"Suicide Bomber Zainab Abu Salem; Her head separated from her pure body, and her Ra'ala [Muslim headscarf] remains to decorate [her face]. Her place is in Paradise, where in the highest heavens, Zainab ... sister [who has been raised to the level] of men."
English translation of the Arabic text in the Hamas children's newspaper Alfatah of September 22, 2004, in praise of 18 year-old suicide bomber and children's television presenter Zainab Ali Issa Abu Salem.
Zainab Abu Salem came from the Askar refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus. She was carrying a bag of explosives toward a crowded bus stop in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem at 3:40 PM on September 22, 2004 when two Israeli border police stationed at the adjacent hitchhiking station spotted her and moved to stop her. They asked to see her identity papers and search the bag she was carrying on her back. She argued for a few seconds then detonated her bomb, killing herself and the two police, plus wounding sixteen people. The bag had three to five kilograms of explosive packed inside shrapnel. After ambulances carried away the wounded, police and volunteers searched the immediate area for bomb parts and bits of human flesh.
The Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, affiliated with Yasir Arafat’s Fatah, boasted she was theirs. Zainab volunteered for a suicide attack, saying she wanted to avenge Palestinian militants killed recently in Nablus. Her father, Ali Abu Salem, 48, collapsed and his wife, Sahar, wailed at the news of their daughter's attack.
The heroic policemen were kids themselves, conscripts serving their country. Corporal Mamoya Tahio, 20 was from Rehovot. Corporal Menashe Komemi, 19, lived in Moshav Aminadav on the outskirts of Jerusalem. One of them died immediately. The other one lingered to die on the operating table at Hadassah University Hospital at Mount Scopus. Komemi is survived by his parents and seven siblings. His cousin, Ra'anan Komemi, was killed during his military service in a gun battle with Palestinians in Nablus.
Avigail Hilini, 22, was going home to the West Bank settlement of Mitzpeh Yericho when she saw her, "I saw the terrorist coming, I knew she was a terrorist straight away, you could see the tension and cruelty in her face. She was totally covered in a large brown shawl, except for her face and eyes. I saw that the Border Policeman was checking her, and I [calmed] down a bit. Seconds later she exploded. I saw people running everywhere and I ran myself. I started shaking and crying."
Zainab was the fourth of ten children in her family, who were well off for Palestinians. They owned the television station where she appeared on a children's show. She lived with her aunt, Salwa Abu Salem, a 49 year old teacher, a dozen people in one house. Zainab had just graduated from high school and was talking about going to college, before she blew herself up.
At 3 am the morning after Zainab's attack, two trucks full of Israeli soldiers came to the house, showed Zainab's family a photograph of her severed head, asked what room was hers, and blew that room up. It tore out the entire first floor. Her uncle, Mustafa Shinawi, apparently approved of her suicide bombing, saying, "Every Palestinian finds his own suitable way to protest the Israeli oppression."
Salway claims she had no idea that Zainab was going on a suicide mission. Says Salwa, "I didn't just lose my niece, I lost trust. I believe the families of those that killed themselves did not know what was happening. If a parent knew that a child was planning an attack they would never let their child do it. No parent would."
The Palestinian Authority TV uses images of such suicide bombings to indoctrinate their young to aspire to sweet Shahada Martyrdom in a popular segment called the "Farewell letter clip". Civilians are shown attacking Israelis. The body of such a shahad is brought to his mother, who kisses him, then raises her hand above her mouth to give the traditional Arab call of joy. Then, she dramatically hands the rifle to her next son so he too can die as a shahad. Arafat himself has appeared on PA children's TV, telling them, "Is it not the greatest message to the world, when a child dies for Allah?"
Mothers of martyrs are proud of their sons. Being the mother of a suicide bomber in Palestine is akin to being the mother of a doctor in America. When she walks the streets, Palestinians say with admiration, "There goes the mother of the Shahid." The Saudis pay the mothers of suicide fodder thousands of dollars, which goes far to cushion the blow. Often, junior siblings with dim prospects see suicide bombing as the only contribution they can make to their family and a chance to enjoy an elevated status in their community, however briefly.
Yasser Arafat boasted his best weapon was the Palestinian mother's womb. Golda Meir sized the situation up, "We can only have peace with the Palestinians when they love their children more than they hate Israel."
Don't expect peace with the Palestinians anytime soon.