EXCLUSIVE: Our daughter was killed by a suicide bomber... but it is the terror of Israel's occupation that is to blame for her death
Jun 25 2002
The Mirror (London)
From Alexandra Williams In Jerusalem
A BIG red 'Free Palestine' sticker has a prominent place on the Elhanan family's front door.
But this is not a Palestinian house in the occupied territories.
Remarkably, this home is in an affluent Jewish area in Jerusalem and belongs to a couple whose daughter Smadar, 14, was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber.
Rather than being motivated by revenge and hatred, Nurit Elhanan and her husband Rami, both 52, are fighting for peace.
They are campaigning for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, calling it a cancer that is feeding terror.
Nurit, a doctor of language at Israel's Hebrew University, said: 'No real mother would ever think of consoling herself with the killing of another mother's child.
'Israel is becoming a graveyard of children. The Holy Land is being turned into a wasteland.'
Graphic designer Rami agrees: 'If an Israeli child is killed and the next day a Palestinian child is killed, it's no solution.
'Our daughter was killed because of the terror of Israeli occupation. Every innocent victim from both sides is a victim of the occupation. The occupation is the cancer feeding Palestinian terror.'
Last week, following two suicide bombs and a shooting which killed 30 Israelis, Israel hardened its military tactics. This resulted in the deaths of innocent Palestinians - five children on Friday alone.
Rami said: 'I was devastated when the Palestinian children were killed in Jenin, like I was the day before when a suicide bomber killed Israelis. Palestinians grieve and cry exactly the same way as Israelis do. We all have the same blood.'
Some brand the couple apologists for suicide bombers. At a peace rally, an Israeli called them 'Leftie traitors' and shouted, 'Pity you weren't blown up with your daughter.'
Smadar was killed in a double Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem in September 1997.
It was 3pm and the first day back at school. She was buying books with two of her closest friends.
As terrified shoppers tried to escape the first bomb, they fled into the path of the second terrorist, who unleashed his lethal device
Smadar was killed instantly with one of her friends. The other was in a coma for six months.
Five years on, the pain is still too intense for the family to talk of it.
RAMI, whose father survived Auschwitz and whose grandparents, aunts and uncles died in the Holocaust, said: 'The pain of losing our beautiful daughter is unbearable, but our house is not a house of hate.
'You can sink in your misery and just wait for death or you can try to do something meaningful.
'We started to look for contact with people like us from the other side. We now have many Palestinian friends, parents who have lost children too.
'We are in a position of power. We couldn't stay silent. We have to tell the world. This power was brought to us by our disaster. Some people say we use it cynically.'
Some argue that ending the occupation would fail to halt the suicide bombers. Groups behind the killings, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have vowed to continue the campaign until the Jews are expelled from Israel.
But Rami and Nurit said terror organisations drew their strength from a persecuted people.
Nurit said: 'Hamas take power from the anger of people. If you restored people's dignity, honour and prosperity by ending occupation, Hamas would lose power.'
Rami added: 'If a man who has cancer in his leg goes to the doctor and asks if it is amputated will he be well, no doctor in the world would say, yes, you'll be fine, but no doctor would say don't amputate.
'Getting out of Gaza and the West Bank will serve the good of both Israelis and Palestinians.'
The couple have three sons - Elik, 25, Guy, 23, and Yigal, 10. Elik and Guy, who now study in Paris, were conscripts in the Israeli army. They fought in the troubles on the Lebanese border.
Nurit and Rami believe that if their sons were called up today, they would refuse to serve in the Palestinian territories. Rami, a veteran of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, said: 'The refuseniks are the heroes.'
The anger of Rami and his wife is vented on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and America, rather than the bomber who killed their daughter.Nurit, whose father General Matti Peled spoke out for a two-state solution, said:
'The war is not between the Israeli people and Palestinian people, but these life-destroying men who call themselves leaders.
'The US is reluctant and bored with the situation. And the rest of the world is going on as if blood has never been shed.'
The couple founded the Bereaved Family Forum with Palestinian Izzat Ghazzawi, whose son Ramy, 16, was killed by Israeli troops.
Last December, Nurit and Izzat were given the European Parliament's freedom of speech award, The Sakharov Prize.
Nurit said: 'I have been asked many times if I feel any need to avenge the murder of my little girl, who was killed just because she was born Israeli, by a young man who felt hopeless to the point of murder and suicide, just because he was born Palestinian.
'I quote Hebrew poet Bialik who said, 'Satan has not yet created a vengeance for the blood of a small child'.' firstname.lastname@example.org