa Martyrs Brigades must stop. All of them need to stop, and then there will be no need to respond to terrorism, he told reporters.

Other senior administration officials joined Powell's position. "The subject is Hamas," they said over the weekend. President Bush himself retracted his criticism of the attempted assassination of Hamas senior official Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and he stood with his administration against terrorism.

No one can permit terrorists to kill and remain exempt from response. This is a very dangerous time because of the terror attacks in Israel. The subject is not Israel, but Prime Minister Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. The subject is the terrorists, Hamas and the others, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Diplomatic activity will be the focus this week. Prime Minister's Bureau Chief Dov Weissglass took off for Washington last night, where he will meet with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about diplomatic developments. This weekend, Powell himself is due to arrive, to take part in a Davos economic conference that will take place in Amman. At the end of the conference, the American Secretary of State is expected to pay a lightning visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

This piece ran on June 15th, 2003 in Maariv

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PM Ariel Sharon:
What is Going on Inside of Him?
Nahum Barnea, senior writer
Yediot Ahronot

After the bus bombing at the Pat-Gilo intersection, in June 2002, in Sharon's previous term of office, he deviated from his usual custom and came to the site of the incident. They showed him the bodies. The remains of the organs. The destruction. That day, Sharon shut himself away in his room for hours. He could not, did not want, to get back to his daily routine. There are people who worship Sharon for this quality, some fear him or scorn him: Jewish blood that is spilled by Arabs fills him with anger, hatred, a desire for vengeance. The death of soldiers by Arabs upsets him even more. In the words of someone who worked with him in the past, he flips out.

On Sunday, Sharon was told about the death of five soldiers: Four in a terror attack at the Erez crossing, and one in the casbah of Hebron. He felt that he was the sucker of the Akaba summit. He had gone there with gritted teeth: made Peace Now-style declarations against the occupation; committed himself to evacuate settlement outposts; committed himself to restraining the assassinations; swallowed the derisive whistles of the Right and the ridicule of the Left; even swallowed the allegation that he had become a bonded slave of the US administration.

One of the people who accompanied him on his trip to Akaba compares him to a child walking in the dark. But as for security, the child mutters to himself, security I will not give up. Not that. No way.

He did not expect the country to quiet down at once. The list of warnings did not grow shorter as a result of Akaba-it only grew longer, as was to be expected. But he hoped for one good piece of news. Instead of five kilograms of terror a week, said one of his senior aides, one kilogram. And if not that, at least one wanted man arrested by the PA security forces. One! Instead, he received five dead soldiers.

According to Israeli sources, after Akaba Israel handed Dahlan 15-16 names of "hot" wanted men from the Gaza Strip. Dahlan, they say, did nothing, only complained. Whining, they say, is not a program. Sharon coined this incisive sentence years ago: He originally said it about David Levy.

For two and a half years, Sharon did not touch Abdul Aziz Rantisi. He is considered what the security establishment refers to as a "political figure." He was first mentioned as a candidate for assassination about a month ago. The proposal was rejected. Now, with his great anger, Sharon thought of him again. In the negotiations between Abu Mazen and Hamas, which were conducted in parallel in Lebanon and Gaza, Rantisi was the most extreme. More extreme than Khaled Mashaal. Even more extreme than Sheikh Yassin. In the meeting that was held at Sheikh Yassin's on Monday he refused any proposal for a cease-fire. He barely agreed to add a sentence to the Hamas statement saying that talks with Abu Mazen will continue.

He, say the sources, is the man who united all the organizations into a joint terror framework. The attack at Erez was carried out by the three organizations. The interrogation of Hani Shalbi, the Hamas operative who was arrested near Tulkarm, shows that the effort to consolidate one terror front is bearing fruit in the West Bank as well.

If Rantisi is so dangerous, why was he not touched until this week? We misunderstood the pyramid of terror, official sources admit now. The separation between the political leader and "ticking bomb" does not exist. They all deserve to die.

Still, everything goes back to Sharon, to his frustration, to his anger, to the words that he mutters to himself in the dark. If not for Akaba, Sharon would probably not have given the order to kill Rantisi. Akaba did it to him.

This piece ran in Yediot Ahronot on June 13th, 2003

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A Time to Kill:
When Body Bags of Children Are Loaded On To Ambulances
David Bedein

A few hours before the June 11th Arab terror attack which blew up a civilian bus in downtown Jerusalem, five minutes from my office window, the Islamic Movement of Israel called a press conference down the hall at the press center to demand the release of their leaders who have been arrested for the support that they provide the Islamic movement that operates inside the nascent Palestinian Authority.

When I asked these Islamic clerics as to how they could justify support for a movement that endorses cold blooded murder, they shrugged off the question, as if such a question should not be asked.

As a journalist, I have met and interviewed countless Palestinian Arab spokespeople who calmly recount their right to murder Jews for committing the act of living in land of Israel, which the Arab world describes as Palestine.

One of the Palestinian Arab spokespeople whom I have interviewed is Dr. Abdel Rantisi. Although Rantisi is a medical doctor, he calmly invokes a doctrine of the right to murder Jews. In Dr Rantisi's understanding of Islamic law, Jews have no right to encroach upon what he calls the Islamic "wakf: (religious trust) of Palestine and therefore deserves to die. So much for the Hippocatic Oath.

When the IDF made an attempt to kill Dr. Rantisi on June 9th, 2003, following the latest round of murders which Dr. Rantisi had endorsed to the world media, the President of the United States, Mr George W. Bush immediately condemned the attack. The Washington Post of June 10th chimed in, claiming that "Dr. Rantisi is not himself a combatant." He "represents a movement that engages in terrorism," the Post said, , "but his specialty is media interviews, not suicide bombings."

What Bush, the Washington Post and other critics of the IDF attack on Dr. Rantisi's life ignore is that Dr Rantisi remains the penultimate combatant- especially whenever he calls for the murder of Jews, in every part of the land of Israel, on both sides of the 1949/67 lines.

What Israel's critics tend to forget is that the "raison d'etre" of the State of Israel is that this is the first time in 1900 years when Jews can fight back when their enemies openly advocate their murder.

Throughout the centuries, Jews took it on the chin and suffered persecution through generations in a defenseless exile, which culminated in the mass murder of six million Jews in twenty one nations during World War II.

Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel affords Jews the opportunity to bear weapons against anyone who declares war against the people and state of Israel. No nation can be expected to forfeit the right to fight such an adversary.

The Jewish people have often referred to as the people of the Book. That Book is the Bible.

And in the Bible you find the Book of Ecclesiastes, where we read that "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . . A time to be born, and a time to die…A time to kill, and a time to heal… a time of war, and a time of peace.

If a nation proposes peace, this is "a time of peace".

If a nation declares war, this is a "time of war".

As I witnessed body bags of small children loaded onto ambulances in the aftermath of the June 11th bus bombing in Jerusalem, it was not hard to conclude that this is a "time to kill".

Israel indeed reserves the right to kill Rantisi and any other adversary who would dispatch such messengers to wantonly murder Jews

No nation can remove that right - Road maps not withstanding.

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