Last week Fatah threw a party. You probably weren’t invited. Neither was I. It was to honor their youngest female suicide terrorist for her martyrdom. Probably a modest affair, since despite “watering the ground with her pure blood,” young Ayyat Al-Akhras only added that of two Jews. A shameful waste of costly ordnance. But maybe her youth excused her. So Fatah, headed by moderate, peace-seeking Mahmoud Abbas, threw her a party.
I remember. 2002. It was an oddly empty time: still rainy when the sun should have been shining, quiet where it should have been noisy — too much space was filled with too few people. The hotel where my parents had invited us for the Passover seder showed no signs of its normal bustle. No commotion. Instead, like the un-trafficked Jerusalem streets on which it sat, this majestic hotel, made to be filled with the chatter and tinkle and swoosh of the many, hosted a mere handful of foreign tourists along with a number of weary diplomats. The former had made the trip to Israel despite the violence. In spite of the fear that the latest eruption of Oslo-era terror had engendered in so many. The latter had arrived not in spite, but in virtue of that very same round of killing, their attachés filled with more plans and good intentions.
The bomb that tore through Netanya’s Park Hotel canceled many of my friends’ vacations. But I wouldn’t be called up to my unit until after the holiday. So two days later, while my children played with their visiting grandparents, I mounted my road bike and set off in a light mist towards Jerusalem’s western hills. As I stood on the pedals and rocked my beautiful blue Cannondale up the rise from Malha towards Ein Kerem, I heard the sirens. Dozens of police cars and ambulances were pouring into Kiryat Yovel.
Eight years later, I met Haim Smadar’s widow. Shattered, she had struggled in the ensuing years to raise their five children alone. She told me that Haim had simple tastes and only a few years of education. But this Tunis-born man, who made his living as a school guard, knew Arabic. He heard the eighteen-year-old girl warn away the two Bedouin women sitting in front of the supermarket. There he was guarding the entrance during what should have been his own vacation — it was the Passover school-break. But he needed the paycheck. A survivor heard him tell Ayyat “You will not pass! You and me are going to die out here together” as he wrapped her in his arms and danced her away from the crowded checkout lines back into the market’s entranceway. The death toll could have been in the dozens. Instead, only Haim and one other victim were blown to shreds by her bomb.
So young Ayyat, whose roiling Jew-hatred led her far from her peers’ music, lip-gloss and gossip, straight into the arms of Hamas (who were only too willing to gift this young lady a corset of deadly explosives), died in a Jewish embrace. But I’m sure that wasn’t held against her. After all— two dead, five fatherless children, a grieving widow — there was still so much she accomplished at her young age. She remains a symbol of better times. Days when Fatah and Hamas cooperated so easily in their war against the Jews — before dear Fatah brethren were tossed from Gaza’s roofs to their deaths. Her name harkens back to those heady days of high-tech mass murder, well before the Palestinian youth of today were reduced to slashing the innocent. Ah, how nostalgia breeds hope for the future. Ayyat must be terribly missed. I’m sure it was one hell of a party.