Exploding the Peace in Dimona
You're a Palestinian suicide bomber about to blow yourself up in a crowd of innocent people in Dimona. What's the last thing you need to do before you embark upon your deadly mission?
Apparently, you grab a quick cup of coffee. Revital Biton, a 29-year-old who runs a pizza parlor and caf√© in downtown Dimona, Palestinian customers weren't anything unusual -- she gets plenty of Arab construction workers in the morning and welcomes them, as she told the Hebrew newspaper Yediot Aharonot.
Yesterday morning, one of the customers was particularly uptight. "Gimme a coffee, quick!" he demanded, and she said he was tense, his eyes darting from side to side. Trying to calm him down in her friendly waitress-talk, she said, "Come, dear, come inside and I'll give you some sugar." After he followed her in, she lost track of him - she has no idea whether he enjoyed his final cup of coffee.
But as soon as she heard the explosion down the street, chills went through her as she quickly realized who she had served.
For the Israeli public, experiencing suicide bombings are like riding a really depressing bicycle - no matter how much time elapsed since the previous attack, the routine is completely familiar. The press coverage is utterly predictable - the reports from the scene, finding out which group took responsibility, the talking head on television pointing the fingers of blame at the failures of intelligence and/or security that allowed it to happen.
And just like a reality television show, new celebrities are created, like Revital Biton, splashed across the front pages of the newspaper for their involuntary fifteen minutes of fame.
But in the story of the Dimona bombing, Biton was a secondary player. The star and newly anointed national hero is police officer Superintendent Kobi Mor, whose actions on the scene sound like something out of an action movie.
There had been two suicide bombers -- after the first one detonated, response teams rushed in -- unaware that one of the injured lying on the ground was another terrorist.
A nurse and doctor who were on the scene from a local clinic Odeya Cohen and Dr. Baruch Mendelzweig
even began treating him as reported in the Jerusalem Post.
The two began to treat a young man lying nearby, inserting a breathing tube and preparing to insert an IV line.
"Like any good nurse, I began to open his shirt to check for further injury," Cohen recalled later. "And then I saw that he was wearing a bomb belt that hadn't detonated."
As she and Mendelzweig ran backwards, Cohen yelled to others nearby that there was a terrorist still alive, and that he was wearing a bomb.
Lt. Mor had rushed to the scene as soon as he heard about the first explosion, and when he got there, he was told about the armed terrorist. He related to the Israeli press what happened in a matter-of-fact fashion on a Dimona sidewalk.
"I pulled my gun and hid behind a wall. I saw the terrorist lying on his back. I could clearly see the bomb on his body. Suddenly he began to move his hand towards the explosives." Another police officer saw the same thing. Both men opened fire. "I saw his hand fall and thought it was allover. But it turned out he was still alive and he had no intention of giving up. He lifted his hand again and moved it to his belt. I moved in closer to him and fired four shots straight into his head. Only then did he stop moving."
Because this happened after the media was at the scene, Mor's act of bravery was caught on video and broadcast on television, a speck of light and inspiration in a dark situation.
The worst part of the post-bombing attack routine is learning the names and identities of the victims and their personal stories. In this case, it was an elderly immigrant couple -- 73-year-old Liuvov Razdolskiya was killed and her husband is seriously injured.
The attack took place in Dimona, not far from Sderot, the city attacked by Kassam rockets. My friend Faye Bittker, who lives in the south, and has to drive through roadblocks on her way to work in Beersheva, says it is has made the already-low morale in the area sink lower - adding insult to injury among citizens who feel abandoned by their government.
The scenes of celebration and joy following the attack by the Gazan population didn't help.
"We've got Sderot, now with the situation on the Gaza-Egypt border, we've got countless roadblocks. I have so lost my patience with the Palestinians. I know it's not an adult thing to say - but let them sit in the dark, let them starve. And I'm saying that - me - a liberal. Imagine what people on the right are saying."
"The people I feel sorriest for right now are Gilad Shalit's parents. Here was Israel ready to release prisoners with blood on their hands in order to get their son back. After this, it may be politically impossible. Who knows what will happen?"
In what appeared to be cause and effect, the initial assumption was that the bombers originated from Gaza, left during the recent chaos at the Egyptian border, and entered Israel through the relatively porous Israel-Egyptian border.
But later, reports emerged that the terrorists came from Hebron and the West Bank.
In the southern part of the country, in the Hebron Hills, no security fence has yet been built. In the aftermath of the attack, the country is on high alert.
It had been a full year since the last suicide bombing attack. While Israelis hope that a full year - or longer - will elapse before the next one takes place, no one is holding their breath.