No One Spared

Last Friday on the way to work from Pisgat Ze’ev, my home neighborhood in Jerusalem, I noticed an armed guard standing by bus stop Number 6. At last, I said to myself, people can board a bus in Jerusalem with a sense of security. Two days later, a suicide bomber managed to board bus Number 6, killing seven and wounding 20.

Within a 48-hour span beginning March 17, 12 Israelis were murdered in three suicide attacks, and dozens were wounded. Terrorism was back on the scene, a sad reminder that its apparent absence in recent months was only an illusion born of the army’s success in preventing attacks.

The thing about terror attacks is that you don’t really grasp the horror unless you have witnessed one or until you hear the stories of the victims’ families. This makes the tragedies more real.

Pisgat Ze’ev borders a number of Arab neighborhoods. Most of its residents are new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, young couples who can’t afford to buy apartments closer to downtown Jerusalem. The terrorist who murdered the passengers on bus Number 6 aimed to hit the poorest of them all, those who can’t afford a private car, those who get up early in the morning to make a decent living.

Yitzhak Moyal, 63, was on his way to the distribution center at the central post office. His wife, Rina, recalled that before going to sleep Saturday night, they discussed the latest news: the murder of Gadi Levy, 31, and his pregnant wife, Dina, 37, of Kiryat Arba by a suicide bomber in Hebron.

"He was not afraid of anything," Moyal said of her husband, who had immigrated to Israel from Morocco in 1960 with his nine brothers and sisters. "He was a strong believer that whatever will be will be."

Moyal left six children and 12 grandchildren.

Some observers noted that given the terrorists’ propensity to blow up buses because of the high number of casualties, the price of attacks is being paid by a particular socioeconomic sector that can’t afford other means of transportation.

One bereaved Israeli said this became acutely clear to him during a recent visit to his son’s grave, which is located in a section of the Haifa cemetery for victims of terrorist attacks.

"I looked around me, and what did I see? Graves of new immigrants, children and soldiers," said Yossi Mendelevitch, whose son, Yuval, 13, was killed in a bus bombing in Haifa earlier this year.

But the terrorists don’t distinguish by age or race; they murder Arabs, too.

One of the victims was Ghaleb Tawil, 42, a resident of the Shuafat refugee camp, located within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries. Tawil was on his way to work at the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem.

Though he had experience as a construction worker, Tawi preferred to work as a cleaning man at the hospital. It made it easier to be close to his 12-year-old daughter, who was often hospitalized due to leukemia.

"Many nights he wouldn’t come home, in order to sleep by her," a family member said.

Tawil left two wives and nine children.

"The suicide bomber was a merciless killer," one wife said. "Who will feed the orphans now?"

In Monday’s bombing in Afula, the terrorist — believed to be a woman — arrived at the shopping mall shortly after 5 p.m. She ascended the steps and approached Kiril Sheremenko, the guard at the entrance. Sheremenko, 23, whisked the woman with a magnometer that started whistling loudly.

He signaled to Hadar Gitlin, a female guard standing behind him, to help him search the woman. But the woman then detonated her bomb, killing Sheremenko on his first day at work — in his first hour.

"He replaced me a quarter of an hour before the attack," said his colleague, Oleg Pohovitz.

The third victim was a customer, Avi Zarihan, 36. Gitlin, 20, was seriously wounded.

Gitlin had lost her job at the shopping center three days earlier, after she failed to identify a suspect in a drill in which a person carrying explosives entered the center. On Monday, her employers gave her another chance, and she was beside herself with joy.

She was not supposed to be on guard duty at 5 p.m. but had volunteered to stay longer to replace a colleague who had not shown up for work. An hour later, she was in the hospital fighting for her life.

Gitlin’s parents, who had heard on the radio that a female guard had been killed, were sure Gitlin had died in the blast. Only later in the evening did they learn that she had survived.

"She’s in bad condition," Gitlin’s father said, "but at least I still have a daughter."