The last three months have been a “nightmare” for 24 year-old Israeli Roy Gordon.
Gordon, who is in the midst of a Bay Area tour of community meetings and media outlets, was working as a bartender at the popular Moment Cafe in Jerusalem the night a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 11 people and wounded more than 50 on March 9.
The al-Aqsa Brigades, linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, and the Islamic militant group Hamas both claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred just across the street from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s official residence.
“I was just bending down behind the bar, I was looking for a bottle, and there was a massive explosion,” said Gordon. “I understood immediately that it was a suicide bombing.
“I stood up and I saw many horrible sights,” he continued, describing the mangled bodies on the ground. “We knew all of them – they were customers and friends... . For me, the last three months were a nightmare.”
Gordon and 22 year-old Na’ama Harel, a Moment bartender who left the cafe just 10 minutes before the bombing and raced back after the explosion, arrived in the Bay Area on Monday. The trip was paid for by a Palo Alto Jewish couple who wants the story told in the United States.
Gordon and Harel are scheduled to travel today to Sacramento and New York City. They have no firm date yet for returning to Jerusalem.
Harel said the pair has no political agenda.
“We think it is (important) that people who are not politicians or ambassadors or journalists come here and tell their stories,” said Harel. “We don’t want anything – we don’t want money, we don’t want help.”
Both defended the Israeli government’s handling of the current conflict. Harel supports Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decree not to negotiate with Palestinians while the suicide bombings continue.
“You can’t sit down and talk to people who are killing you,” she said.
Gordon, a former paratrooper, made a distinction between suicide bombers who kill civilians and the Israeli military which, he argues, seeks out Palestinian terrorists and avoids civilian casualties.
Hoang Phan, a leader of the UC Berkeley-based, pro-Palestinian group Students for Justice in Palestine, said that Gordon echoes the Israeli government’s voice that claims to avoid hurting civilians. But Phan said the Israeli military killed several Palestinian civilians in an April assault on the Jenin refugee camp, and he criticizes the Israeli government for blocking a UN investigation into the two-week siege of Jenin.
“If they were so confident (that they were avoiding civilian casualties), they shouldn’t have had a problem with a UN-sponsored fact-finding mission,” he said.
Harel is hoping that peace will eventually take hold in Israel and Palestine, but was disheartened by a suicide bombing Wednesday morning in Jerusalem that killed 17 people.
“Yesterday, I was more optimistic,” she said.
In the meantime, she has enjoyed her time in the Bay Area.
“We came out here and sat outside at a cafe and it was so nice,” she said. “In Jerusalem, you sit inside and you watch where you sit.”
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