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September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
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‘Malki Loved Israel With A Pure And Passionate Love’: An Interview with Arnold Roth About the Daughter He Lost to Terrorism

Arnold Roth with daughter Malki a few months before the Sbarro attack. (Photo courtesy Arnold Roth)

Arnold Roth with daughter Malki a few months before the Sbarro attack. (Photo courtesy Arnold Roth)

We only managed to reach out to a relative handful of other bereaved families in the short time between deciding to write to Secretary Kerry and the delivery of that letter to the State Department. I think we will have many more families, victims of the terrorists, when we do this again in the future.

All of us are ordinary people with lives, with families, with jobs, with the usual problems and challenges. What brings us together is not politics, not a shared outlook on religion, not a common mission to solve the Arab/Israel conflict. We share a deep pain, each in our own individual ways, and a deep sense that injustice is being done over our heads and if we don’t speak out, then no one else will.

Your readers might be surprised to know how much I have discovered that I share with an Irish Catholic father whose son was murdered. Or with a Basque woman whose brother’s life ended in a car bombing. I don’t mean this figuratively, by the way. It’s literally true that we share so much, to our mutual surprise.

The language and religious and cultural and age barriers matter less, it turns out, than the struggle to cope with living after a terrorist picked out your son or daughter or brother and pulled the trigger. Many of the questions we ask of ourselves and of the Ribbono Shel Olam are essentially the same: Why us? Why my child? How is it that others in the vicinity were spared? Were they more worthy? Less sinful? And why do my neighbors seem to understand so little of how this feels to me?

Is there any terrorist being released who has Malki’s blood on his hands directly or indirectly?

All the terrorists known to be behind the Sbarro massacre were released from prison two years ago in the Shalit transaction. The one exception is Abdallah Barghouti, convicted on his own admission of murdering 66 Israelis, and he is not included in the so-called pre-Oslo releases. He was on a months-long hunger strike in his Israeli prison cell, and then in an Israeli hospital in Afula, before extracting major concessions from the Israel Prison Service.

It’s reasonable to assume a case will be made at some stage, probably sooner rather than later, that he too needs to be handed over to Hamas, of which he is said to be a high-ranking leader, in the name of peace and reconciliation. We will of course fight tooth and nail to prevent that from ever happening.

How personal is the story of Israel to you?

My wife, Frimet, and I spoke about aliyah on our very first date, nearly four decades ago. Living in Israel and building our lives among other Jews in the place where Jewish values make the most sense, and that Jews have always understood to be the natural place for Jewish life to be lived, was a priority for us even before we became a couple and then a family.

Tell us about Malki.

Malki’s love of Israel owed nothing to her views about the Palestinians, the Middle East conflict or Islam, because for the most part she had none. We do know from the diary in which she daily recorded her most private thoughts and fears, and which Frimet and I began reading only during the shiva, that she was deeply agitated by Arab terror. It was on her mind a great deal. Her notes told us what she always kept private: that each loss of life in a piguah, a terrorist outrage, brought her literally to tears, made it nearly impossible to focus on her studies. She was simply incapable of comprehending the fanatical hatred behind the horrifying acts.

Malki was a powerfully, unstoppably, optimistic 15-year-old. We know from her friends that her wonderful smile almost never left her face, that her love and affection for friends and strangers were inspirational and infectious.

Malki loved Israel, and especially Jerusalem, with a pure and passionate love. Born in Melbourne, Australia, this was the home to which she was brought before she was three years old. This was the land which the Almighty had promised to the Jewish people and to which she felt a powerful connection.

About the Author: Dr. David Nesenoff is a rabbi, author and filmmaker who achieved international fame for his video of the late White House correspondent Helen Thomas saying Jews should leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. He currently lectures around the world to Jewish communities and campuses and can be contacted at Nesenoff@Gmail.com.


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More Articles from Dr. David Nesenoff
Arnold Roth with daughter Malki a few months before the Sbarro attack. (Photo courtesy Arnold Roth)

On August 9, 2001, Malka Chana (Malki) Roth stopped by the Sbarro restaurant on the corner of King George Street and Jaffa Road in downtown Jerusalem. A suicide terrorist wearing an explosive belt with nails, nuts and bolts entered and detonated his bomb. Fifteen Israelis were killed, including Malki; 107 were injured.

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