September 4, 1997 was the day my niece Smadar was killed. For my family and I it will forever be a sad day, a day that brings bad tidings. It was September 4 when that phone call came from my mother telling me that there was an explosion in Jerusalem, even as I was watching the horror live on CNN. Those words: “there was an explosion and we can’t find Smadari” will forever ring in my ears. Hours later it was confirmed and I was on my way to Jerusalem, for the funeral.
No one warned me that I would see those words in the morning paper in Jerusalem as I arrived from the airport: “The granddaughter of peace activist, ret. General Matti Peled…” It was still dawn. I still don’t know what to say on this day or what to think as September 4 approaches. That day I would cry in my sisters arms like a baby, and would feel that way over and over again, each year, even now, all these years later.
As we drove away from the grave site, Elton John’s new version of “Candle in the Wind” was playing on the radio and Nurit, my sister would never forgive herself for leaving her baby girl alone buried in the dirt. Then, for seven days and six nights, the house where I was born, and where Smadar lived ,would see so many faces. That the door of the Jerusalem apartment through which Generals and diplomats once entered and on which now a sticker reads FREE PALESTINE, was open for people who sought to find light at the end of their darkened lives.
At the time Smadari was killed Bibi Netanyahu was Prime Minister. He was asked to stay away, and spare himself the indignity of facing our family. Today Bibi is once again Prime Minister. Among those who did come to pay respects at the time was Ehud Barak. The General, decorated soldier and now Israel’s “defense” minister – personally responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Israelis and Palestinians. At the time he was the head of the Labor party and people had hope he would be different. Today Barak is an all powerful “Defense” minister standing at the head of Israel’s unstoppable war machine – placing the full weight of the mammoth he leads so that death maintains its dominion.
Each year I try and each year I fail to somehow face this terrible day. And each year September 4 just brings more sadness. It brings more sadness because of a girl that was killed, and because so many thousands have died since from the same preventable cause – Israeli terrorism.
This terrorism is part of the discourse among Israelis and Israeli supporters; It faces you at Ben Gurion airport where Palestinians humiliated each and every day; You meet Israeli terrorism at the weekly peace marches in the West Bank, where participants are shot and arrested, and it thrives in Israeli jails where hundreds of thousands of palestinians have been tortured for decades; Israeli terrorism is unstoppable in Gaza where millions are locked up in an open air concentration camp, and where Israeli pilots drop bombs on civilians and then congratulate themselves on a job well done. And now Israeli terrorism has even reached as far as Persia, with Israeli threats to bomb Iran and terrorize its 75 million people.
If we want little girls to stop dying in this place, its time to stop Israeli terrorism. Meanwhile, September 4 will remain a day when my sweet, 13 year old niece Smadar died.