Midnight at Hillel Cafe, among the dead and maimed

Yitzhak Frankenthal, 9/15/2003

Frankenthal is the Founder of the Bereaved Parents Group, and father of Arik, who was killed because there is no peace.

The Brereaved Parents Group is made up of Israelis and Palestinians whose children were killed by violence from "the other side."

Hillel Cafe
It is now 11:59 PM, half an hour after the suicide bombing at Hillel Cafe. Just the night before, my wife and I and two of our friends were sitting at the Cafe until around 11:40 PM. The place was packed.

I can now hear the sirens of the ambulances racing through the streets of Jerusalem. I cannot get the images out of my head; images of severed arms, decapitated heads, people with nails and pieces or iron stuck in their bodies, broken tables, the cake and sandwich bar shattered into thousands of pieces.

What happened to the sweet waitress who was serving us? What happened to the young bus boy? We were sitting in the middle of the room; all those people came there for a good time and were carried out in coffins.

Is the high ceiling still in place? The glass wall shattered into millions of shards, covering body parts and swimming in the blood that spilled on the floor like water. Shema Israel, hear O Israel, we pray - but Israel is not listening.

And I feel empty inside, asking myself which of my friends and neighbors were at the Cafe today? I am thinking about the people holding their coffee cups when the bomb went off, and how they were lucky if the shatters only got in their eyes and did not kill them. I think of the man biting into his sandwich not knowing that this would be his last bite ever; about the piles of human bodies flying in the air into one another; about the severed arm thrust into the young woman still seated at her table, but she feels nothing - she is either in shock or simply dead.

I see how tables are blown by the blast, hitting the guests, and how in the fireball human flesh mixes with freshly-served cheese; and the smell, the smell of explosives and burnt human flesh blending into one; and the quiet after the blast, and the cries of pain and shock, the shock that comes after the quiet.

I think of the victory that the Chief of Staff has announced two months ago, saying we have beaten the Palestinians, and in my heart I weep: how could my chief of staff be such a fool? I think of the folly of the politicians who are leading us from one catastrophe to the next, and I think about how the people keep silent. Has everyone forgotten? Adonai eloheinu - the Lord is our G-od, not Greater Israel

I know the painful truth. The body count will continue, because our political leaders are petty little people. So full of themselves, they are clueless about conflict resolution; they slay Palestinians and expect them to exercise restraint.

These wise men believe that the occupation can continue; these glorious generals have for years now been "letting the IDF win," as the slogan goes; they may be seasoned soldiers, but they are absolutely ignorant in conflict resolution. They believe that by using terror to counter terror they can give us security. They believe that they can devastate the infrastructure of Palestinian leadership and government and at the same time stop militias from wreaking chaos.

They have for two years now been pronouncing Arafat "irrelevant", but what does that make of former defense minister Binyamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer, of former prime minister Ehud Barak and of the incumbent, Ariel Sharon? Are they any more relevant than he? How long will it take us to wake up from this ongoing folly? How many more body bags will it take? Adonai ehad -

G-od is the only unshakeable truth, not any political creed.

The beauty of Israel is slain upon the Messianic pipedream - how long shall the petty leaders of this nation triumph?

It is now the morning after, and I have just learned that Dr. Appelboim was killed, along with his daughter who was to get married tonight. I knew this wonderful, special man. My heart bleeds for him; it was only two months ago that we had a chat and even argued over my political views.

How painful and despairing it is to see more blood being shed in vain. The young bride, excited to start a family with her betrothed, is forever married in a blood wedding to her father. They will lie side by side, as the silence of all eternity quashes the joyful sounds of the wedding that will never be.

Shema Israel, yitgadal, veyitkadash shem? raba - hear O Israel, exalted and sanctified be the name of the great Sovereign - these are the words of the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer recited over every freshly-dug grave.