After the Suicide Bombing
How an Israeli mom and midwife found a new appreciation for life after a restaurant bombing in Tel Aviv.
by Zieva Dauber Konvisser
The nonfiction story below was reprinted with permission from Living Beyond Terrorism: Israeli Stories of Hope and Healing by Zieva Dauber Konvisser (Gefen Publishing House, 2014).
Matza Restaurant bombing, near Grand Canyon Mall, Haifa
March 31, 2002
Bat-sheva Schaul, 43, had experienced a premonition of the suicide bombing and requested a table next to the window of the crowded Matza Restaurant even though it wasn’t clean “because the day before there was a terror attack in a Tel Aviv restaurant and all the people who were sitting near the window were saved.” She and her three children – sons Dar, nine, and Idan, twelve, and fifteen-year-old daughter, Inbar – were eating lunch with her sister’s children who were visiting from Tel Aviv. Her husband, Ramy, the owner of a chain of optical stores, had just come over from his store at the nearby Grand Canyon Shopping Mall and sat down at their table when twenty-three-year-old Shadi Toubasi – a Palestinian Hamas suicide bomber from nearby Jenin in the West Bank – detonated his bomb, killing fourteen people and injuring over forty. The Schauls were the only family not physically injured – and the only family that “didn’t eat pita and asked for matza (unleavened bread) because it was Passover.”
When she saw the flash and heard the explosion, Bat-sheva did not immediately realize what had happened, but her husband thought it was “a pigua (attack) and told us to go under the table. I saw there was a window and I went out alone from the window.” Thinking back, she can’t understand how she could have left her children. “Afterwards, I felt very upset about this. In that moment I didn’t behave like a mother. I ran away. Only after my husband asked me to come back to take the kids did I come back. I saw only my two boys. I came back inside and took them outside with me through the window and into the adjacent valley. It was good for us because we didn’t see all of the horrible sights. We didn’t see a lot of the people or the dead man. I saw two or three people lying on the floor and only afterwards did I understand that they were dead.” Meanwhile, her daughter and niece went out through the front door.
The family met with a psychologist for three months, but Idan continued for a longer time because “he didn’t speak – he kept everything inside.” Dar is a little more frightened than before, but he doesn’t want any help from a psychologist or from anybody. “Sometimes he wants to sleep with us and he won’t stay alone when we’re not there. I know that he is afraid. He takes our wallet and keys when we try to go out. And before he goes to sleep, he says, ‘Good night, nothing should happen to father, to mother, to grandfather, to grandmother, to the children’ – every night, with a kiss.”
Two years after the attack, Inbar finally told Bat-sheva that she had seen everything as she went out of the restaurant. Several months later, Inbar happened to meet another girl who survived the attack at Matza, but her father had been killed. “They went to a restaurant and talked about it for four hours and she came home and cried all night. It was the first time that I saw her crying a lot. It helped Inbar and her friend to talk about it. But they agreed that this was the only conversation they would have about the attack.” For Inbar, it was too difficult to see the girl again, because it made her think about what would happen if her father were dead. Coincidentally, years later, both girls married on the same day!
Nor do Bat-sheva and her family “speak about it or the feeling” to each other. They keep everything inside although they fear another attack. “I feel that it’s better not to tell it over.” As we progress in the interview, however, Bat-sheva begins to realize that “maybe it’s good for me to talk about it” and requests that her story be told because it will show others that something happened in Israel. “It keeps happening again and again over the years. We’re always caught in conflict with somebody.”
For Bat-sheva, the shared experience with her husband and family was very important “so we can know each other’s feelings. If my husband hadn’t been there, I couldn’t describe to him what I saw and what I feel. But he was there. And it’s good that we were all together at the same place and felt the same thing and saw the same thing.” Her family – immediate and extended – was very important “because a lot of people who don’t have good help from the family break down.” Bat-sheva is grateful that she and her family are alive and “that is enough for now.”
She is more aware of the importance of her family. When she hears about another attack, “it does not make me afraid, but it makes me cry. I think about what would happen to me if something would happen to one of my family. I think about how I was so lucky, but I don’t understand why I was so lucky. It makes me a little bit happy, but it makes me a little bit afraid. Maybe something will happen, not from a pigua, but from something else.”
As a result, she is more protective of her kids, not wanting them to leave and wanting “them near me. I am frightened all the time and I worry that maybe it will happen another time. In the newspaper you read that at least 10 percent of terror victims will be in a terror attack again, not in the same place, but in terrorism, and I am very, very frightened to encounter this situation again… So sometimes when I shout at my children, I say ‘why are you shouting at them?’ And when I think about it, it’s a red light for me.”
Bat-sheva appreciates life. “I like the life, and I’m happy the life likes me. I love life because nobody destroyed my life. If somebody would have been hurt, of course, my life would have changed.” She is frightened to think too much. “I continue with my life. I don’t think about it.” Her family made a big party for their son Dar’s bar mitzvah and to celebrate the first year after the attack. She enjoys travel – most recently to Burma, Bangkok, and Paris “to feel good” and perhaps to escape her constant fear in Israel. Yet at home, she goes out to restaurants, just not Arab restaurants, and especially not back to the Matza Restaurant.
When Bat-sheva first returned to her part-time job as a midwife in a hospital, she could not stand to see blood because she imagined the blood from the suicide bombing. “If a woman was bleeding more than normal, I couldn’t be in the room. Although I don’t remember seeing blood at the restaurant, I used the blood that I saw at work to reconstruct the images that I knew I had been exposed to. I was frightened to see the woman bleeding.” The first time she worked with Arab patients after the pigua, “I didn’t touch them or help them, but now it changed. I see them as a patient and that’s all… but I do acknowledge to myself that it disturbs me that another martyr is born.”
She continued working as a midwife because she believed that “I bring life and if you bring life to others, no one can take life away from you.” Since the attack, she feels more relaxed and nicer to her patients “maybe because somebody gave me the power to give power to the women who are coming to me for help. The women all tell me they want me to be their midwife and that makes me feel good about that. It makes me say that this is my job and I can’t change my job because maybe this job was given to me to do.”
About the Author
Zieva Dauber Konvisser, PhD, is a Fellow of the Institute for Social Innovation at Fielding Graduate University. Her research focuses on the human impact of traumatic events, such as terrorism, genocide, war, and wrongful conviction. She served on the National Commission on American Jewish Women sponsored by Hadassah and the Cohen Center at Brandeis University and is currently on the international board of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma.
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