The Palmer family: A child's pain


Seventeen years ago, I seem to recall walking around outside in Kiryat Arba, when news of a terror attack started making the rounds. A bus had been shot at, not too far away, at the ‘Glass junction’ on the way to Hebron. I jumped in a car going in that direction and about five minutes later found myself face to face with two dead men, others injured, and a large group of people, who were, a few minutes before, passengers on that ill-fated bus.

Yehuda Partush had already been taken off the bus. A doctor examined him, did whatever he could, and then threw his hands up in disgust. Partush and his wife Mazal were coming back from Jerusalem with the keys to their new home, that they’d just purchased.  When the shooting started, Partush jumped on his wife, who was then pregnant, saving her life.  She later gave birth to their first son.
Nachum Hoss was still on the bus, sitting near the front. I knew him; We had met and talked a few days earlier. I helped to take him off the bus. I only remember mumbling, again and again, ‘Nachum, we love you, Nachum, we love you.’
Today was the 17th anniversary of that horrible day. A small group of people, their family and from Hebron, met at the cemetery, to recite some Psalms, say a few prayers, and remember them.
I try, every year, to attend the short service. But, even after so many years, it still hurts. Especially to hear Yehuda’s son, Aviel Yehuda, not yet 17 years old, repeating the holy Kaddish prayer for a father he wasn’t privileged to know.
Aviel Yehuda Partush saying Kaddish - Photo: David WilderAviel Yehuda Partush saying Kaddish - Photo: David Wilder
That was terror past. But there still is terror, present.
Yesterday I participated in an event that was new to me. A few weeks ago I received a very emotional, actually heart-rending letter from Michael Palmer, father of Asher and grandfather of Yonaton Palmer. These two, father and son, were murdered at the end of September when Arab terrorists hurled a rock at their car from a moving vehicle. The rock went through the windshield, hitting Asher in the head, causing him to lose control of the car. He and his infant son were both killed.
Michael Palmer’s letter described the first court hearing, held at a military prison outside Jerusalem. Michael and one of his sons were present. Along with dozens of Arabs, supporting the murderous terrorists.  He suggested that perhaps others could attend the next hearing, together with him and his son.
I responded positively, as did many others. He presented a list of over 100 people who wanted to participate in the next hearing. He was told that only ten people would be allowed in the courtroom.  (The six Arabs charged, with each one being allowed 10 representatives, could have at least 60 representatives to cheer them on.)
Yesterday morning I drove, with a few other people, out to “Machane Ofer” just over an hour away from Hebron. It was a nightmare come true.
In order to be allowed in, you had to be on ‘the list.’ I was on the list. One step in. Of course, I had to leave my ID at the gate, to be received back on the way out. After that, the fun began. I went through three security checks in order to be allowed in. The first two were the normal, magnometer machines.  Just like the airport. Or Ma’arat HaMachpela. But the third one was manual. The guard who went over me with a fine-tooth comb was given orders, before starting with me, ‘to check us the same way they check the prisoners.’
Of course, we couldn’t bring anything inside. Including, no beeper (pager) or mobile phone. I have a press card and asked if I could bring a camera, after identifying myself as an accredited journalist. The answer was no. However, later on, a group of journalists all came in, with their cameras, videos and recorders.
The actual hearing, which began about an hour after I got in, at 10:30, was horrible. It is very difficult to sit in a room with terrorist killers. I sat next to Michael Palmer and his son Shmuel. Behind us were the other nine they let in. On the other side of isle were a group of Arabs (I counted about 15), a group of journalists and somewhere between 15 to 20 security personnel.
Six handcuffed Arabs were led in from a side door. The handcuffs were removed; the leg cuffs stayed on. They immediately began conversations with their family members present. We were told that this is allowed.  One by one, the terrorists were asked if they understood the charges against them. Two were indicted for murder. The others are suspected of participating in other such rock-throwings at moving cars from a moving car and also belonging to a group attempting to kill Jews. Some of them are charged with 25 such attempted killings, besides the actual killing of the Palmers. With one exception, they all pleaded innocent, saying they hadn’t done anything wrong.
The proceedings, before a military panel of three officers, are in Hebrew, with full translation into Arabic. The lawyers for the terrorists are all Arabs. They are, of course, allowed to bring cell phones and the like into the courtroom.
One of the military people participating in the trial introduced himself to me and said, ‘don’t worry. All Am Yisrael (the Jewish  People) are behind you. They’ll get what they deserve.” To which I responded, ‘unfortunately they won’t. They’ll get a five star hotel for a few years until being released for a Jewish hostage.”  “Yeah,” he said, “you should see the conditions they have here. They’re better off in jail than at their homes.”
This man, who conversed with me, isn’t Jewish.
After each set of two men pleaded not-guilty, they were led out of the courtroom. When one was left, another Arab was brought in, for a different hearing. The two saw each other, smiled broadly and started hugging and kissing each other. This too was allowed. It when on for at least five minutes. It was disgusting. When they sat down, they had their arms around each other, and continued smiling and talking. In a military courtroom, in front of three military officer-judges and the prosecutors.
When the last of the Palmer murderers left the room – I think he pleaded guilty – again they hugged. This time, after a minute or two, their mutual affection was broken up by the guards.
As I mentioned earlier, in my experience it’s very, very hard to sit near these rancid creatures. I really don’t know how Michael Palmer does it. They killed his son and grandson. But we surely can’t let him sit there alone, in a room filled with Arabs, showing support for these murderers. But it really was horrible.
They’ll sit in an Israeli jail, receive ‘compensation while imprisoned, get fed three times a day, and also graduate from an exclusive terrorist university, with at least one college degree, and a specialty in advanced terror tactics. And guess who pays for it!
In seventeen years, Asher Palmer won’t have a son to say Kaddish for him at the annual cemetery service.  His only son was killed together with him. But his daughter Orit, who was born only months after his murder, will likely stand next to her father’s and brother’s graves, asking herself, ‘what was he really like’ – thinking, ‘I am so sorry I was never able to talk to him, hold his hand, have him pick me up and hold me.’ And anyone else there, in seventeen years, like me today, at the service for Nachum Hoss and Yehuda Partush, will too, feel that pain, the pain of a child who wasn’t privileged to know her father, because a terrorist killed him, because he was a Jew, living in Israel.