Longing for my daughter Malkie: Sbarro bombing, August 9, 2001

Why is my daughter's terrorist murderer still free in Jordan despite its extradition treaty with the US and our American citizenship? Op-ed.

Frimet Roth ,

Malki Roth Hy"d
Malki Roth Hy"d
Family

Nineteen years ago, our angel Malki was snatched from us in the Sbarro terror bombing.

Some may wonder how a pain can linger, oppress, ache and resist comfort for so long. Well, let me assure you, it can. And it does.

Sometimes, it feels more heart-wrenching to remember her life than it did when she was first murdered. There are so many family experiences and events that she has missed out on.

The bombing that took her life and those of 16 other innocent Jews was uniquely horrific. It has spawned numerous "miracle" legends about lucky people who came eerily close to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It has even inspired a minor writer to fabricate an entire interview with me which he included in his published memoir as well as in a Los Angeles Times op ed.

It is often the only one of many bloody attacks mentioned when the Second Intifada is revisited. Photographs of the site minutes after the explosion - it is the busiest intersection in Jerusalem's city center - are often reprinted. The sight of baby carriages and strewn body parts is emphasized.

But for some reason what doesn't attract press coverage is the travesty of justice that ensued.

To the bafflement of my husband and me, despite our years of effort to achieve justice for our Malki and the other victims, there’s remarkably little concern about how the mastermind, the main perpetrator of the Sbarro terror attack, is today a free woman.

Jordanian Ahlam Tamimi scouted Jerusalem's streets during the summer of 2001 for a target that would offer the greatest possible number of Orthodox Jewish children. Having traveled with him by public transport from Ramallah, she escorted her "weapon", a suicide bomber called Al Masri, on foot from East Jerusalem to the Sbarro location.

She boasts of how she spoke English to him during their walk in order to pass as tourists. Police were at that very hour combing the city's streets for a terrorist about whom they had been alerted.

After instructing him to wait ten minutes before detonating so that she could escape unharmed, she fled back to Ramallah. There she calmly reported the attack on the nightly Arab language news program where she worked as the on-camera presenter.

In front of cameras, Tamimi has smiled to learn how many children she murdered and expressed dismay that the number wasn't higher. She has urged audiences on Hamas TV and on social media to emulate her deeds. The depths of her evil are apparent to all.

My husband and I are astounded. Why is it that she is still free? Why does this not disturb people more than it appears to?

The US has demanded her extradition from Jordan. It has an extradition treaty with Jordan that was signed and ratified by both countries and has been valid since 1995. Yet Jordan's King Abdullah II - the totalitarian ruler of his kingdom - refuses to accede to that demand.

Nonetheless, the U.S. State Department, the White House and U.S. Congressmen from both sides of the aisle persist in praising "His Majesty" as they are wont to call him. The reverential tone they adopt when addressing him or referring to him is utterly cringe-worthy.

It is impossible to relate this outrage and omit our own leader, Binyamin Netanyahu. While he is now a footnote in the sequence of events, it cannot be overlooked that Tamimi is free in Jordan because he chose to send her there. The several pleas that my husband and I published, circulated and delivered to Netanyahu to remove Tamimi from the list of freed murderers included in the infamous Shalit Deal, were all in vain. He never responded to us at any stage or in any form.

What he did do was tell the press that he sent letters of apology to all victims after the Shalit Deal. His staff personally told me when I called his bureau in the weeks after the Shalit Deal that hundreds of such letters were mailed out.

None were mailed out.

And so the travesty endures. I would note that a faint glimmer of light at the tunnel's end now uplifts us. Several U.S. politicians, global celebrities and major Jewish organizations have joined us in demanding that the U.S. pressure Jordan to extradite Tamimi by withholding the generous annual financial aid it receives from the U.S. A new law empowering such a sanction was passed in December 2019.

Prior legislation entitles the U.S. Department of Justice to arrest and try suspects for offenses committed against U.S. citizens overseas. Malki was, as I am, a U.S. citizen. That U.S. law specifies that a suspect can and must be pursued by U.S. law enforcement and brought to trial in the United States. Jordan has raised a single objection which American authorities have told us is spurious. But the fact is she is still in Amman with her family and not in a Washington courtroom.

Malki left behind a detailed diary recording the events of the last year of her life. It makes for a painful read, not to mention an eye-straining one since she wrote it in microscopic script. She clearly wanted to pack in the maximum.

Each year as her yahrzeit approaches, I read a few more entries and publicize one or two of them.

“February 4, 2001: There was a mortar firing in Netzarim [Gaza Strip] and truly miraculously nobody was hurt. There was a one year old baby lying at the site where it fell! A miracle! A person from Karmei Tzur was was killed on his way home, a father of small children... We had a talk about Kever Rachel ... then communal singing. I cried a bit and it was hard for me to start singing so Shira and I just hugged and that really helped me. At the end we had a talk by Rav Elisha Aviner. He was simply amazing! He encouraged us so much about the situation in Israel.”

I wish Malki were here to encourage me.



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