by Angela Bertz
Originally published by Anglicans for Israel -
The last phone call Izzedine al-Masri ever made to his family was to
tell them he was spending the night away from home. Izzedine was
thousands of miles away from the bright lights of Hollywood and his
"tragic" tale was very much the stuff, of what the New York Times
would describe as "a taut, ingeniously calculated thriller".
However the 48 hours taking place on those two scorching days in
August 2001 would be no make-believe and the bright lights of the
Pizza Parlour where Izzedine was heading on that morning would need
no studio lights. The only special effects would be the natural
brightness of another beautiful sunny day in Jerusalem and scores of
happy families enjoying a lovely day. The hundreds of people that
would ultimately take part in this real life calamity would be no
actors, stage hands or extras. The fifteen people including seven
children and five members of the same family who were destined to
die, would never have chosen the role life dished out for them that
Izzedine's family was concerned. Owners of a restaurant in Jenin,
they were also a little puzzled, as their son had never spent the
night away from home before and he had not taken anything with him.
He told them he was visiting a friend that had just been released
from prison. Izzedine was in fact spending the night in the
Palestinian Authority town of Ramallah, in an apartment rented out
by Mahmud Wail Daglas. His role, though important, would have been a
minor part in the whole scheme of events that would later unfold.
His apartment was used by Izzedine as a safe haven before this 23
year old would launch into his deadly mission.
The next morning Izzedine left the flat and joined up with a young
woman. Ahlam Tmimi, was no doubt as deserving as any Hollywood
heroine could ever be. Attractive, with her long flowing hair and
dark eyes she would play a central role in this real life
documentary of murder most foul. On the outside the pair had
seemingly little in common. He was a waiter in his family's
restaurant and she was a university student, with aspirations to
eventually become a journalist.
The couple left Ramallah on the morning of August 9th 2001 by taxi
and headed towards the Kalandia checkpoint, which was one of the
main entry points into Israel. The pair said little to each other as
the taxi sped towards its destination. Before they arrived Izzedine
handed Ahlam the guitar case he had been carrying. It was packed
with explosives. They gambled, that even with tight security, a
Palestinian woman wearing Western clothes and carrying a guitar case
would not attract too much attention.
Shortly before they reached the checkpoint, Izzedine descended from
the taxi and walked casually through the checkpoint. He carried
nothing on his person and would have attracted no particular
attention. He sailed past the security. Ahlam stayed in the taxi.
With a sigh of relief that would have had any movie-goer on the edge
of their seats, we would have watched as the gamble paid off and the
taxi, with the guitar case and its macabre contents, were on their
way to play out their finest role.
Once through the checkpoint Izzedine got back in the taxi and the
pair drove silently towards the center of Jerusalem. The taxi took
them to the old city walls, where they then headed by foot to the
Israeli side of the town. Izzedine's lovely accomplice's mission was
to direct Izzedine to a "suitable spot". A few minutes before they
parted and to give the idea that they were tourists Ahlam said a few
words in English to Izzedine. Other than that they had spoken little
to each other.
At 2 p.m. the couple parted at a busy junction, just outside the
Sbarro pizza parlor. Her part was over. Ahlam had had but a few
lines. These would later cede major retributions and a lifetime of
imprisonment, to contemplate the enormity of the monstrous part she
played in the mass murder that was now seconds away.
Izzedine may have stood for a few seconds of thoughtful
contemplation before entering the packed pizza parlour. He may have
thought for a few brief moments of his sister. A few days ago he had
asked her, if he became a martyr would she name her soon to be born
baby after him. Izzedine had no known record of political extremism
and she dismissed the threat as nothing more than some far flung
Izzedine would have stepped into the brightly lit restaurant. He may
have looked round him. He would have seen smiling happy faces.
Children and parents enjoying a cold drink, a pizza and half hours
respite from the fierce summer heat. The air would have been abuzz
with activity. Izzedine had his guitar flung over his shoulder.
Choosing a spot in the center of the ground floor of this 2 story
restaurant, he may have stood for the briefest of seconds and
thought of the action he was about to take. One thing is for sure he
would have felt no pity for his intended victims. He was far beyond
any human emotion.
In one dreadful split second Izzedine detonated the contents of his
guitar case. It contained between 5-10 kilograms of explosives. The
effect of the blast was catastrophic and wreaked havoc among the
diners. The bomb unleashed not only its explosives into a packed
crowd, but intensified the damage ten fold as it sprayed its
additional contents of nails, bolts and shrapnel. A cell phone of
one of the victims was later found with a one inch nail embedded in
it. The restaurant was gutted and nearby shop windows were blown
One of the busiest junctions in Jerusalem turned into a scene of
Ahlam was already way down the street when the ambulances started
racing towards the junction. Many people had been killed instantly
and many of those injured and in serious condition had been hit by
the nails and shrapnel. Paramedics fought to save them. The eventual
death toll was 15 and the number of injured was over 130. Hours
later at 10 pm that evening ten of the bodies still lay unidentified
at a forensic institute.
A representative of the Dutch Embassy was sent to help identify a
family of Dutch origins. The Schijveschuurder family was in
Jerusalem for the day with five of their eight children. The next
day four of their children, one of them on a hospital stretcher,
attended the funeral of both their parents and three of their
siblings. Their grandmother, a Dutch survivor of Auschwitz would
watch as the five bodies of her son, daughter in law and three
grandchildren were lowered into the ground and say "I vowed to
rebuild my family after the war, and that is what I did. Now for my
family, Arafat has finished what Hitler started."
These were not fictional events glorified from behind the lens of a
camera. The families that lost their loved ones that day had not
spent the day in makeup, joking and drinking cups of tea between
They were real people.
Izzedine's brother would not have rehearsed his lines when he said
"This is a unique operation for its quality and success...
Palestinians everywhere can now hold up their heads."
In a world that is already weeping wasted buckets for Palestinians
plighthood the last thing it needs is a movie that attempts to show
the human side of suicide bombers. Still maybe one shouldn't be
surprised. Since the Palestinians invented themselves on the world
stage a few decades ago their only cultural achievement has been the
deplorable use of human sacrifice and the creation of a society that
glorifies and revels in death.
A movie called Paradise Now directed by Hany Abu-Assad is now being
hailed around the world. It follows 48 hours in the lives of two car
mechanics from Nablus as they prepare for a suicide mission in
Israel. This despicable mockery of mass murder has already been
awarded the European Film Academy's Best Screenplay and the Berlin
Festivals Blue Angel Award.
A few days ago, far away from the horrors of Sbarro Pizza parlour in
Jerusalem a group of journalists in Hollywood would have sat
comfortably in their armchairs watching this years nominees for the
Golden Globe awards. One of these movies was Paradise Now. The
Golden Globes was founded in 1943 and after the Oscars and BAFTAS is
one of the most important events in the movie industry, boasting a
worldwide audience of 250 million people world wide.
Maybe only in Hollywood is it possible to put a human face to mass
murder and portray people that carry out these barbaric acts as
having the same hopes and aspirations as their victims. Mass murder
has no human side and whatever your hardships in life, or whatever
you conceive them to be, there can never be any possible
justification for going into a packed restaurant, or getting on a
crowded bus, strapped with explosives, and murdering innocent
people, many of them children. To award any film that seeks to show
this in some sensitive, human light is a blatant insult to the
dignity and sanctity of human life.
Arnold Roth and his family, who lost their 15 year old daughter
Malka now have to live those 48 hours that Izzedine and Ahlam
prepared to murder their much cherished daughter every minute, of
every day for the rest of their lives "We're part of a circle which
now consists of several thousand families who have lost a child or a
parent or a spouse to an act of murder. And now I've learned that
for the people who are touched by an act of terror in a personal
way, it isn't an event which you work your way past, it actually
keeps happening every minute and every day."
Human suffering on this scale is not something that needs glorifying
on the big screen. The "red carpet" that welcomes the Golden Globe
nominees this year will be tinged with the blood of more than 1000+
dead Israelis that have been murdered by more than 150 Palestinian
homicide attacks in Israel.
It was barely 48 hours after the bombing that Izzedine's sister
would give birth to a son. She named him after a man that had killed
15 innocent people. When asked what hopes she had for the child, she
said she wanted him to be "like his uncle."
Angela Bertz, originally from England, made aliya in the 1980s.
She has a background in Human Resources. Contact her at