Thursday, May 12, 2011

A childhood remembered on Yom Hatzmaut

The following speech was delivered by my Israeli niece to the Toronto Community (where she is based as part of a programme to promote better understanding of Israel). She recalls her childhood in Jerusalem during the second Intifada - a time when suicide bombings were almost a daily occurrence and when parents often insisted on their children travelling on different buses to school so that if one bus was attacked at least one child would survive.

My name is Talia and I am from Jerusalem. During the second Intifada I was 10 years old.

I never though that it was a different type of childhood than my friends that lived in small and more protected towns, than my family friends that are 10 years older, or than my cousins that lived in London

You probably wonder way? How come?

And the answer to that is very simple: my parents

My parents did what any other parent would have done - protecting me and my brother and sister us much us they could.

So I didn’t go out to the mall with my friends and I never got to see the news even if I really wanted. The first time that I got on a bus was when I was 14 years old.

But of course there are a few memories that I will never be able to forget and no matter how much my parents tried to protect me, some things were just out of their control.

I want to share with you one of them.

It was my 11th birthday and I wanted to invite all of my class so my parents rented a space in French Hill, which is just near to my neighborhood Pizgat Ze'ev in Jerusalem

It was a fun day…all of my friends were there and we played lots of sports and one of them was soccer. It was the penalties, and I, as the Birthday girl, got to take the last one.

And as I was kicking the ball there was a BIG boom and the first thought among my friends and I was "wow what an amazing kick" but it didn’t take more then one minute to start hearing the Ambulances.

At that moment we understood that it wasn’t my kick, it was an explosion. It was on bus number 6, the bus that I take to get home.

All of that was 20 minutes before the end of the party so all of my friend's parents were on the way to pick them up. My parents’ phones started to ring. It was other parents calling to say that there was traffic and they were going to be late.

So we stayed until all the parents got there but there was one Mom that didn’t come. She was one car behind the bus and she was rushed to the Hospital and was diagnosed with shock damage.

I remember my friend’s face when she got the message.

Her Mom was ok but even those few hours were just unbearable.

Every person has a story, an experience that they will never forget and this one is mine

Despite all of this, Israel is my home, and I don't regret growing up in Jerusalem, and I think that it has made me who I am today. I'm proud to go next year to defend my country in the IDF.

Footnote: There were three suicide bombings of No. 6 buses duirng the second Intifada:

  • May 18, 2003 - Eight people were killed and 20 wounded in a suicide bombing on Egged bus no. 6 near French Hill in Jerusalem. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. A second suicide bomber detonated his bomb when intercepted by police in northern Jerusalem.
  • June 19, 2002 - Seven people were killed and 50 injured - three of them in critical condition - when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded bus stop and hitchhiking post at the French Hill intersection in northern Jerusalem. The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • Mar 27, 2001 - 28 people were injured, two seriously, in a suicide bombing directed against a northbound No. 6 bus at the French Hill junction in Jerusalem. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

For a comprehensive listing of bus bombings see here. For details of all suicide attacks in the second Intifada see here.

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