Ticking bomb

di Vered Levy-Barzilai - Haaretz 18 ottobre 2003

 

What made a young lawyer from Jenin enter a packed restaurant and blow herself up, killing 20 people and wounding dozens of others? The story of Hanadi Jaradat, the bomber from Maxim restaurant in Haifa, combines a tough family situation, religious zealotry - and revenge.

 

Four months ago, Hanadi Jaradat stood over the freshly dug grave of her brother Fadi and vowed to avenge his death. "Your blood will not have been shed in vain," she is quoted as saying by the Jordanian daily Al-Arab al-Yum. "The murderer will yet pay the price and we will not be the only ones who are crying." Weeping bitterly, she added: "If our nation cannot realize its dream and the goals of the victims, and live in freedom and dignity, then let the whole world be erased."

 Two weeks ago, Jaradat made good on her terrible promise. She erased the world of dozens of Israeli men, women, children and infants, and many people are indeed crying: the Zer Aviv family, the Almog family, and all the relatives and friends of the dead and the wounded from the terrorist attack at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa. Once again the question arises: What makes a 29-year-old lawyer, an educated woman with a good salary whose whole life was ahead of her, enter a packed restaurant at 2 P.M. on a Saturday and blow herself up with the sole purpose of killing as many total strangers as possible, none of whom had ever done anything to her?

 The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the "Jerusalem Battalions," which dispatched Jaradat on her deadly mission, provided its official answer to that question. The organization termed Hanadi Jaradat the "bride of Haifa" and declared: "The `wedding' in Haifa will teach the Zionists an unforgettable lesson."

 Cousins and other relatives of the suicide bomber, who were interviewed in the Arab press, supplied an additional answer: "She carried out the attack in revenge for the killing of her brother and her cousin by the Israeli security forces and in revenge for all the crimes Israel is perpetrating in the West Bank in killing Palestinians and expropriating their land."

 Jaradat's father, Taisir, who is said to have had a special emotional bond with his eldest daughter, told Al-Jazeera television: "My daughter's action reflected the anger that every Palestinian feels at the occupation. The occupation did not have mercy on my son Fadi, her brother. They killed him even though he was not a wanted person, they murdered him in cold blood before Hanadi's eyes."

 Taisir Jaradat said he was proud of what his daughter had done, and he asked those who wanted to pay condolence calls not to bother: "I will accept only congratulations for what she did," he told his interviewers. "This was a gift she gave me, the homeland and the Palestinian people. Therefore, I am not crying for her. Even though the most precious thing has been taken from me."

 

Killing of the beloved

 Hanadi was the eldest of the nine children of Taisir and Rahmah Jaradat. She was born in the village of Silath al-Haratiyah, near Jenin. Until two weeks ago, her family lived a neighborhood in the eastern part of the city. Immediately after the attack, the family packed their belongings and fled from the house, fearing that the Israeli forces would demolish it. And, following the usual pattern, the army indeed arrived the next day and razed the house to the ground.

 Hanadi's parents, brothers and sisters are now scattered in the homes of neighbors and relatives in Jenin. Their close relatives live in Silath al-Haratiyah, but the curfew that was imposed in the territories during the Jewish holiday period prevented them from coming to Jenin to console the family. Taisir Jaradat, who is 55, is unwell. For years he worked as a construction laborer and was barely able to provide for his family. The family lived in a small house, which, according to a cousin of Hanadi's, was not theirs but was rented. Hulod, 27, Hanadi's sister, is married and lives in Jordan; three other sisters, Fadiya, 25, Bishan, 21 and Tahrir, 19, are unmarried and live at home. Tahrir, though, is engaged and will soon be married. Fadi, the brother who was killed four months ago during an operation by Israeli army undercover troops in Jenin, was 24 at the time of his death. Also living with the parents are two younger sons, Ahad, 16, and Tha'er, 15, and a daughter, Imjad, 13.

 Hanadi Jaradat's first encounter with the brutal realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict occurred eight years ago. She was 21, and according to her cousin, there was talk at the time that she would soon become engaged and marry. The intended was Abed al-Rahim Jaradat, a distant cousin. According to the rumors, Hanadi was in love with him and he with her; the parents on both sides had already agreed on everything between them. But before the engagement took place, he was killed in an encounter with the Israeli security forces.

 Her life then took a different turn. She remained at home and helped provide for the family. Another cousin, an Israeli citizen residing in Galilee - who asks that he not be identified by name for fear of his safety - says that Hanadi was exceptional in the family in many respects. She was impressive, polished, very intelligent, sharp, devoted and loyal. Of all the daughters, she was also the most religious, never failing to dress modestly and spending much time in prayer and in reading the Koran.

 "She read the Koran from start to finish six times," he says. "Every devout Muslim can appreciate that."

 A few years ago, her father fell ill with cancer. He was hospitalized and treated in Jordan and his condition improved, but only temporarily: within a few months there was a regression. He stopped working. As usual in such circumstances, the burden of providing for the family fell on the eldest son. Fadi worked at whatever jobs he could find and was helped out by the eldest sister, Hanadi.

 Hanadi's ambition was to attend university. She decided to study law in Jordan, where her sister lives, and Fadi paid for her to attend Philadelphia University in Amman. She graduated two years ago, articled for a year and then got a job in a law office in Jenin. Her future contribution as a provider for the family was expected to be highly significant.

 Her relatives offer different versions about the final period of her life. One relative thinks she found the time to start thinking about herself again, about her personal future, perhaps with the idea of meeting someone, marrying and raising a family of her own. After all, she was already 29, a very advanced age for a single woman in the Palestinian society. However, before she had a chance to act, her brother was killed. Other relatives say she never thought about herself for a minute: She had no plans to marry, had no one in mind and never even talked about the idea. The only thing that mattered to her was the family. After Fadi's death, she became the breadwinner and she devoted herself solely to that goal.

 

Canceled wedding

 A few months before he was killed, Fadi Jaradat became engaged to 18-year-old Abir Jaradat. The approaching wedding delighted and strengthened the ailing father. He underwent additional treatments in Jordan, but relatives say there was constant concern that he would not be able to hold on until the event. Fadi therefore decided to speed things up: The wedding was set for June 16 of this year. The preparations were at their height, the bride already had a gown and the groom had a suit, the rings were bought, the food was arranged and invitations were sent out.

 Three days before the date set, on the night between June 12 and 13, the family was in the courtyard of the house. Salah Jaradat, Fadi's cousin and a member of Islamic Jihad, came to visit his pregnant wife, Ismath, and their two-year-old son, who were living there. Salah had long been on the Israeli security forces' wanted list, living in the underground and staying constantly on the move. The little boy was playing, and Fadi was having a conversation with Dalah. Hanadi and her sister went into the house and came back with coffee.

 The events that occurred in the next few minutes were described by Hanadi in the interview to Al-Arab al-Yum, which was published the day after her brother was killed: "We were sitting together. Everything was normal, natural. Salah, who was a wanted person, hadn't seen his wife and his son in a long time. The army pursued him all the time on the charge that he was a fighter, a commander in the Jerusalem Battalions. They went into his house in Silath al-Haratiyah many times, looking for him. He started to play with the boy and kiss him. We were drinking coffee. Then we saw a white car with Arab license plates drive up slowly and stop next to the house. I thought they were friends of Fadi. Suddenly two men got out of the car and started shooting at Salah. I saw Salah lying on the ground. Then suddenly another car pulled up and people started shooting from it, too.

 "We all lay on the ground. Salah's wife threw herself on the boy, to protect him. My brother Fadi fell on the floor and I saw that he was bleeding. I grabbed his hand and started to drag him to the sofa, to hide him behind it. I was screaming, `Fadi! Salah!' I heard Fadi barely speaking, saying `Save me. Save me.' Then one of the soldiers came and attacked me. He threw me with force onto the floor, pulled Fadi's hand out of mine and told me, `Get into the house or I'll kill you.' I shouted to them, `Leave me alone, I want to save my brother. He's wounded, bleeding.'

 "Fadi was still breathing. Salah lay motionless. I saw that he had been hit in the head. Three of the soldiers spoke fluent Arabic. One of them asked me, `Where is Fadi's weapon?' I said, `I don't know. He doesn't even have a weapon.' I saw my brother lying there. `Allah akbar aleikum, he'll die,' I said. They made me lie down facing the ground and one of them said, `You bitch, you terrorist, we'll kill you along with them.' They aimed their weapons at my head. Then one of them said to the others, `Drag them [Salah and Fadi] and put one on top of the other.' Those words drove me out of my mind. I said, `You're terrorists, dogs, leave them alone.' I tried to get up, but they knocked me down again. They dragged Salah and Fadi a few meters and then shot them again. They killed them in cold blood.

 "The purpose of that operation was to liquidate the fighter Salah and his cousin Fadi. They could have arrested them, because they surprised us and surrounded the house, so none of us could have escaped. Why did they start shooting straight off? Even after Fadi was wounded they could have arrested him, but they went on shooting to make sure he was dead. When we got the bodies back, I saw that they shot him in every part of his body. That completely finished my father. It paralyzed him. He was getting ready for his son's wedding, and instead he was informed that Fadi was dead. That's a blow he will not recover from. I am very sad. Since the moment I saw my brother's blood, I have felt very bad. But the goal of liberating Palestine is bigger and more important than my private pain. And I have to be happy that I received my beloved brother as a shaheed [martyr]."

 

`They tried to flee'

 The Israel Defense Forces spokesman: "Salah Jaradat is a relative of Anas Jaradat, who was head of Islamic Jihad in Jenin and who prepared and sent the perpetrators of the terrorist attack at the Karkur junction, in which 14 Israeli civilians were killed and 28 wounded; and the attack at Meggido Junction, in which 17 Israelis were killed and 42 wounded."

 Troops from the Duvdevan undercover unit arrested Anas Jaradat in Jenin on May 11, 2003. The following, according to the IDF spokesperson, are the circumstances in which Salah and Fadi Jaradat were killed, about a month later: "During activity of a Border Police undercover unit aimed at arresting Salah Jaradat, a senior Islamic Jihad activist who was involved in an attempt to infiltrate a booby-trapped car into Israel, the wanted individual tried to flee from the place along with Fadi Jaradat, who was also wanted, as an accomplice of Salah Jaradat. After Salah Jaradat pulled a pistol in an attempt to attack the force, the force carried out the procedure to arrest a suspect, at the conclusion of which Salah Jaradat was killed. Fadi Jaradat was wounded in the course of the activity, after refusing to stop and surrender. Fadi Jaradat received medical treatment from the IDF's medical forces, but died of his wounds afterward."

 The Shin Bet security service version is slightly different: "Salah Jaradat was killed in an encounter with an IDF force on June 12, 2003. In the period preceding his death, he served as head of Islamic Jihad in the Jenin area, and was engaged in planning and executing terrorist attacks. Fadi Jaradat was killed in the course of the activity to arrest Salah Jaradat."

 

Desire for revenge

 Abir Jaradat, Fadi's intended bride, has closeted herself in her house since the incident. Her father's brother relates: "She has been very depressed since he was killed. She doesn't leave the house. They were engaged for three months. Three months of happiness and anticipation. She was getting ready for her big day. She loved him. Everything was ready. She is a good girl. Wonderful. She doesn't stop crying - so young, and she already has such pain in her heart. True, there is still life for her. She is young. We will find her a groom when the time comes. But Fadi is gone. He was killed by an Israeli soldier, and for what? For nothing. He didn't do anything. They wanted Salah, not him. Salah was a fighter, and Fadi? He was just in the way of the bullets. For no reason. It's heartbreaking."

 Hanadi's Israeli cousins say that as soon as they saw her photograph in the papers and heard that she was the one who had blown herself up in the restaurant, one word alone went through their minds: revenge. Anyone who knew Hanadi and Fadi closely, and who knew the story of that family, didn't have the shadow of a doubt, they say: Hanadi decided to avenge her brother's death. Her life ended on the day he was killed.

 What was the Israeli cousins' reaction when they learned who the suicide bomber was? "I asked myself how she could have done that horrible thing," one of them says. "I felt a terrible pain in my heart for the families. And for the children. It's part of us, we are part of everything. There are no differences. The fact is that Arabs were killed there just like Jews, so there you go. When there is a terrorist attack, it hurts us and you the same way.

 "On the other hand, I understand her. I understand what pushed her to that place. I understand the moment when she couldn't take it any more, when she reached the end of the road. No one knows what another person is feeling inside."

 "It's something lunatics do, a moment of craziness," a second cousin adds, shaking his head from side to side, as though in disbelief. "They used her, they took advantage of her pain, they pushed her into the craziness. It's not normal. It's impossible to understand a thing like that."

 One of them phones Hanadi's cousin, who lives in Silath al-Haratiyah. She's 30-something, married, a mother. The phone line crosses the Green Line and the tone changes: "In my eyes she is a heroine. No, no, it's not craziness or anything like that. I am very proud of her. I would do the same thing if I had the chance and if I didn't have small children."

 Embarrassed, the Israeli cousins try to explain: "You Jews don't have the concept of revenge. It's hard for you to understand the power it carries. With us, there is no such thing as someone being killed and people just accepting it without reacting. It's either one or the other: revenge or sulha [reconciliation]. This is something very deep in the heart of every Arab man and woman; it's in our education, in our blood. There is no way a kid like Fadi is going to be killed and things will be left hanging in the air. No way."

 

The last straw

 A month after Fadi and Salah Jaradat were killed, Salah's wife, Ismath, gave birth to a daughter. Her name is Kena'ana. Salah had chosen the name. Ismath is mourning her husband. Hanadi mourned her brother. A person who is in constant contact with the family says that not only the father, but the daughter, too, did not recover from the blow. She was very attached to Fadi. She loved him more than all her other brothers and sisters. After his death her religiosity became even more intense, and she kept the Koran by her side always, reading it from morning to evening.

 In the last months of her life she fasted in the way of the Ramadan month, taking no food during the day, eating only in the evening. She talked about revenge. In the mourning period several representatives of Islamic Jihad's women's movement visited the house. "They had an eye on her," says the person who is close to the family. "They homed in on her. That's how they trap the suicide bombers. They saw that she was `ripe' for recruitment."

 The prevailing view is that the initial contact that ultimately led to the terrorist attack was forged in that condolence visit.

 "Hanadi was `the man' of the family," the Israeli cousin observes. "She and Fadi were really second parents to all the others. There was no breadwinner. Fadi was her hope. Actually, he was the hope of the whole family."

 After Fadi's death, his mother, Rahmah, 51, told Al-Jazeera: "The liquidation of Fadi completely destroyed my family. My husband has cancer and now they killed our only provider. I take consolation in the fact that I received a son who is a shaheed, and the goal of liberating our occupied land is great and important."

 After the suicide bombing perpetrated by Hanadi, the family put forward a united front of support and pride. Her parents said they were "happy" that now they had two shaheeds. Despite these sentiments, which the parents of suicide bombers often utter terrorist attacks, relatives say that the mother fell into a depression after her son's death, crying constantly and behaving listlessly. The father, they say, is a broken man. After the suicide bombing, Ali Waked, from the Ynet Web site, quoted Taisir Jaradat, Hanadi's father, as saying, "We have nothing more to be afraid of and nothing more to lose. This is a war between us and them and it will continue until Judgment Day."

 "Fadi and Hanadi kept the family afloat," the Israeli cousin says. "After Fadi went, she remained alone and the whole burden fell on her. They received maybe $100 or $150 a month from Islamic Jihad for Fadi, who became a shaheed. Maybe they'll get something for Hanadi. But with that they won't be able to feed 11 people. Until now Hanadi provided for them all, and the situation was bad. The father is deteriorating from day to day - a person in a state of health like that and now this new blow."

 There was something else, too, he recalls: "Hanadi took her father to a hospital in Jenin. The doctors told her that only if she could get him to a certain hospital in Germany, there might be a chance to save him. They didn't have the money for that. They also told her that at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa he could get treatment that would improve his condition. There was nothing more the hospital in Jenin could do.

 "Hanadi was a serious, responsible person and she took all the responsibility on herself. She looked after them all - maybe because she was the eldest. She was ready to do everything for her father. Four times she went to the Salem checkpoint and submitted a request to the military authorities for a special permit so that her father could be hospitalized at Rambam. She used all her skills as a lawyer. She begged for him. But over and over, she got a negative reply."

 The IDF Spokesperson's Office: "Hanadi Jaradat's request for transit to Rambam Medical Center was not granted for security reasons, in the light of her family ties with Salah Jaradat, who was known as an Islamic Jihad activist."

 "I think that was the last straw," says the Israeli cousin. "That was it, it was already too much. She couldn't take any more. A person takes one blow and then another and then another. How much can you take?"

 

A family of shaheeds

 The 1948 War of Independence separated the extended Jaradat family. Most of them remained in the West Bank, the others were in Israel. The Israeli relatives say they are shocked at what Hanadi did in Haifa, but that doesn't diminish their family pride. Theirs is one of the largest hamulas (clans) in the Jenin area, and some say in the territories altogether. The estimate is that the clan numbers between 5,500 and 6,000 people, of whom more than 200 are in detention in Israel for security offenses. The family member who holds the most senior position is Ali Jaradat, who was the spokesman of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In the past he was held by Israel under administrative detention - arrest without trial - and today he is described as "a senior activist in the military wing of the PFLP."

 "Our family already has more than 10 shaheeds," says one of Hanadi Jaradat's Israeli relatives, and proceeds to name them with unabashed enthusiasm. Some of them are terrorists like Hanadi, who killed and maimed a large number of Israelis. Others were on Israel's wanted list and were liquidated, and some were killed by troops in encounters and operations in the territories. Whenever the relative forgets a name, he calls someone in the family in Jenin or Silath al-Haratiyah on his mobile phone, and they immediately refresh his memory. The final list contains 12 names.

 "You have 12 tribes," he says exuberantly, "and we have 12 shaheeds." In the end, it turns out that there are 13 on the list:

 1. Mohammed Ahmed Jaradat, 39, was shot and killed by the IDF on September 8, 1988 - "during disturbances," according to the Shin Bet.

 2. Riad Ahmed Jaradat was killed in late 1988. According to the Shin Bet, he was involved in throwing firebombs at an IDF unit.

 3. Naaman Taha Jaradat, 18, was killed on March 19, 1989, "during disturbances," the Shin Bet says.

 4. Naaman Suleiman Jaradat. According to the Shin Bet, he was stabbed in the course of a brawl in his village in August 1990 and later died of his wounds.

 5. Munir Abdul Karim Jaradat, 18. According to the Israel human rights organization B'Tselem, he was shot in the throat by the IDF in Silath al-Haratiyah. The Shin Bet says he was killed on June 17, 1992, in an encounter with an Israeli force that was engaged in an intelligence operation. He was carrying a loaded pistol and ammunition. He was wanted for his activity in the violent wing of the Fatah in the Jenin area, having been involved in the murder of local residents and in a shooting attack at an IDF outpost in Silath al-Haratiyah.

 6. Abed al-Rahim Jaradat, a 22-year-old student and the intended groom of Hanadi Jaradat, from the village of Silath al-Haratiyah, was killed by the IDF in January 1996 while he was on his way (with two other students, Tareq Mansur and Alam Mohammed Said) to the village of Jalma to vote in the elections for the Palestinian Council. The three young men were killed instantly. The IDF spokesperson said at the time that the occupants of the car shot at IDF soldiers, who shot back in response. The families say that the three were not armed. Their death sparked a stormy mass demonstration in Jenin, and thousands attended the funerals.

 7. Majadi Jaradat, a Fatah leader in Jenin and on Israel's wanted list, was killed at the beginning of November 2001 by a missile fired by an air force helicopter at the car in which he was traveling with Akrama al-Satati. The two were described as "heads of the military wing of Fatah in Jenin."

 8. Rajab Ahmed Jaradat blew himself up on April 10, 2002, in a bus on the number 690 line that was traveling between the Yagur and Ha'amakin junctions, killing eight people and wounding 17.

 9. Nabil Ahmed Jaradat, 48, a textile merchant, was hit by light-arms fire from a tank that was situated on the road along which he was driving on June 8, 2003, from Jenin to his home in Silath al-Haratiyah. The soldiers involved did not report the incident and no investigation was conducted. Haaretz correspondent Gideon Levy wrote that he was shot and killed for no reason.

 10. Fadi Taisir Jaradat, the brother of the suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat, was shot and killed by Israeli troops before her eyes at their house on June 13, 2001.

 11. Salah Suleiman Jaradat, a senior member of the military wing of Islamic Jihad and on Israel's wanted list, was shot and killed by Israeli troops before the eyes of his cousin Hanadi on June 13, 2003.

 12. Abdul Basat Mohammed Jaradat.

 13. Hanadi Taisir Jaradat, a 29-year-old lawyer, blew herself up two weeks ago in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa. The Shin Bet refused to say whether it knew about the declarations she made after her brother's death or why it didn't anticipate hostile activity by her and place her under surveillance. n