A nightmare that never ends

My daughter, Malki, died in the Sbarro massacre 10 years ago. The monster who planned her murder brags that she will soon be freed. May she remain in jail for as long as I grieve – forever.

Sbarro Terror Attack 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sbarro Terror Attack 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
This week marks a decade since my daughter, Malki, was murdered in one of the bloodiest terror attacks of the Second Intifada.
The day began for me with a crippling migraine.
While I lay down to recuperate, Malki came to my bedroom door. She and her friend, Michal, offered to take my youngest child, Chaya (who is blind and severely disabled) for a walk. Malki was devoted to her sister. but the heat was oppressive, so I said: “Thanks, but how about later on, when it’s cooler?” The headache was so bad that I said good-bye to them without opening my eyes.
Malki phoned an hour later. “We’ve finished decorating our friend’s room to welcome her home” she said, “Now I’m going to that camp counselors’ meeting in Talpiot. I love you. Bye.”
Her last words were routine. We often ended our chats that way.
Forty five minutes later, I heard a CNN newsflash about a terror attack in downtown Jerusalem. I burst into tears, but not out of fear for Malki’s safety. After all, she had gone to Talpiot. And she had a cellphone, so I would be able reach her.
I was worried about my other two children, who had gone shopping in the capital’s Givat Shaul neighborhood without a phone.
When they returned, I hugged them tightly. Then I dialed Malki’s number again and again. I dialed while I drove to pick up my soldier son, who had been released for his first weekend furlough.
He pointed out that many cell connections were still down. Hopeful, I dialed some more.
After we returned, Michal’s mother, Avivah, called us to say she couldn’t reach Michal either. Soon afterwards, one of their friends notified us that the girls had stopped in at Sbarro’s.
Dread seized my heart.
Avivah suggested we drive to Shaarei Zedek hospital to search among the wounded. On the way, Michal’s sister called us to say Malki had not arrived at the counselors’ meeting. I burst into tears. Hope waned.
Avivah and I separated on arrival at the hospital. I was ushered into an office where I was handed a phone. Somebody at the Abu Kabir morgue - the government pathology center in Yafo - wanted a description of Malki and of the clothes she was wearing . I told the woman I hadn’t actually seen Malki that day. She said there was no-one there matching the description I gave.
I later learned that Avivah had found Michal dead on a gurney in a hospital corridor.
That night, my husband and sons worked the phones, contacting Jerusalem’s other hospitals as well as people who might help. Some friends told me tales they had heard of trauma victims who wandered the streets in shock for hours. But I knew by then that Malki was not wandering anywhere.
Still, I recited Psalms along with our family and friends.
Toward midnight, my husband followed a lead that led nowhere and came home with the message that the city’s social work department was arranging for someone from the family to go to Abu Kabir.
It fell to my two eldest sons. I have no idea why my husband and I did not go. It’s a decision I still regret.
An hour later they phoned. I watched my husband answer the call, saw his face drop, and knew our world had been destroyed forever.
THE MOURNING of parents for a murdered child never heals or fades. Forget the hackneyed jargon: “reaching closure”, “moving on”, “making lemonade from lemons,” “what doesn’t break you only strengthens you,” “celebrate the life rather than the death”, etc., etc.
They just don’t apply.
But in Israel, murder by terrorism engenders unique complications.
We know that Malki’s murderer, Ahlam Tamimi – who planned the attack, and brought the bomb and the bomber to the target she had chosen – may one day return, triumphant, to her home in Ramallah. The act she committed, to which she confessed and of which she was convicted, is somehow not considered barbaric enough to ensure that the 16 life terms to which she was sentenced will stand.
The court’s verdict is in danger of being overturned by a handful of Israeli politicians. Media reports say Hamas demands Tamimi’s freedom, along with hundreds of other terrorists, in a deal to free kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Tamimi decimated an entire family.
A mother, a father and three of their eight children were among the 15 she murdered. Another victim, in the fifth month of her first pregnancy, was her parents’ only child.
Who can possibly fathom their pain? One victim, not even counted among the dead, has remained in a coma for 10 years. Her daughter, then two years old, has grown up motherless; her husband effectively widowed.
The demands of victims’ families are too often dismissed as primitive vengefulness. Our voices carry little weight in negotiations for prisoner releases. The one “concession” made to us is the government’s publicizing of the prisoners’ names 48 hours before they walk free. High Court appeals filed by victims’ families within such time constraints have always failed.
Since the Fogel family murders last March, capital punishment has been suggested as a means of combating the releases of barbaric murderers. I favor life imprisonment with harsh conditions and without parole for Tamimi, who cockily declared in 2006: “I’m not sorry for what I did. I will get out of prison.”
Anything less trivializes the lives of her victims.
Will the knowledge that Malki’s murderer remains behind bars ease the longing to hug my angel again, to caress her silky hair and kiss her soft cheek? No. But her release would intensify my pain immeasurably.
Frimet Roth is a freelance writer based in Jerusalem. Her daughter, Malki, was murdered at the age of 15 in the Sbarro restaurant bombing (2001). She and her husband subsequently founded the Malki Foundation (www.kerenmalki.org), which provides concrete support for Israeli families of all faiths who care for a special-needs child.