Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the catastrophic suicide bombing of the Dolphinarium discotheque on the beachfront in southern Tel Aviv. The attack killed twenty-one and wounded over 100; most of the casualties were teenagers, mainly newcomers to Israel from the former Soviet Union, who were out for some innocent fun after a long week of high school.
On Friday night June 1, 2001, the parking lot at the entrance of the Dolphinarium discotheque was crowded with teenagers. Many were from the Tel Aviv suburbs of Holon and Bat Yam; the disco was very popular with the high school crowd, especially those from the former Soviet republic, and a long line of kids dressed in their best clothes waited for the chance to get in.
At 11:30 P.M., a twenty-two-year-old Palestinian who was dressed as an Orthodox Jew made his way through the crowd. He carried a lethal load of explosives and store-bought shrapnel hidden inside his disguise; according to eyewitnesses, he banged his hands menacingly around the crowd, as if hinting that something terrible was about to happen. When he detonated his device, it spewed fire and jagged fragments far and wide. Anyone near the blast was killed or wounded. First responders rushed to the scene in the frenzied attempt to save whoever was still alive. Many of the victims didn’t speak Hebrew. The cries of Mamochka, “Mommy” in Russian, were heard amid the ambulance sirens and the desperate calls for help.
The Dolphinarium Massacre was the first catastrophic suicide bombing of the second Intifada. In the four years that would follow, over 1,000 Israelis were killed in suicide bombings and shooting attacks. Those killed were men, women, and children. Soldiers and police officers were killed in the line of duty battling Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and other terror factions who were determined to kill as many Israelis and Jews as possible. They were truly horrible years.
Twenty years since the Dolphinarium massacre, the Sbarro, Ben Yehuda Street, Moment Café, Park Hotel, Bus 960, Maxim, and all the other massacres that followed those, the terrorists are still trying to kill Israelis. This time the weapon of choice is the unguided missile: their base of operations is in the Gaza Strip. The terrorists won’t win, but innocent men, women, and children will die.
The Dolphinarium disco closed shortly after the suicide bombing. It was demolished in 2018. A memorial was erected on the spot where the victims died—the names of the dead were carved in both Hebrew and Russian. May the memories of all the victims be blessings.
In Qalqilya, the city in the West Bank where the bomber was from, the terrorist is also memorialized with posters and graffiti. The landmarks to him honor his deed of mass murder and praise Hamas for all the Jews they have murdered.
Twenty years after that terrible night, the difference between both sides has never been so glaring.