US-Israeli citizen Chana Nachenberg left her husband and daughter for the last time Wednesday, passing away 22 years in a vegetative state following the horrific bombing of Jerusalem’s Sbarro pizza place on August 9, 2001.
The explosion sent nails, nuts and bolts hurling into the bodies of those who were in the packed restaurant, and some outside, when suicide bomber Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri blew himself shortly after 2 pm.
The attack was planned by Jordanian Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, who scouted the target and carried the bomb to the site while leading the suicide bomber to the packed restaurant.
Fifteen people were killed (16 now, with Nachenberg) in the deadly attack, and 130 others were wounded. Three of the dead (including Nachenberg) were US citizens, as were three of the wounded, a fact which forced the United States to contend with the attack.
Ten-year-old Yocheved was killed, as was a couple and three of their children. Yocheved’s 15-year-old sister Miriam suffered severe burns and injuries from the 60 nails that were lodged in her body. Nachenberg and her two-year-old daughter Sarah were also there.
Nachenberg was 31 at the time; Israeli American Malki Roth was just 15, and American schoolteacher Judith Shoshana Greenbaum, who was pregnant, was age 31.
‘My Mother Didn’t Die But I Lost Her Forever”
Nachenberg’s two-year-old daughter Sarah, who was with her at the time of the attack, miraculously survived.
In 2013, Sarah gave a speed at a candle-lighting ceremony at a OneFamily Fund holiday bereavement camp, in which she described how her life has been impacted by the loss of her mother.
Chana Nachenberg has lingered for 22 years in a persistent vegetative state, unresponsive to those around her, including her husband and her only child. (OneFamily is an NGO that supports and empowers victims of terror and their families in Israel.
A vegetative state is defined as severe brain damage that causes a person to appear to be awake but shows no evidence of awareness of their surroundings.
“My mother didn’t die, but I lost her forever,” Sarah told the gathering.
‘A Perfect Job’
A former student working as a television journalist, Tamimi had pledged to carry out attacks on behalf of Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, according to the FBI.
“The mujahid Abdallah Barghouti did a perfect job producing the guitar [containing the bomb], and the results amazed everybody, thanks to Allah,” Tamimi boasted in an interview translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) that aired on Al Aqsa TV on July 12, 2012.
To reduce suspicion, she and the suicide bomber dressed as Israelis, and she personally transported the bomb, concealed inside a guitar case, from a Palestinian Authority town into Jerusalem. Tamimi also admitted to detonating a small improvised explosive device in a Jerusalem grocery store prior to the attack as a test run.
‘Free as a Bird in Jordan’
In 2003, Tamimi pleaded guilty in an Israeli court to participating in the attack and was sentenced to 16 life terms in Israel for assisting the bomber. The judge ordered that she never be released, but she was freed in October 2011, however, as part of a prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel to secure the return of then-IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Upon her release, she was deported to Jordan, where she was hailed as a hero upon her arrive at Queen Alia International Airport.
Until today, Ahlam Tamimi lives free as a bird in the Hashemite Kingdom, where she is a popular public speaker and television broadcaster and repeatedly boasts about her role in the deadly bombing.
Interpol Drops Warrant, Jordan Refuses Extradition Order
On March 14, 2017, the US Department of Justice unsealed a criminal complaint and an arrest warrant for Tamimi. The FBI also added her to its Most Wanted Terrorists List.
Interpol has, however, reportedly dropped Tamimi’s name from its Most Wanted list, and dropped its international warrant for the terrorist, according to a March 8, 2021, letter by Interpol published in Arabic-language media. Her husband, Palestinian Authority terrorist Nizar Tamimi (convicted of murdering an Israeli student) confirmed the news in a Facebook post. Nizar Tamimi was deported to Qatar in 2020.
Despite Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel, and the 1995 extradition treaty it signed with the United States, Jordan refuses to comply with an American extradition order, which has been blocked by the country’s highest court and supported by the Jordanian king. The US has placed a $5 million bounty on Tamimi’s head but declines to force the Hashemite Kingdom to comply with extradition.
“Being in Jordan has given me strength,” she told the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news outlet in 2019. “Why are we considered to be terrorists? Why am I, Ahlam, considered to be a terrorist when I am part of a movement for freedom and national liberation?”
The Long Goodbye is Over
This week, 24-year-old Sarah Nachenberg bid her mother a final ‘goodbye,’ knowing there will be no more trips to the hospital to visit the woman she had long since struggled to recognize, whose warm embrace she no longer remembers.
Sarah has struggled for decades to cope with the reality forced upon her and her mother by the vicious Hamas terrorist from Jordan and her partner, the suicide bomber who carried out her instructions.
“Even though I have been living with this reality for a few years, I feel I am relearning how to survive with it all over again,” she told the OneFamily gathering in 2013. It changed me and made me mature.
“I had a difficult experience that forced me to grow up,” far earlier than most.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet, Chana Nachenberg. May God avenge your blood.