I wanted to tell you about someone, someone that I have been carrying with me for the past 15 years. This someone has brought me 15 years of either deep denial or endless pain.Her name was Ayat. In the short version of the story, she was the homicide bomber in a terrorist attack on March 2002 at the Supermarket in Kiryat Hayovel, Jerusalem. In the long version, Ayat was barely 18 years old, an outstanding student according to her teachers. In fact, her school portrays her as one of the most bright young girls there. But, Ayat had a secret, a secret for which she had committed this terrible act. Ayat was raped by a man, a man who was a Palestinian terrorist organizer. Rather than face dishonor in her family’s eyes, she was convinced to be used as a weapon to kill Jews. The rapist forced her to shoot a video taking responsibility for her actions.Ayat detonated a belt of explosives in front of a Jewish supermarket killing 5 innocent people. She took the life of Haim (Mino) Smadar, the Supermarket’s Security Guard who, by stopping her, saved so many more lives. She killed Racheli Levi, herself, as well as the baby growing inside Racheli’s belly. And, she took my life as I knew it. I was a soldier at the time, home for the Passover holiday. I was helping my parents at their store which sits near the supermarket. I have spent years at this location, looking at the supermarket and knew most everyone in the neighborhood. When she arrived, I was standing outside. Our eyes met for just a moment and I knew something was wrong. Breaking our gaze, I went inside to get my weapon, a decision I have regretted so often since. My weapon was locked and put away so it took me some time to retrieve it. Once I had, she had already whispered to the Arab women who sold vegetables at the entrance to the supermarket to leave, that she planned an attack. Why didn’t the stop her or try to warn us? We knew these women and had been friendly with them for years.I was too far away as I saw her step to the Mino. I yelled as loud as I could “terrorist”, “terrorist”. A friend of mine who was inside the supermarket heard me and made everyone inside crouch down below the cashier lines. He saved tens of lives that day. Mino hears and grabs her by her backpack to pull her out of the door. He is in my line of fire and even though I have my gun now I can’t get a clean shot. I keep yelling “terrorist” so people would run. Then, everything turned white, yellow and red. I ran to save whoever might still be alive. An exploded part of the bomb belt lay on the ground and I stood over it for way too long until an expert could come and dispose of it. I went home and burnt all my clothes.For 15 years, I lived with hatred for this 18 year old girl that murdered Mino, Racheli, Racheli’s baby and took away my innocence. But, today I know she was only a weapon. That they had raped her and made it so that even the life growing inside her was just another form of control. Had she had the child, the result of rape by an older man, her family would have been disgraced and terrible things happen to her. If she committed this murder, honor would be restored and the Palestinian government would give her family an allowance so they could live comfortably with the memory of a “martyr” for a daughter.To take life, so that they do not take yours with terrible shame. Today I can say that I feel sorry for her.And if I had the strength I would also shout her story all over the world.I think that she could turn herself in, she could seek refuge in Israel. Maybe even one day speak on the UN stage about her experiences, realizing how cruel the path of anti-Israel hatred. But now she never can. She took 5 lives and I ammost sad about hers.
Shai was tattooed on October 9th, 2017 by artist Jun Cha at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.