Sherri Mandell
Sherri Mandell
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What happens to Palestinian prisoners when they are released?

Remember Rasmeah Odeh? A convicted murderer, she's now a freedom fighting cause celebre at the Jewish Voice for Peace

In February 1969, Rasmeah Odeh murdered two Hebrew University students and injured nine other people. Leon Kaner was 21 and Edward Jaffe was 22 when they were murdered in a Jerusalem supermarket. Odeh set bombs in coffee cans that exploded in the grocery, killing the two young men and injuring nine other people.

This month in Chicago at the Jewish Voice for Peace conference, Rasmeah Odeh, the convicted Palestinian terrorist, has been invited to speak. Never mind that the organization purports to be in the name of peace, never mind that there are rabbis on their board, never mind that the organization supports BDS.

It is the Israeli government who released this woman and allowed her to be celebrated as a freedom fighter.

Releasing terrorists is a dangerous game. Many Palestinian terrorists released in prison exchanges go on to murder again. That’s why those of us in the organization American Victims of Palestinian Terror in Israel cry out against prison exchanges. Because we knew the terrible pain of the murder of our loved ones. We don’t want anybody else to have to suffer like we do. Shira Avraham, for example, knows the danger of releasing terrorists. In 2003, a terrorist broke into her home during a Rosh Hashanah meal and shot her 7-month old baby, Shaked, with an M16 right in front of Shira’s eyes. The terrorist had been released in a previous prison exchange.

How is it that Odeh walks free? After the murder of the two young men, she was found guilty and served 10 years in an Israeli prison, but in 1980, the Israeli government released her and another 77 prisoners in order to free one Israeli soldier who had been taken hostage in Lebanon.

After Odeh was released, she lied her way into America in 1995, claiming that she had never been convicted of any crime. She applied to be a citizen nine years later. In 2014, she was convicted of fraud and sentenced to be deported, but is now free on appeal.

Rasmeah Odeh is now in her 60s. She smiles in her photo on the Jewish Voice for Peace website. You know who had a hard time smiling? Edward Jaffe’s mother. Leon Kaner’s family. I also have a hard time smiling because I think I know how Leon Kaner’s and Edward Jaffe’s parents feel or would feel about this if they were still alive. My own son Koby was murdered in 2001 near our home in Tekoa when he was 13. He was out hiking with his friend Yosef Ish Ran and terrorists beat the two eighth-grade boys to death with rocks.

My son’s murderers have not been found. But if they were and if my son’s murderers were invited to speak at a Jewish Voice for Peace conference, I would feel that my son was being murdered again, once by the murderers, and the next time by the people celebrating those murders.

Odeh has plenty of supporters who celebrate her as a freedom fighter, not the vile murderer that she is.

At the Jewish Voice for Peace the conference, Rasmeah Odeh  will be wined and dined, she will be applauded. Maybe she will receive a standing ovation. She will sleep in a hotel with soft pillows and luxurious bedding, while her victims lie in the cold ground. Who is crying out for them? Who even remembers?

Sherri Mandell is the author of The Road to Resilience and The Blessing of a Broken Heart. She co-directs the Koby Mandell Foundation and is co-director of American Victims of Palestinian Terror. For more info see and

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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