Bombing victims' fate fit for man nor beast

March 08, 2001|By Helen Schary Motro

KFAR SHMARIAHU, Israel -- Dafna was one of the seven wounded in the March 1 terrorist explosion in Israel. But the reports, listing six wounded, don't count her. That's because they list only people.

Dafna is a 1-year-old seeing-eye dog. She was found lying on the road beside the blown-up minivan taxi. A local vet administered first aid on the scene; Dafna's crushed foot was operated on. Her body is still riddled with fragments from the explosion, and chances for her full recovery are not clear.

Dafna survived, but Claude Knap, the man who took care of her, was killed. Mr. Knap was a 28-year-old new immigrant from Chile. Not blind himself, he was helping to raise and train the golden retriever.

He volunteered to take Dafna last year when she was a pup and act as her temporary owner until she was ready to return to the institute for more intensive training. Dafna and Mr. Knap rode together in the taxi alongside the Palestinian who detonated the bomb the moment the police roadblock stopped the vehicle and started to check passengers' identification.

An explosive discovered in a briefcase the day before in a fast-food restaurant on a bustling Tel Aviv street was dismantled before it could detonate, but authorities had reason to believe that the person who had planted it was still at large, traveling north. That's why the roadblocks were set up. Apparently when the bomber -- a Palestinian from the West Bank illegally in Israel -- saw he would be discovered in the check, he detonated the bomb.

The bomber did not die in the blast, but he was seriously wounded and is in the hospital. Other wounded included a 16-year-old girl headed home from school and an expectant mother. Two Arab passengers were among the wounded, one a physiotherapy student at an Israeli college.

As in a bombing that badly burned the face and torso of a 1-year-old Arab girl in the fall in another Israeli town, the random victims of Palestinian terrorism are often Arabs. One wonders how the bomber would respond to that.

Last week's bomber sat beside the other passengers for several hours on their long-distance taxi ride northward from Tel Aviv, destined for Tiberias. He had no qualms about ending their lives. More difficult to fathom is a fury so extreme that he could pull the detonator on his own explosive knowing it would kill or maim him.

Suicide bombers are such a known breed in the Mideast that they have become classic. In their communities their families are honored and they themselves achieve martyrdom. It is said they are guaranteed an everlasting place in paradise.

Israelis, citing propaganda starting in pre-kindergarten, maintain they are so easy to recruit because they are inculcated from childhood to nurture a venomous hatred. Palestinians contest this charge of brainwashing. They say that reality has been the instructor of their extreme emotions.

On St. Valentine's Day, a Palestinian bus driver plowed into a group of young Israelis waiting at a bus stop, killing eight. A family man of 35, he did not meet the usual terrorist profile. But he had been so despondent about his protracted underemployment that he was under psychiatric care for depression. Afterwards, his young son, asked about the incident, said he was glad Israelis had been killed, "because they are bad," but sorry that it was his father who had done it.

For 24 hours, the Israeli media unceasingly reported on the details of the victims' lives and how fate had brought each to the bus stop that morning. Only weeks later, their deaths seem like ancient history.

Since the explosion that wounded Dafna, another bomb was detonated in a crowded main street in Netanya, up the coast from Tel Aviv. The bomber killed three others beside himself, and wounded more than 90. But as new victims in the Middle East pile up, the dead are only news for a day.

Claude Knap was buried Friday. His mother and two brothers asked that the media not photograph the funeral. Soon, only his family will remember him, the young man who brought up dogs to help the blind -- the young man who died a dog's death.

Helen Schary Motro is an American lawyer who divides her time between living in the United States and Israel.

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