This last week marked the twentieth anniversary of one of the most heinous terrorist attacks ever perpetrated in Jerusalem.
On the afternoon of August 9, 2001, a Hamas suicide bomber walked into the crowded Sbarro pizzeria on the corner of Jaffa Road and King George Street and detonated a powerful explosive device that had been built into a guitar he carried on his back. The blast killed fifteen men, women, and children; 130 were seriously hurt. The dead included Israelis, Americans (including a pregnant woman), a Brazilian national, and Dutch Jews Mordechai and Tzira Schijveschuurder, along with three of their children; two of their children were critically wounded in the terror attack. One of the American victims of the bombing, Chana Nachenberg, remains in a permanent vegetative state to this day.
September 11 attacks happened a few weeks after the Sbarro bombing. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and other factions, intensified their suicide bombing campaign, targeting buses, cafés, universities, shopping centers, and any other location where Israelis of all faiths could be slaughtered. Over 1,000 Israelis were killed during those terrible years; scores more were wounded. They were terrible years.
Life went on after the bombing and Israel—and Jerusalem—are thriving today. Israel has survived additional terror attacks, rockets from Lebanon and Gaza, and stabbing and ramming attacks. But anyone who walks past that busy intersection cannot forget what happened there twenty years ago. It is and remains a monument to terror and sorrow. It is also a landmark to injustice. Ahlam Tamimi was a twenty-year-old Hamas operative when she scouted out the Sbarro pizzeria and earmarked it for the suicide bomber. She led the bomber to the location and was an accomplice to mass murder. She was ultimately arrested by the Israeli security services and convicted for her role in the bombing; she received multiple life sentences in a military court. Israel released Tamimi in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange that freed 1,027 terrorist prisoners for the life of one Israeli captive.
Tamimi moved to Jordan and became an outspoken media star exalting jihad and the murder of Jews. She is proud of her role in the attack. Because Tamimi killed American citizens, she is subject to United States law. Incredible political and social pressure is demanding her extradition from Jordan. This pressure must not relent. The fact that she remains free is a painful reminder that the Sbarro attack continues to haunt and inflict suffering on those who buried their own that horrible August Thursday, and those whose scars have never healed.