Sherri Mandell
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We were there to protest…and then the cops came

Glad that her son’s murderers have not been found or she wouldn’t be able to bear their release

You have to get angry to go on Facebook at midnight and organize a demonstration against releasing Palestinian prisoners for the next day at the Israeli prime minister’s house. But I was. I still am. Still I was not prepared for what happened when the police arrived at our demonstration.

At 5 PM yesterday, we assembled outside the prime minister’s home. Earlier that day, I had bought poster board and markers at the makollet and my friend Roochie and I recruited two young women who were there buying ice cream to help us write the signs outside the shop.

By my count 45 people showed up at 5 PM. People traveled from Sefat and Kiryat Ono and Maale Adumim and Efrat and, of course, Jerusalem to protest against the release of terrorists. Why should we release murderers to entice the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table? Don’t they want peace? Why do they need preconditions to talk to us?

And how can the Israeli government release terrorists who have murdered Israelis in cold blood? As we chanted, based on a slogan my sister recommended on Facebook that day: Release will not bring peace.

We also chanted: Murderers belong in jail. Like the ones who were set free in a previous release though they had murdered Rachel Weiss, a young mother, and her three children on a bus as well as the soldier who tried to protect them.

We chanted: We want justice. We chanted: Wake up Israel.

I held a sign that said: I’m glad that my son’s murderers have not been found. And I am. I wouldn’t be able to bear their release.

All was going well. The media came to take our photo and interviewed some of the participants. Passing motorists honked their horns in support.

And then two young women approached us, one dressed in green, a border guard, the other in dark blue, a regular policewoman.

“Who is in charge?” they asked.

To my surprise, I answered, “me.” This was the first demonstration I’d ever organized.

“Do you have a permit?” she asked. I could see her gun in the holster on her hip.

“No,” I said. My daughter Eliana, who had researched the rules of demonstrations, said: “But we’re not 50 people. You only need a permit if you’re more than fifty.”

They conferred.

Then the policewoman looked at me. She took off her sunglasses. She had long eyelashes with a thick coat of dark black mascara.

“I know you,” she said. “Aren’t you from the Koby Mandell Foundation?”

“Yes,” I said. “How do you know?”

She smiled shyly.

I asked her, “Were you a counselor at Camp Koby?”

“No,” she said. “I was…”

I waited.

“I was a camper.”

I couldn’t believe it: “Was somebody killed in your family?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “I was in a terrorist attack.”

Our camps are usually for those whose family members were murdered by terrorists, but we also ran camps for kids who were injured. Now years later, she had survived and seemed healthy. I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask her how it happened. But it could have been on a bus or a mall or a café, or a train or crossing the street or sitting in her home. That’s where terrorists attacked the Israeli people.

My son later told me that he heard the policewoman telling the other guard: “What are you crazy? I know these people.”

In other words, because she knew us, the story had changed. She wasn’t going to make us leave. She wasn’t about to disrupt the demonstration.

And when you know people who have been killed by terrorists, your relationship to this story changes. Too many of us here know somebody who was killed, injured or maimed. We know that it is a supreme act of betrayal to release terrorists, some of whom entered innocent children’s bedrooms and massacred them.

We as a country went out in the streets to protest the price of cottage cheese. Yet we are not crying out at this lack of justice. It is time to cry out. It is time for everybody to write, phone, email, fax our government, and if you are American, then contact  John Kerry. Tell them that we will not appease the Palestinians by releasing terrorists.  

On July 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm, the ending was updated to add an anecdote.

About the Author
Sherri Mandell is co-director of the Koby Mandell Foundation which runs programs for bereaved families in Israel. She is the author of the book "The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration." Her book, "The Blessing of a Broken Heart," won a National Jewish Book Award in 2004. She can be reached at
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