The Little Bus That Could

For days, it stood outside the courtroom, believing its burnt-out, hollow interior would speak louder than any Israeli delegation's words ever could.

Angela Bertz

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On the 29th of January 2004, a Palestinian policeman boarded the number 19 bus in Jerusalem. He took a seat at the back. This representative of Palestinian law and order was about to commit a savage crime of mass murder. As the bus made its way up Gaza Street, he detonated an explosives belt, tearing the bus into a twisted wreck of metal, blowing out every window and killing 11 innocent people. Fifty more were wounded, ten of them seriously.

Rose Boneh, 39, took the 19 bus to work everyday. One of her best friends described her as a woman with a huge heart. Her boyfriend described meeting Rose as akin to winning the lottery. She had been more than a mother to his 14-year-old son, who, upon hearing the news of her death, collapsed.

Yechezkel Goldberg, 41, had immigrated to Israel eight years ago from Canada with his wife and was father to seven children. He worked as a social worker, devoting a lot of his time to troubled youth. He was also an active and respected writer.

Avraham Balashan, 28, originally from France, had immigrated to Israel six years ago. He had been married for four years. A few months previously, his mother had also immigrated. He felt a deep sense of belonging to Israel and would pray every morning.

Hannah Anya Bonder, originally from Russia, had immigrated to Israel 12 years ago. She had just turned 38. She was proud to be Jewish and embraced life. One of her work colleagues, upon hearing of the explosion, was alarmed, as she was always so punctual. She was mother to two teenage sons.

Anat Darom was a pretty, young student of 23. She had grown up in Tel Aviv and Netanya. She was studying statistics and sociology at the Hebrew University. She was planning to complete her BA and go into social research.

Octavian Viorel, 42, had immigrated with his wife and little daughter from Romania only three years ago. He was hard-working and described by his wife as a super person and good husband. That Thursday morning, he had just taken their five-year-old daughter to kindergarten.

Natalia Gamril, 53, was also an immigrant, originally from Russia. She had been in Israel for 10 years. Her daughter described her as a very sociable person and a wonderful mother. She was on her way to work to take care of an elderly lady.

Baruch Hodiashvili had lived in Israel most of his life and was an accomplished chef at Jerusalem's Great Synagogue. Every morning, he took his children to kindergarten. His wife said of her husband, "There never was, and never will be, a husband, father and son like Baruch."

Dana Itach was 24 and had dreams of raising a family with her husband, whom she had married only a year before. She had the choice of two buses from her home, tragically getting on the No. 19 that morning. She was only one stop away from her work when the bomb detonated. Those closest to Dana described her as a gentle and patient girl.

Manbara Valid Tzadik, 35, was an illegal foreign worker from Ethiopia. She had originally come to Israel as a tourist eight years ago and decided to stay and work. She was only identified by DNA samples taken from her apartment, after her husband reported her missing.

Eli Zfira, 48, worked at a school as a maintenance man. He had a strong bond with all the children. His wife said it had been Eli's dream to bring their 20-month-old son a little sister.

Five and a half months later, this blown-out bus was shipped to The Hague, standing outside the International Court of Justice, while judges deliberated on Israel's security barrier. It took with it its sad memories of those 11 innocent people who had once led full and useful lives.

For days, it stood outside the courtroom, believing its burnt-out, hollow interior would speak louder than any Israeli delegation's words ever could.

Unbelievably, the bus and its poignant message remained almost unheard above the din of Palestinian propaganda.

The United Nations' predominantly biased International (Kangaroo) Court of Justice voted 14:1 to condemn Israel's security barrier. These 14 judges, no doubt paid a combined salary that could wipe out the third world debt of many African countries, decided in their infinite wisdom to condemn the barrier, claiming it infringed on the rights of Palestinians. The court also said that Israel was obligated to return confiscated land and pay damages to people whose homes, farms or businesses had been affected. The news was met with jubilance by the Palestinians, showing yet again how excellent Palestinian propaganda can make perpetrators appear victims and innocent victims appear aggressors.

The judges were able to churn out dozens of pages of drivel, basically apologizing and endorsing terrorism, all the while, turning blind, ignorant eyes to the number 19 bus and what it represented. The burnt-out bus, when faced with such total one-sided bias, had tragically failed dismally, not only the 11 who had died that January, but the 1,000 more innocent Israelis who had been victims of Palestinian terrorism.

The United Nations, which for years had never once churned out a resolution about the more than 100 bus/restaurant bombings perpetrated by the Palestinians, had reached an all-time low.

The number 19 bus has since been purchased by a humanitarian group of Christians called the Jerusalem Connection. It was consequently shipped to the United States, where its empty, burnt-out shell was loaded onto the back of a trailer. In the last few months, this bus has spoken volumes at any number of anti-terror rallies across the US.

On January 16th, this much-traveled bus reached Berkley, California. It was brought there by a group called the Israel Action Committee of the East Bay, which would use it for a three-hour exhibit. At none of its previous appearances across the United States did the bus stir much controversy.

Word soon spread to the pro-Palestinian groups in the area. They arrived with the sole aim of disrupting the rally, bringing with them their own brand of contempt for anyone who failed to recognize the Palestinians' resistance as a just and noble cause, whatever the means.

The bus, yet again, took second stage to supporters of terrorism, and the number 19 bus' tragic tale could easily, but for police intervention, have been drowned out by angry roars of "Allahu Akbar!" Even more horrific than this much-abused rhetoric was the sight of kindergarten children walking around with signs depicting hideously disemboweled bodies below the words "Organ Thieves". This was a sad attempt to use innocent children to vent the ridiculously held farce that Jews actually steal body parts from dead Palestinians.

It is even more farcical that a burnt-out bus, not the truth alone, has to be Israel's most powerful message to a world hell-bent on looking the other way.