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Rasmea Odeh’s victims – then and now

Rasmea Odeh’s victims – then and now

My meeting with the families of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner – murdered in 1969 Jerusalem supermarket bombing

On a windswept hillside terrace in the massive Har HaMenuchot Cemetery on the western edge of Jerusalem, 1969 terror victims Edward Joffe and Leon (“Arie”) Kanner are buried together, next to Edward’s parents Roslyn and Hyman Joffe.

The cemetery itself reflects the history of the conflict.

Har HaMenuchot was opened in 1951, after Jordanian troops seized “East” Jerusalem after Israel declared Independence in 1948. Jordan’s conquest included not only the Jewish Quarter of the Old City but also the Mount of Olives Cemetery, the traditional Jewish burial ground. The Jewish Quarter was ethnically cleansed of Jews and its Jewish landmarks, while Mount of Olives Cemetery was ransacked, its tombstones used for building projects and many of its graves paved over for roads. Har HaMenuchot was built in response.

Har HaMenuchot Cemetery Jerusalem

[Har HaMenuchot Cemetery, Jerusalem]

My wife and I visited the Joffe and Kanner graves at Har HaMenuchot on June 1, 2015. [Featured Image]

The cemetery is so huge, so seemingly discombobulated, so logistically impenetrable even when armed with plot and section numbers, that it took us almost an hour to find the graves.  We were accompanied by a local Rabbi who helped us say prayers. We placed small stones on the graves, in the Jewish tradition. And we were overcome with emotion.

The inscriptions on the graves are simple, and nearly identical. Edward’s brother Harold provided the translation:

[Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Headstones]

[Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Headstones]

“Here is buried
Our dear son and brother
Efraim (Hebrew of Edward) David Joffe (Eddie) (z”l- means of blessed memory)
21 years old
We will remember you forever”

Then the same for “Arie (Leon Kaner) 20 years old”

The stone marker joining the graves reads:

Graves of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Jerusalem - Joint Inscription

[Graves of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Jerusalem – Joint Inscription]

“… these beloved and dearest in life are also together in death…”
Their light [spark] of life was extinguished by a cruel hand in Jerusalem
on the third day of Adar, 5729
May their Souls be bound together in the eternal chain of Life

According to Harold, the first sentence was taken from David’s lament over the death of Saul and Jonathan, in the book of Samuel, and the last 5 letters at the bottom of the inscription are common on graves in Israel .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. , an acronym for the Hebrew words תהא נפשו/ה צרורה בצרור החיים (t’hay nafsho/ah tzrurah b’tzror hachaim), “May his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life.” This paraphrases the words that Abigail told King David (I Samuel 25:29): “But my lord’s soul shall be bound in the bond of life with the L-rd your G d.”

Others had been there recently, it seems, as flowers were placed between the two markers, now dried and faded:

Graves of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Jerusalem - Dried Flowers

[Graves of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Jerusalem – Dried Flowers]

What brought us to that spot, those graves, these lives?

It’s a story of then and now. As one Israeli school bus attack survivor along the Lebanese border put it to us, Israel’s revenge against decades of terror attacks is that “we are still here.”

So this really isn’t just a story about the deaths of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, it’s about the blessed revenge of their families and their country in surviving, then and now.

And it’s to set the record straight about Rasmea Odeh.

1. Rasmea Odeh, Then and Now

On that fateful day, February 21, 1969, the SuperSol supermarket was filled with death and destruction:

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=d93_1412329044

[SuperSol Supermarket, Jerusalem 1969, after bombing)(via LiveLeak)

Time has not lessened the impact. The SuperSol bombing was the first substantial post-1967 Palestinian terror attack aimed at Israeli civilians, and it shook the nation.

Rasmea Odeh, a military member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was convicted of being the mastermind of the bombing.   The evidence of Rasmea’s guilt was and is overwhelming, and has grown more so over the years.

An International Red Cross observer termed the trial to be fair.

Jersusalem Post SUPERSOL SABOTEURS SENTENCED TO LIFE Red Cross Observer Statement Fair Trial

[Jerusalem Post, Used With Permission]

Contrary to claims that Rasmea confessed to the bombing only after 25 days of sexual torture, in fact Rasmea confessed in a highly detailed handwritten document the day after her arrest, and there was substantial evidence independent of the confession.  Years later, after they all were out of Israeli prison, Rasmea’s co-conspirators would credit Rasmea with being the mastermind of the bombing:

Rasmea was sentenced in 1970 to life in prison, but released in a 1979 mass prisoner exchange for an Israeli soldier captured in Lebanon. Her status in the PFLP was such that Leila Khalid, the first female airplane hijacker, participated in “Task Force Rasmieh Odeh“.

After the 1979 prisoner release, Rasmea eventually made her way to the U.S. in the mid-1990s.

In November 2014, Rasmea was convicted in federal court in Detroit of lying on her immigration and naturalization forms, by falsely denying she ever had been arrested, convicted or imprisoned. Rasmea claimed that she did not understand that the word “EVER” (caps in original) on the forms meant ever.  She also claimed that post-traumatic stress disorder from the alleged torture prevented her from recalling the conviction and imprisonment when she answered the immigration forms; the Judge would not allow such “expert” testimony as legally irrelevant to the immigration crime charged.

Rasmea was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered deported.

Rasmea danced in the bus back to Chicago after the sentencing.

Rasmea Odeh Dancing Bus after Sentencing

The case is on appeal, and Rasmea currently is free on bond pending appeal. Briefing will be completed by the end of July 2015.

In her appeal papers, Rasmea’s attorneys likened the Israeli military court that convicted her to Nazis.

Completely contrary to the evidence, Rasmea has been turned into the poster-child for alleged oppression of Palestinians and “pro-Palestinian” activists. Rasmea is feted and honored by the anti-Israel community in Chicago, by pro-boycott faculty, and by Students for Justice in Palestine campus groups around the country.

That’s why the stories of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, and their families, need to be documented.

They are the only victims in this tragedy. Then, and now.

2. The Funeral, Then

The SuperSol supermarket bombing shocked Israel. Thousands attended the memorial service at Hebrew University, which Edward and Leon attended, and the subsequent funeral:

Joffe and Kanner Funeral Casket Being Carried

[Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Funeral, Jerusalem 1969]

Joffe and Kanner Funeral Crowd

[Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Funeral, Jerusalem 1969]

Joffe and Kanner Funeral large crowd

[Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Funeral, Jerusalem 1969]

The deaths were widely reported in the newspapers (translation to follow):

Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Newspaper Article re Deaths

[Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, Newspaper Article re Deaths, 1969]

Neighbors and friends took out memorials in the newspaper, alongside the obituary (translations to follow).

Edward Joffe Obituary and Memorial Notices

[Edward Joffe Obituary and Memorial Notices, 1969]

As we traveled in Israel, we mentioned the SuperSol supermarket bombing to just about everyone we met.  Everyone of an age old enough in 1969 to be aware, remembered it.

That we were meeting with the families of the victims was appreciated by friend and stranger alike.

3. Meeting the Families in Israel, Now

All the parents of Edward and Leon are deceased.

Edward has a brother (Basil) in Texas.  Basil and his daughter Terry attended the Detroit trial.

Edward also has a brother (Harold) and sister (Nadine, who was just 12 at the time of the bombing) in Israel. Leon’s three sisters (Irit, Miriam and Rachel) all live in Israel, and were several years older than Leon.

In the course of investigating and covering the case, I came into contact with the Joffe and Kanner families, who providing me with material to write about their respective backgrounds and lives.

While in Israel, my wife and I met separately with Harold and Nadine, and some of their family members. And again with the Kanner sisters and some of their family together.

How to convey the content of these meetings, without betraying the implicitly personal nature of the meetings? These were shared emotional experiences, not just interviews.

In both families, after the initial years of mourning, the deaths were ever-present, but not always discussed. Israel’s Memorial Day, in which the deaths of soldiers and civilians killed in war and terror were remembered, was a particularly difficult day. There were visits to the cemetery, or memorials, but not a lot of discussion.

The deaths were just always there.

The fathers of Edward and Leon seemed to internalize the pain, and it ate away at them silently.

The Rasmea trial, and my reporting on it, caused the families to revisit the deaths, and to teach their children and grandchildren. While emotionally taxing, the families — particularly the younger generations — were thankful for the opportunity to learn more about their family histories.

4. The Joffe Family, Then and Now

Here are the four Joffe children, Edward, Basil, Harold and Nadine, as youngsters:

Joffe Children - Edward Basil Harold Nadine

This was Edward, with Jerusalem behind him, then:

Edward Joffe Jerusalem

[Edward Joffe, Jerusalem]

Each of the siblings remembered the deaths and funerals, but many of the details were blurred out by grief, then and now.

Nadine answered the police knock at the door, and remembers screaming “Edward is dead,” as her mother collapsed in agony.  To this day Nadine feels panic if a police vehicle approaches the house.

This was Nadine and her mother, at the funeral, then:

http://www.investigativeproject.org/4654/spinning-a-terrorist-into-a-victim-epilogue

[Roslyn and Nadine Joffe, at funeral 1969]

Nadine’s schoolmates attended the funeral.

Nadine Joffe schoomates at funeral

[Schoolmates of Nadine Joffe at funeral of Edward Joffe, Jerusalem 1969]

In a newspaper article at the time of the bombing, Roslyn was quoted as follows:

Edward’s parents, in a Tel Aviv suburb flat, in deep grief, could only say, “Let other mothers be spared.”

Edward Joffe Leon Kanner Newspaper Friends Buried Together

Edward’s mother, Roslyn, objected to the release of Rasmea in 1979, reflecting the family’s grief, then.

Roslyn Joffe Letter Objecting to Rasmea Odeh Prisoner Release 1979

The response was that it was the only way to obtain the release of the Israeli soldier (translation to follow):

Response to Roslyn Joffe Letter regarding Rasmea Odeh 1979

 

The farewell video by Roslyn Joffe on the eve of her death in 2009 reflected the parents’ loss, then and now:

On a Memorial Day, Nadine and two of her daughters met then Prime Minister Ehud Barak:

Nadine Kanner Ehud Barack Children

[Nadine Joffe and daughters with Ehud Barak]

This is Nadine now. Mother of four daughters, grandmother to two:

Nadine Joffe 2015

[Nadine Joffe]

Here are Harold and Edward together, then:

Harold and Edward Joffe

[Harold and Edward Joffe]

Harold, who was at home in Israel when the police knocked at the door, had to identify his brother’s body. Here is Harold now, father of four, grandfather of six:

Harold Joffe

[Harold joffe]

Basil was in London at the time of the bombing and received a telegram alerting him to the death of his brother.

http://www.investigativeproject.org/4632/spinning-a-terrorist-into-a-victim-part-2-rasmieh

Basil is father of two daughters, grandfather to four.

http://www.investigativeproject.org/4632/spinning-a-terrorist-into-a-victim-part-2-rasmieh

[Basil Joffe]

Here are Basil and Harold now, remembering then.

Basil’s daughter Terry wrote a guest post for Legal Insurrection about the propaganda campaign to portray Rasmea as the victim, and the pain that persists even now:

It is with much sadness, disappointment, and frustration that I write to you today.

I spent last week attending the Immigration Fraud Trial in Detroit of Rasmieh Odeh. I sat in that courtroom with my father (alone in our row) surrounded by supporters of Odeh. We endured days of hateful looks and the rehashing of a traumatic event that changed my family forever.

While I find a great sense of relief in knowing that a unanimous jury found her guilty in less than two hours, I still remain troubled by her numerous supporters….

I want to ask you this: Can you not pick a hero who has not killed two people by placing a bomb in a supermarket (with the intent to kill many more)? One who did not then place another bomb at the British consulate on the same day (said bomb was found and defused). And one who didn’t go back (alone) to the British Consulate again 4 days later placing another bomb which caused structural damage? …

If I’m being totally honest with you, I don’t really know that I care if she stays here or goes back to Jordan. The damage she did has already been done. The lives already taken.

But one thing I can still do is stand up and speak out. Please reconsider your public support for a woman who is not deserving of it.

5. The Kanner Family, Then and Now

A full background on the Kanner family is in my post, Sisters of Leon Kanner seek “maximal sentence” for Rasmea Odeh.

These are the Kanner children in Uruguay:

Kanner Family Children Uruguay

Here is Leon with his parents:

[Leon Kanner with his parents Clara and Marcus, at his Bar-Mitzvah, 1961]

[Leon Kanner with his parents Clara and Marcus, at his Bar-Mitzvah, 1961]

This photo of Leon with Jerusalem in the background was found in his camera after his death. Leon never saw the photo.

[In the camera that was found at the bombing site was this photo which was taken with the scenery of Jerusalem. This photo was later developed as Leon did not get the chance to see it.]

[In the camera that was found at the bombing site was this photo which was taken with the scenery of Jerusalem. This photo was later developed as Leon did not get the chance to see it.]

The Kanner sisters had similarly traumatic experiences.

That day, Irit was at her parents house in Netanya. Early in the morning, before they knew of the bombing, her mother told her about a special dream she had, “at night, she saw my grandmother in the dream with open arms calling Leon to her.”

At ten o clock in the morning, her mother went to the hairdresser. Irit heard on the radio, the news about the bomb, but without names.

After 20 minutes, two policemen arrived at the house and told Irit and her father the news of Leon’s death. Her father said, “How can we tell this… to Mom.” A few minutes later, her mother entered, they hugged her and mentioned Leon’s name, and from their facial expressions her mother knew. Her mother began to cry and pull at her own hair. Her mother was almost silent for hours, then recalled her dream.

The secretary at the kibbutzim where her sisters lived were notified and told her sisters. The sisters then took the sad journey to Netanya.

In this photo the sisters comfort their mother, who hugged the casket.  There are other photos of the grieving the family asked me not to use, it’s just too painful.

Kanner Mother and Sisters at Funeral

[Leon Kanner Mother and Sisters at Funeral, Jerusalem 1969]

Prior to Rasmea’s sentencing, the Kanner sisters wrote to the Judge about the pain, then and now:

Two families’ worlds fell apart that day. Our parents, Clara and Marcos Kanner, struggled to their last day with their loss. They kept their mourning to themselves allowing our family to grow and hold on to life. Our mother lived to the age of 92, our father to the age of 93. After their death we found in the house a box with excerpts from the press they have kept away through the years. The pain has accompanied them on a daily basis and will be carried on in our family to present and onwards.

Here are the Kanner sisters now, mothers of three children, grandmothers of four.

Sisters of Leon Kanner - Irit Miriam Rachel

[Sisters of Leon Kanner – Irit, Miriam and Rachel]

6. And, In the End

Today, the SuperSol supermarket, located diagonally across from the U.S. Consulate in “West” Jerusalem, is modern and vibrant, like Israel and the Joffe and Kanner families:

[SuperSol Supermarket ,Jerusalem, June 2, 2015]

[SuperSol Supermarket ,Jerusalem, June 2, 2015]

You may have heard the Hebrew phrase, Am yisrael chai (עם ישראל חי), usually translated as “The People of Israel Live,” and put to song in a variety of ways.

That is what this story really is all about.

Israel Trip 2015 posts in chronological order:

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Comments

Thank you for telling this history.

Since their origin, the Palestinians have been engaged in an advertising campaign to convince Muslims that they have an individual, religious duty to kill every Jew on the face of the earth.
http://middleeast.about.com/od/palestinepalestinians/a/me080106b.htm

They know they sin. The introduction to the document says they intend to destroy their own souls “in the path of Allah” which they claim to do by engaging in genocide.

This document, and the other terrorist writings, is in very deliberate disobedience to a core teaching of all the Abrahamic faiths, to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
http://www.acommonword.com
Catholics recognize the Hamas Covenant as blasphemy (false teaching about God) and scandal (luring others into serious sin).

The Israelis have not given their neighbors cause to kill, or even dislike them. The supporters of Hamas have therefore chosen to lie about them, and therefore create false reasons for enmity between the Israelis and their neighbors.

We have seen the libel campaign, we know from experience what liars they are.

We also need to know the truth. And that means that articles such as this need to be published, to remind us that evil liars and murderers do not improve with age.

Rasmea Odeh, her supporters, and the rest of the Murder, Inc. advertisers must continue to be exposed, because they continue with their evil.

As for us in the US, it appears to me that our role is to tell the religious descendants of Ishmael that they do not need to live this way. There is a better way to live, and it involves embracing the whole of the teachings of the Abrahamic religions.

Thank you.

1. The 2nd page of the Hebrew newspaper clip is upside down.

2. I’m surprised that the headstones have ז״ל, “of blessed memory”, after their names, rather than הי״ד, “may God avenge his blood”, as is standard for murder victims.

    Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | June 10, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I see you’ve now fixed the newspaper clip. Thank you.

    According to that article (on the second page, which I can now read), Eddie Joffe was in the paratroopers’ first strike at the Egyptian forces in Rafah, and was wounded by shrapnel in the throat, but two weeks later he “escaped” from hospital and rejoined his unit. He also distinguished himself in the Battle of Karameh in March 1968. Six months before his death he was again wounded by a bullet to the leg (the story doesn’t say how this happened).

    What a hero.

The Hebrew newspaper article focuses on the last letters the two wrote to their parents. Leon Kanner told his parents that he had found “a wonderful friend”, and that the two had just moved out of student housing and into a rented room in central Jerusalem. He gave his parents the address and invited them to visit. Eddie Joffe wrote to his mother, asking her to bring his paratrooper boots on her next visit, because he was going hiking in the mountains around Jerusalem to pick flowers for his botany class.

DINORightMarie | June 10, 2015 at 3:39 pm

This is so moving, so honoring to these young men and their families.

It is beyond disgusting how this murderess, Rasmea Odeh, is able to walk free, to “dance” on the bus after her trial…….mocking us, hating the very place she has decided to live, remorseless for her heinous actions.

Slap her in a prison and throw away the key!!!

Thank you Professor for this very moving emotional post, and for all your other articles on the victims of the terrorist Rasmea Odeh. I must admit that despite my nearly 38 years in Israel I hadn’t heard of the bombing until you started reporting on the Odeh immigration case.

Thank you too for making the victims, Edward and Leon, the focus of the story and for remembering their families. We must never forget any of our thousands of victims or their loved ones.

Kol hakavod.

One has to question the wisdom of releasing terrorists like Ms Odeh, etal, as part of a ‘deal’. One also has to question Israel’s wisdom in not having a death penalty on it’s books.

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