Rahamim Anter, a blue-collar worker in an Israeli rope factory, had been saving a long time to take his family on a dream vacation. They came to the Paradise Hotel in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa to enjoy a respite from the escalating terrorism in their own country. Rahamim brought with him his wife Ora and their two sons Dvir, 13, Noy, 12, and their daughter Adva, 8.
On the day before Hanukkah, about 7:30 in the morning, a green Mitsubishi Pajero smashed through the hotel gate into the front door. A man wearing an explosives belt jumped out of the car, ran into the lobby of the hotel, and blew himself up. His two companions, still in the car, set off the powerful explosives they had packed. The building trembled and filled with thick black smoke.
"I saw the hotel roof blown off," recalled one witness. Others reported that moments later a small airplane dropped incendiary bombs that decimated some of the hotel rooms still remaining. The hotel was totally destroyed.
Nearly 100 people were killed or wounded. People covered in blood screamed and tried to find their family members. Children wailed that they wanted to go home. Human body parts scattered the ground. Trees around the hotel continued to burn for hours. "The whole hotel is burned. The whole hotel. There is a lot of smoke. The whole hotel is burned totally, both wings, the lobby and everything, it's all burned," said another witness. One of the survivors said it took several hours for medical help to reach the wounded. She said she saw bodies in pieces as the hotel burned around her.
Ten Kenyans died in the blast, most of whom were dancers welcoming the guests as they arrived. A few were housekeepers. Also among the dead were three Israelis, including Rahamim Anter's two sons. "The two Israeli children were torn apart and completely burned," said another witness.
Rahamim's wife and daughter were also injured in the explosion. The cameras caught Rahamim as he looked for them in the hospital. Sobbing, he held his hands up in front of the cameras, begging them to stop. His wife Ora lay in a coma, barely clinging to life. She had to be flown back home on a respirator. But his daughter Adva could talk to him from her hospital bed.
"Abba, ekh attah margish?" - How are you feeling, daddy?
"Ani margish tov" - I feel good - Rahamim reassured his daughter through sobs he could not control.
"Why don't they fight soldiers?" cried Mickey Yitzhakov, the aunt of Noy and Dvir, as she waited for the plane bringing her broken family back to Israel. "They fight children. They took two pure souls. I want to ask, 'What have they achieved from killing these two children?'"
Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, boasting that once again they had hit the "Crusader-Jewish Coalition."
At the same time the Paradise Hotel was bombed, two SAM-7 shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles were fired at an Israeli chartered plane taking off from Mombasa Airport carrying 261 vacationers back to Tel Aviv. The lethal projectiles barely missed the plane, leaving two long white streaks behind them in the sky.
How hard is it to grasp that these actions attack not only people, and not only Jewish people, but the values that make civilization possible? Perhaps this lends a bit of irony to the question we so compulsively ask ourselves: Why do they hate us?
Ephron, Dan, Mark Hosenball, and Michael Hirsh. "Open Season: In Kenya, a Disturbing Expansion of Terror's Reach." Newsweek Magazine, December 9, 2002.
Gutman, Matthew. "Al-Qaida Claims Mombasa Attacks." The Jerusalem Post, December 3, 2002.
Hartog, Kelly. "Three Israelis, Nine Kenyans Killed in Mombasa Hotel Bombing. The Jerusalem Post, November 29, 2002.
Hartog, Kelly. "A View from Mombasa Beach." The Jerusalem Post, November 29, 2002.
Jerusalem Post Staff and The Associated Press. "Three Israelis Among Eight Killed in Twin Kenya Terror Attacks," The Jerusalem Post, November 28, 2002.
McGeary, Johanna. "The New Realities of Terror." Time Magazine, December 9, 2002.
Moore, Molly. "Dream Vacation, Shattered by Death: Family Finds Violence They Had Hoped to Escape." The Washington Post, November 29, 2002.
Wax, Emily. "Suicide Bombers Kill Twelve at Resort in Kenya." The Washington Post, November 29, 2002. By Emily Wax
Wax, Emily. "Mayhem at Paradise." The Washington Post, November 29, 2002.
Peace with Realism