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Survival story: Israeli infant suicide bombing victim enlists in IDF 17 years later

Survival story: Israeli infant suicide bombing victim enlists in IDF 17 years later

and reunites with the policewoman who saved her.

On March 21, 1997, a Hamas suicide bomber detonated his bomb at the Café Apropo on Ben Gurion Boulevard in Tel Aviv.

CNN reported at the time:

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded Tel Aviv outdoor cafe Friday, killing at least three other people and injuring more than 40 others. Many patrons were dressed in costumes to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim.

The militant Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. Israel immediately sealed the West Bank and Gaza Strip, barring all Palestinians from entering Israel.

The death toll rose to four after an injured woman died at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said. Two other Israeli women died at the scene….

The bomb was studded with nails for more deadliness….

“The peace process is threatened not by the periodic disagreements, but by the mentality that says that if we have a disagreement we can go and blow them up,” [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu said.

“It is threatened by the idea that violence is sanctioned despite negotiations, that you can kill women and kids in a cafe. All the attempts to explain this away, they are a threat to the peace process,” he said.

“So I would advise the international community to do the right thing, and that is for them to understand nothing justifies terrorism.” …

Meanwhile, in the West Bank town of Nablus, Hamed Bitawi, a Hamas leader, told more than 10,000 supporters during a rally, “I have good news for you. There is a suicide operation in Tel Aviv.”

The crowd clapped and responded with shouts of “Allahu Akbar,” or God is Great.

“This is the only language the occupiers understand, the language of martyrdom,” Bitawi said.

Apropo Cafe Bombing

The New York Times reported, In Resilient Tel Aviv, ‘Antibodies’ to Terror Act Fast:

The mellow saxophone of a Billy Joel song wafted over the cream-colored interior of the Apropos cafe this afternoon, just 72 hours after a human bomb blew up on its patio, drenching it in blood and screams.

Customers sipped coffee as waitresses glided between the polished wood tables, offering quiches, salads and soups.

Some patches of new plaster on the walls, a workman repairing a window frame and three memorial candles at the reception desk were the only signs of the horror here last Friday, when a Palestinian suicide bomber attacked, killing himself and three women….

Yuval Leibowitz, a manager of the Apropos, said that the speedy repair and reopening of his establishment was a reply to the suicide bombers. ”They won’t defeat us,” he said.

A similar bombing near a Tel Aviv mall last Purim forced the cancellation of holiday festivities, but this year, the mayors of Tel Aviv and other cities announced that celebrations would go on. There was general agreement that the macabre coincidence of masquerade and death for the second year in a row was not going to stop the merrymaking.

”Life has to go on,” said Mr. Kodman, who admits he is still shaken by the bombing. ”Because of what I saw, I want to continue. This Purim must not be destroyed. If life stops, they’ve achieved their aim.”

The Baltimore Sun reported:

“We must keep talking,” said Tal Zrihan, the 23-year-old host at the Apropo cafe. “First, we need to do something to show them we are strong — and can give back war.”

Zrihan arrived for work yesterday wondering how he survived the blast. “I don’t know how I’m talking now. I was five meters from him,” he said.

He found the restaurant not as he left it Friday afternoon, but as he saw it when it opened that day. The shattered glass windows had been replaced, the garden patio scrubbed clean of blood, the splintered wooden chairs replaced. The silk flowers had been arranged, the kitchen ovens fired up, the dessert case stocked with delights.

But of course it was a changed place. A black-draped chair, holding three memorial candles, stood at the entrance to the dining room. A psychologist counseled the entire staff upstairs while a Tel Aviv radio station set up for a live broadcast.

One of the dead was Anat Rosen-Winter. Her 8 month old daughter, Shani, was injured and was carried to safety by Policewoman Ziona Bushri:

As they lowered the body of 31-year-old Anat Rosen Winter into the red clay of a muddy grave flanked by towering cedars, family members wept over the loss of their kin, and casual acquaintances mourned for their country.

This was a death that transcended personal tragedy, a death that encapsulated the predicament of an entire nation.

Winter, a Tel Aviv lawyer, was killed by a suicide bomber who detonated himself and three others in a fashionable cafe here on Friday.

Winter’s 8-month-old daughter, Shani, was blown out of her stroller by the blast. Television footage of the bleeding child cradled by a frantic policewoman was as searing to Israelis as the image two years ago of the limp baby being carried away from the Oklahoma City bombing….

Perhaps the most touching reminder of the family’s aspirations came at the graveside when one of the mourners read aloud a letter that Winter’s mother, Zahaya Rosen, had written on the occasion of Shani’s birth:

“My greatest wish is that you will be born into a land of milk and honey.”

Shani Winter, rescued in the 1997 suicide attack. (Photo credit: Michael Kremer)

[Shani Winter, rescued in the 1997 suicide attack. (Photo credit: Michael Kremer)]

It was a turning point, in so many ways:

On March 21, 1997, the same day the press carried reports that Netanyahu would agree to accept a Palestinian state as long as the PLO agreed to allow Israel to keep Jerusalem, the day after Arafat urged Palestinians to renew the violence and intifada and warfare until Israel had fully relinquished Jerusalem, the Palestinian campaign of suicide bombings was renewed.

As a result in one moment, Baby Shani became the epitome of the Oslo peace process. She was seriously, though not mortally, wounded in the bomb blast. She was grabbed by 18-year old Shabtai Labanda, who handed her off to a police woman, while he rushed to apply a tourniquet to another bomb victim whose arm had been blown off. The TV image that will be most remembered, not only of the bombing on March 21st, but of Oslo in general, will be that of this police woman running back and forth frantically with Baby Shani in her arms trying in desperation to find the baby’s mother. The mother was dead.

The suicide bomber’s body, along with dozens of others, were returned to Palestinians in 2012 as a goodwill gesture:

Homicide murderer Mousa Ghanimat who attacked the Apropo Cafe in Tel Aviv in March 1997 slaughtering 3 Israeli women: Michal Avrahami (32), Yael Gilad (32), and Anat Winter-Rosen (32).

The Senior Hamas members who organized the bombing, Imad and Adel Awadallah, were killed by the Israelis in September 1998, but remain heroes of Hamas, praised on Palestinian TV as recently as last April:

Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas) broadcast a speech by Hamas leader and Palestinian Parliament member Sheikh Hassan Yousef

Hamas leader and Palestinian Parliament member Sheikh Hassan Yousef: “Yes, we say: The path of Martyrdom (Shahada) and the enterprise of Martyrdom-seeking (Istish’had) are the shortest way to [achieving] rights, and to achieving victory over the occupier. Taking [our] rights is the shortest path to Jerusalem and to all Palestine, from its [Jordan] River to its [Mediterranean] Sea. Yes, this path is the shortest path to defeating the settlement enterprise and the Judaization of Jerusalem and the holy sites. We say to the occupation: the blood of these two Martyrs (Shahids) [Imad and Adel Awadallah] and the two other Martyrs [Izz Al-Din Al-Masri and Tawfiq Mahamid] – all of you know the hero Izz Al-Din Al-Masri (i.e., suicide terrorist who killed 15 in Sbarro pizza shop) [cheers from the audience]… and the Martyr Mahamid, and those who preceded them and those Martyrs who will come after them – we will not forget them, and their blood will remain a debt for us [to pay], for the Hamas youth and the youths of all the Palestinian forces.” …

As for Shani Winter and the policewoman who rescued her, they were reunited a week ago, when Shani enlisted in the IDF. The IDF blog reports:

“My mother shielded me. It was more important to her to protect me than herself,” explained Shani. “I’ve always been ‘the baby of the Apropo suicide attack’, and I will be for the rest of my life.”

This week, Shani’s family members were not the only ones to accompany her to to the IDF recruitment center. Ziona Bushri, the police officer who rescued her, escorted her as well. “I think about this horrible suicide attack every day. I will never forget the moment I picked up Shani and ran to find her family,” said Ziona. “Our baby grew up and now she joined the IDF. I hugged her and wished her good luck.”

“I’m very excited about this new journey I am beginning and the challenging role I will have in the IDF,” said Shani.

Shani and Ziona, 2014, (Photo credit: Yedioth Ahronoth, Shaul Golan)

[Shani and Ziona, 2014, (Photo credit: Yedioth Ahronoth, Shaul Golan)]

It is, in so many ways, a story of the conflict.

One of survival in the face of terror.  Of not giving in.  Of enduring.

[Some material was added after publication.]


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Henry Hawkins | January 12, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Bless that beautiful child. Great story, boss.

Meanwhile back at home, college students her age are promoting BDS and collapsing under the vicious onslaught of microaggressions.

    LSBeene in reply to oldav8r. | January 13, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Exactly – our colleges are teaching the power by the mechanism of victimhood. Teaching people to be victims takes away their ability to succeed – I mean how can you be a resounding success and an example for others to follow AND a victim: answer – you can’t.

    So we’re raising folks self-destined to fail, to wail and lament and cry aloud at every perceived slight – not a generation to stand, fight, overcome, emulate heroes, and to excel.

    That’s an overgeneralization – for there are truly heroes amongst us – but our colleges are turning out so many perma-dependents and whiny babies in adult bodies that it does not bode well for our future.

    guyjones in reply to oldav8r. | January 14, 2015 at 8:48 am

    The agit-prop you describe is partially enabled by the complacency and the luxury that informs the attitudes of these empty vessels who live in a free society where they don’t have to contemplate the price of liberty, much less directly strive or sacrifice themselves to undertake the sacrifices needed to sustain it. That’s some other poor schmuck’s job. People who have lived under totalitarian regimes, or, who confront totalitarianism in their daily lives, appreciate far more than most the blessings of liberty and how precious those freedoms are, and, how fragile.

Terrific story.

I’ve seen pics of some of the rocket attacks where they are too far from shelter and the mother shields her children. Gazan mothers put them on roofs of buildings being used to launch the rockets.

    LSBeene in reply to genes. | January 13, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    That is so very true.

    I saw this pic on FB once, and copied it – because as a Soldier it resonated as so true.

    In the pic there are US Marines engaged in a firefight, and behind them is an Iraqi man and his child being protected.

    The caption (paraphrased) : “The difference between the good guys and the bad guys is this – the bad guys use innocents as human shields. We make ourselves into human shields.”

    Truly an awesome story – thanks for posting it.

I say this with absolutely nothing but the utmost admiration and honor: “Israel, fuck yea!”

golda meir said this will not end until they love their sons more than they hate us…. how things have NOT changed since 1997. Abbas went to Paris but he sponsors these type of acts

Shalom Miss Winter.

Bless her!

TrooperJohnSmith | January 13, 2015 at 11:02 am

Hopefully, this precious young lady can rise to command one of Israel’s beautiful and incredibly effective 155mm M-109 or M-71 howitzers. That way, she can pay back Hamas, in kind, for the murder of her mother and countless other innocents. I’d hope that she might even write her mother’s name on a few of the shells.

Yeah, that’s a little Old Testament of me, but after the last gazillion instances of radical Islam murdering in the name of The Profit [sic], I’m a little weary of the “turn the other cheek” crowd.

“Git some, Shani!”

Richard Aubrey | January 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm

What’s “karma” in Hebrew? Or was it Hebrew to start with? Whichever, seems to fit here.
Take care of business, kid.

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