Keren Malki, the Malki Foundation, a non-political,
non-sectarian, not-for-profit organization, honors the
tragically short life of a girl dedicated to bringing
happiness and support into the lives of special-needs
The article below appeared in the Washington Post on August 19, 2001 and
Bomber Took Malki's Life, But Not Our Convictions
By Lee Hockstader
Sunday, August 19, 2001; Page B01
JERUSALEM: There is little in this city to suggest hope
these days. The emotional aftershock of the terror attack Aug. 9, in
which a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and 15 others in a
Sbarro pizzeria, has left Jerusalem bitter and on edge. Fear of what
might explode next has thinned out traffic and emptied stores and malls.
Cafes and restaurants are posting security guards at the doors to deter
the next bomber.
Almost no one expects peace or even believes it possible
in the foreseeable future. A newspaper headline a few days ago said the
army expects the violence to continue until 2006 and is planning
accordingly. Whether it is well grounded or not, a rare consensus has
formed among Israelis of almost every political stripe that the
Palestinians have slipped the bonds of reason, spurned negotiations and
embraced the way of blood.
When I interviewed Arnold Roth the other day, his modest
apartment in northern Jerusalem was teeming with grieving visitors:
Roth's teenage daughter Malki was among the victims of the pizzeria
bombing. Roth is a 49-year-old lawyer who manages a pharmaceutical
technology company, a thoughtful man whose dignity was as evident as his
During the course of a 90-minute conversation, excerpts
from which appear below, Roth discussed the tragedy not only in personal
terms, but in the context of Jewish life and history.His wife, Frimet,
who was in tears when I arrived, did not join us.
Do you see any historical precedent for what's happening in Israel
It's the endless nature of baseless hatred. I think there
are very few Jews who don't feel what I'm about to say. That is, that
the profound hatred that we encounter doesn't really have any basis to
it. It's something that's really, from our perspective, an imponderable.
Baseless hatred was at the root of the Holocaust, and baseless hatred is
what you have to be possessed of in order to walk into a restaurant full
of teenagers [and blow it up].
When you say baseless hatred, it's not necessarily
baseless from the Palestinians' point of view.
I don't want to relate to that at all. What happened in
that restaurant, I cannot see it as a political act. It has no
connection to politics. It's an act of barbarism. There are some things
that are so far outside the pale, they can't be discussed without giving
them a degree of legitimacy. I'm not willing to do that.
How about yourselves? One has to continue living, but
life can become quite circumscribed in a place so dangerous that
restaurants can blow up.
That's the answer -- you can't live like that. And in a
certain way that's conceding the field to the barbarians.
But how can you lead a non-circumscribed life when you
think of some of the neighbors as "barbarians"?
There's a duality of thinking here and I think most Jews
in Israel feel this way. On one side we certainly see a plague of
barbarians around us. But at another level of our consciousness we know
there are people here with real interests, with lives, with needs that
are very similar to the needs that we have. What we see is a colossal,
catastrophic failure of leadership on the part of our neighbors, and
something which must change because it's inconceivable that it would
continue for another minute. Of course, it is continuing, but it must
change. No leadership can lead its people to such a historical
catastrophe for long without the system rising up and reacting.
Now it's out of our control entirely. There's nothing we
can do, I don't think. I'm not focused on the barbarians and I'm not
focused on their leaders and I'm not focused on their needs. I really
don't care how they resolve their problems. Of course I know that,
ultimately, their problem is our problem and we'll need to come to terms
with them. I'm quite convinced that there's no lack of will on our side
to do that. [But] there's no dialogue with barbarians.
Roth's daughter Malki was 15 years old, tall and willowy,
a gifted classical flutist and youth group leader blessed with a sunny
disposition and dozens of friends. Her best friend and neighbor, Michal
Raziel, went downtown with her for lunch at Sbarro that day. Now they
are buried together, side by side.
When Malki's parents recovered her cell phone from the
police, they were struck by two things: A nail from the bomb had
shredded the leatherette case and, in small handwriting, Malki had
written a reminder to herself by the mouthpiece -- "Speak no ill of
During the week-long shiva, or period of mourning, Roth
was reluctant to discuss politics. He preferred to focus on Malki, her
music and her deep involvement with disabled children that sprang from
caring for her handicapped little sister, Haya, who is blind and
severely brain-damaged. But Malki's life, and death, led him to broader
topics, and I nudged him, too.
Tell me about Malki.
Malki had the sunniest disposition you'd ever meet in a
child. She was amazingly optimistic and positive; it was very striking.
Malki was a very outgoing, people-oriented person. She had a huge circle
She was an okay student; she was too busy to be a
brilliant student -- busy with everything else outside of school. First
of all, her music made tremendous demands on her. She was a very
talented flutist and then taught herself piano and guitar and was
extremely good at both of those. But it was her flute -- she could
reduce me to tears any time just by playing the flute, and she did, she
There were two [other] major demands on her time. One was
helping Frimet with the baby. The other was youth group activities.
Malki had a group of girls that she led. If you go to her bedroom you'll
see a mountain of little notes and tchotchkes that she prepared for her
kids. What she was really doing was constantly giving expression to
feelings of love. This girl radiated love, it's the most striking thing
about her, you can see in pictures of her this girl had a face that
shone with love. That was the essence of Malki.
You have a second son going into the army. In the context
of this conflict, are you concerned that the experience of the army
these days can be brutalizing, just as any war is brutalizing?
You're absolutely right. Pinhas, our oldest boy, was
chastised by one of his commanders for smiling repeatedly -- serial
smiling -- at Arabs who were passing through a roadblock he was manning
three years ago. There's a certain degree of humanity that we all have,
and some people manage to camouflage it better than others. No doubt
that the army and the entire experience of dealing with a hostile
presence in the neighborhood is a brutalizing one. But it doesn't
necessarily lead to brutalization, I don't think, inside our family nor
among most of our friends.
The issue here is, where are your priorities? Our goal is
definitely to be focused on the constructive. No one was more
constructive than this beautiful girl [Malki]. Her life was an act of
beauty -- all but the last few seconds of it.
Israel is a country of immigrants. Roth, who is
Australian by birth, and his American-born wife, Frimet, 47, came to
Israel from Melbourne in 1988, when Malki was 2. They were driven by the
Zionist conviction that Jews should settle the biblical land of Israel.
Now, in their grief, they are grappling with the implications of that
decision, with the nature of the lethal conflict between Arabs and Jews
and the resulting perils of daily life -- shopping, going to lunch,
buying the groceries.
When you think back on your decision to come to Israel --
and you came during the first intifada -- did it give you pause to come
to a place so conflicted?
It wasn't a career move and it wasn't a personal safety
move. It was an imperative, wanting to be where Jewish life and Jewish
destiny have always been determined, the natural place for Jews. Now I'm
conscious that makes me sound like some kind of dinosaur, but that
really is what compels both Frimet and me -- a strong sense of the
rightness of being here, the naturalness of being here.
You've been here 13 years. Do you ever think about
Anyone who tells you they've never thought of cutting and
running isn't being honest. At some level you think about running and
hiding under the pillow in your bedroom. But it's [like] the feeling
when you walk into a department store -- "I'd love to grab everything
that I see and run out of the store without having to pay for it." But
we have a lot at stake here. We have deep roots, we're raising children
who absolutely love the land and love being here and never see
themselves in any other framework.
Has Malki's death dented that conviction?
Please remember we are just grieving over a very, very
open and fresh injury which is almost beyond bearing. Let me put my
comments into a context that might surprise you.
My father was the youngest of 17 [children]. He was born
in Poland before the war and ultimately was the only one of the family
who stayed in Europe and survived -- went through Auschwitz, then came
to Australia. He had one older brother, 20 years older, who had the
insight to come to Palestine in the early 1930s, before the war. And his
brother -- my uncle here in Palestine -- also survived and as a result I
have a cousin who is a woman in her sixties. She went back to Poland a
couple of years ago and went to Krakow.
While there, she managed to find in a museum a series of
pages which gave me the first-ever look at my father as he looked before
the war. This was a photograph on a German census form in the Krakow
ghetto just prior to its liquidation by the Germans.
There were two other pages there that were tremendously
significant: pictures of two of his sisters who were also living in the
ghetto. And one of them, Feiga, is the twin of Malki. Malki and I both
went out of our minds when we saw that picture because there was a sense
of the continuity of Jewish history, of Jewish existence. Malki saw
herself and I saw her as being the continuation of this Feiga who died
in the war, as the continuation of that generation which was cut off.
So when we talk about Jewish life and personal life after
a tragedy like this, at one level it has to be understood as something
more than a personal tragedy. It's part of Jewish life. Jewish life's
had lots of tragedies and lots of achievements. Personally, I can't
relate to what's happened without trying to put it into some kind of
context of the family and of the people.
Lee Hockstader is The Post's Jerusalem bureau chief.