Israel has, unfortunately, witnessed many terror attacks throughout its history. But few are as memorable as the Sbarro suicide bombing. Why? Perhaps it was the five members of the Schijveschuurder family who were killed together, or the seven children who lost their lives in an instant. Perhaps it was the centrality of the popular pizzeria on the corner of King George and Jaffa streets in the center of Jerusalem, or the vile and unrepentant glee expressed by the attack’s mastermind, Ahlam al-Tamimi. Whatever the reason, the memory of this particular act of terrorism remains – to many Israelis – uniquely vivid and painful. Two decades after the day that shook the nation, we set out to explore how those who lost their loved ones have coped with the gaping hole left in their lives.
On the morning of August 9, 2001 – the day of the attack – Mishy, then 18, was enlisted into the IDF. He was therefore far away when, shortly before 2 p.m., all hell broke loose at the pizza joint he often frequented. On August 9, 2021, he returned to the site of the blast.
Sbarro was so crowded on that fateful Thursday afternoon that 18-year-old Tehila Maoz – the shift manager – decided to open up a third cash register to move the line ahead. Michal Raziel, Malki Roth, Shoshana Greenbaum, Yocheved Shoshan and many others had the horrible luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Over the summer, Danna Harman visited the grieving parents, siblings and spouses left behind, and asked what happens in the aftermath of such a violent and shocking tragedy. How does life continue once the middle-of-the-night funerals, the days of shiva and the unstoppable crying all come to an end? Once the media coverage wanes and the country moves on to the next story? Where did they park their grief? Their anger? Their confusion? And how – on earth – do they make sense of it all?
Many thoughts raced through Elhanan Miller‘s head as he made his way to Aqabah, a small village not far from Nablus, to visit the family of suicide bomber Izz al-Din al Masri. Why was he, an Orthodox rabbi and the neighbor of one of the Sbarro victims, even doing this? What was he hoping to learn? As a journalist, he could justify the need to hear all sides of a story. But as a human, as an Israeli, things weren’t so simple.
Yochai Maital produced this episode. Zev Levi scored and sound-designed it with music from Blue Dot Sessions and Serge Quadrado. Sela Waisblum created the mix. Thanks to our dubbers – Noa Bar, Gal Klein and Dor Gil – as well as to Nuha Musleh, Daniel Estrin, Eliana Sagarin, Sarah Zalta, Wayne Hoffman, Kurt Hoffman, Sheila Lambert, Erica Frederick, Jeff Feig and Joy Levitt.
The end song, Atzuv Lamut Be’emtza Ha’Tammuz (“It is Sad to Die in the Middle of Tammuz”) was written and composed by Naomi Shemer and sung by Nurit Galron.