Kelly, Mike. “Bus on Jaffa Road: A Story of Middle East Terrorism and the Search for Justice”, Globe Pequot Press, 2014.
Jerusalem Bus Number 18
When I lived in Israel and would go to Jerusalem I often used the 18 bus to navigate the city and I was actually in Jerusalem the day this happened. It was February 22, 1996, a Sunday (a regular work day in Israel). Sara Duker and Matthew Eisenfeld got on the bus, took seats and settled in as they began their ride across town. They were on their day to an archeological site and they would shortly be there. Then they turned onto famous Jaffa Road and stopped as a young man carrying a duffel bag came aboard. He was a regular looking Yerushalmi and no one paid any attention really as he sat down. But after traveling a few more stops, he stood up and pushed a button that was attached to his duffel bag and set off a bomb that killed everyone on the bus. Gone were Sara and Matthew and the bomber and 23 others. Sara and Matthew were Americans and their families wanted justice and answers.
What might seem as a simple story of a suicide bomber is so much more than that—the story goes from Jerusalem to the West Bank to a refugee camp to the White House, the Congress and an American courtroom where the families of the victims filed a lawsuit against Iran because she financed the bombing and then to a prison in the Negev in Israel where author Mike Kelly confronts the man who built the bomb that was used on the Jerusalem #18 bus.
This is not just the story of the bombing but of the hardships that are part of the war on terrorism and the nature of the Israeli/Palestine conflict that has no end in sight. I was so totally engrossed in this book that I read it in one sitting and then thought about it constantly for two days. I doubt I will ever forget it. Even though the focus here is on one event, we see that Kelly is able to raise issues that are emotional as he discusses the policies, legalities and moralities surrounding a single act of terror. It is interesting that we empathize with the families of the dead—especially the Duker and Eisenfeld and at the same time he gives us the complexities of the struggle to punish and stop those specifically Iran. This is the story of the indomitable will of the human spirit to make peace with those who have no concept of the meaning of the word.
Here are innocent young adults lost to terrorism during a very complicated time. The research that was done is amazing and the prose is wonderfully readable. It reads like a novel and I found myself wishing that this was not a real story. We certainly feel the impact of terrorism and realize fully that its impact is very real.