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Black Night At the Mall

By Arara Spero, Age 17, Teen Talk Jewish Press February 24, 2002

It was about an hour after Shabbat when I heard a strange loud noise. Not knowing what it was, or perhaps not wanting to know what it was, I continued making plans with my friends to go out that night. About a second later I was talking to my friend when she told me what happened. “They blew up the mall.”

Our mall isn’t the kind of mall you might be imaging. It’s very small, and has a special warmth to it. From the moment it opened its doors this past Yom Ha├ítzmaut, it became ‘the’ friendly hang-out for kids all over the Shomron area. This is were we have our birthday parties. This is were we laugh and have so much fun. Since our parents are scared to let us travel on our roads, we spend a lot of time at our mall. Actually, it feels more like an extension of our homes. And we all think of our homes as safe.

When I heard about the bombing, I began calling everyone I knew who might have been there. My neighbors ran up to the mall to find their daughters. My little sister cried in fear because the mall is right across the street from her school. The TV news was broadcasting the latest horror movie- starring us.

It took several hours before we had a complete list of all who were dead and wounded. The majority of the victims were teenagers. What crime did my friends’ commit to deserve such savage butchery? They went for pizza at the mall.

Karen Shatzky (14) and Nechemia Amar (15) were murdered. And dozens of others were rushed to the hospital, some in critical condition and some with minor injuries. In our country, “Klal” or minor injuries could mean nails exploded into their bodies. Minor could mean second degree burns over 30% of their body. And the trauma of watching one’s friends blow up in front of your eyes barely gets a mention. I don’t think that the word ‘minor’ has meaning anymore.

The next morning I went up to the mall. I felt I needed to go. I looked at the pizza pallor that only yesterday had been such a safe and fun place. Now all the tables and chairs were strewed all over the place. There were holes in the wall, made by the nails and bolts packed into the bomb. Hoses were being used to wash away the blood. Looking at our mall I realized that not only a part of our home was gone, our most basic sense of security had been stolen, too.

A few hours later we were burying Nechemia. Nechemia was a boy so full of life. When his teacher spoke about him, he said that Nechemia was always laughing. Sometimes his laugh would get him into trouble, but then again his laugh could always get him out of trouble, too. Nechemia was the kind of kid that went around telling others they should smile because life is good. Nechemia’s funeral was so horrible, and the fact that we were going to be at another funeral the next day was unbearable.

At Karen’s funeral her family said good bye to her. What do you say to your little sister and daughter for the last time? Karen’s principal called Karen the “keren” (light) of Lehava (fire), their school. Our mayor said that the tears that we are shedding are tears of pain, of sorrow and of broken hearts. But they are not tears of despair. We will not give up.

Girls from Karen’s school who went to Poland a few months ago were wearing their Poland sweatshirts, singing “ani ma├ímin.” It’s unbelievable…Fifty years ago the Jews were slaughtered in Poland, and now here in Israel where we have our own government and a powerful army, we are still being slaughtered! The sweatshirts read, “…and behold the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not devoured.”

We are indeed still on fire, but we are not being devoured. We, the Jewish people, will continue to live, to laugh and to stay together. We have been through so much pain and in every generation we have faced death, yet we have survived as a people. And now, with G-d’s help, we will survive again. Ani ma’amin. I believe.

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