Ticking Bomb

What made a young lawyer from Jenin enter a packed restaurant and blow herself up, killing 20 people and wounding dozens of others? The story of Hanadi Jaradat, the bomber from Maxim restaurant in Haifa, combines a tough family situation, religious zealotry - and revenge.

Four months ago, Hanadi Jaradat stood over the freshly dug grave of her brother Fadi and vowed to avenge his death. "Your blood will not have been shed in vain," she is quoted as saying by the Jordanian daily Al-Arab al-Yum. "The murderer will yet pay the price and we will not be the only ones who are crying." Weeping bitterly, she added: "If our nation cannot realize its dream and the goals of the victims, and live in freedom and dignity, then let the whole world be erased."

Two weeks ago, Jaradat made good on her terrible promise. She erased the world of dozens of Israeli men, women, children and infants, and many people are indeed crying: the Zer Aviv family, the Almog family, and all the relatives and friends of the dead and the wounded from the terrorist attack at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa. Once again the question arises: What makes a 29-year-old lawyer, an educated woman with a good salary whose whole life was ahead of her, enter a packed restaurant at 2 P.M. on a Saturday and blow herself up with the sole purpose of killing as many total strangers as possible, none of whom had ever done anything to her?

The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the "Jerusalem Battalions," which dispatched Jaradat on her deadly mission, provided its official answer to that question. The organization termed Hanadi Jaradat the "bride of Haifa" and declared: "The `wedding' in Haifa will teach the Zionists an unforgettable lesson."

Cousins and other relatives of the suicide bomber, who were interviewed in the Arab press, supplied an additional answer: "She carried out the attack in revenge for the killing of her brother and her cousin by the Israeli security forces and in revenge for all the crimes Israel is perpetrating in the West Bank in killing Palestinians and expropriating their land."

Jaradat's father, Taisir, who is said to have had a special emotional bond with his eldest daughter, told Al-Jazeera television: "My daughter's action reflected the anger that every Palestinian feels at the occupation. The occupation did not have mercy on my son Fadi, her brother. They killed him even though he was not a wanted person, they murdered him in cold blood before Hanadi's eyes."

Taisir Jaradat said he was proud of what his daughter had done, and he asked those who wanted to pay condolence calls not to bother: "I will accept only congratulations for what she did," he told his interviewers. "This was a gift she gave me, the homeland and the Palestinian people. Therefore, I am not crying for her. Even though the most precious thing has been taken from me."

Killing of the beloved

Hanadi was the eldest of the nine children of Taisir and Rahmah Jaradat. She was born in the village of Silath al-Haratiyah, near Jenin. Until two weeks ago, her family lived a neighborhood in the eastern part of the city. Immediately after the attack, the family packed their belongings and fled from the house, fearing that the Israeli forces would demolish it. And, following the usual pattern, the army indeed arrived the next day and razed the house to the ground.

Hanadi's parents, brothers and sisters are now scattered in the homes of neighbors and relatives in Jenin. Their close relatives live in Silath al-Haratiyah, but the curfew that was imposed in the territories during the Jewish holiday period prevented them from coming to Jenin to console the family. Taisir Jaradat, who is 55, is unwell. For years he worked as a construction laborer and was barely able to provide for his family. The family lived in a small house, which, according to a cousin of Hanadi's, was not theirs but was rented. Hulod, 27, Hanadi's sister, is married and lives in Jordan; three other sisters, Fadiya, 25, Bishan, 21 and Tahrir, 19, are unmarried and live at home. Tahrir, though, is engaged and will soon be married. Fadi, the brother who was killed four months ago during an operation by Israeli army undercover troops in Jenin, was 24 at the time of his death. Also living with the parents are two younger sons, Ahad, 16, and Tha'er, 15, and a daughter, Imjad, 13.

Hanadi Jaradat's first encounter with the brutal realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict occurred eight years ago. She was 21, and according to her cousin, there was talk at the time that she would soon become engaged and marry. The intended was Abed al-Rahim Jaradat, a distant cousin. According to the rumors, Hanadi was in love with him and he with her; the parents on both sides had already agreed on everything between them. But before the engagement took place, he was killed in an encounter with the Israeli security forces.

Her life then took a different turn. She remained at home and helped provide for the family. Another cousin, an Israeli citizen residing in Galilee - who asks that he not be identified by name for fear of his safety - says that Hanadi was exceptional in the family in many respects. She was impressive, polished, very intelligent, sharp, devoted and loyal. Of all the daughters, she was also the most religious, never failing to dress modestly and spending much time in prayer and in reading the Koran.

"She read the Koran from start to finish six times," he says. "Every devout Muslim can appreciate that."

A few years ago, her father fell ill with cancer. He was hospitalized and treated in Jordan and his condition improved, but only temporarily: within a few months there was a regression. He stopped working. As usual in such circumstances, the burden of providing for the family fell on the eldest son. Fadi worked at whatever jobs he could find and was helped out by the eldest sister, Hanadi.

Hanadi's ambition was to attend university. She decided to study law in Jordan, where her sister lives, and Fadi paid for her to attend Philadelphia University in Amman. She graduated two years ago, articled for a year and then got a job in a law office in Jenin. Her future contribution as a provider for the family was expected to be highly significant.

Her relatives offer different versions about the final period of her life. One relative thinks she found the time to start thinking about herself again, about her personal future, perhaps with the idea of meeting someone, marrying and raising a family of her own. After all, she was already 29, a very advanced age for a single woman in the Palestinian society. However, before she had a chance to act, her brother was killed. Other relatives say she never thought about herself for a minute: She had no plans to marry, had no one in mind and never even talked about the idea. The only thing that mattered to her was the family. After Fadi's death, she became the breadwinner and she devoted herself solely to that goal.

Canceled wedding

A few months before he was killed, Fadi Jaradat became engaged to 18-year-old Abir Jaradat. The approaching wedding delighted and strengthened the ailing father. He underwent additional treatments in Jordan, but relatives say there was constant concern that he would not be able to hold on until the event. Fadi therefore decided to speed things up: The wedding was set for June 16 of this year. The preparations were at their height, the bride already had a gown and the groom had a suit, the rings were bought, the food was arranged and invitations were sent out.

Three days before the date set, on the night between June 12 and 13, the family was in the courtyard of the house. Salah Jaradat, Fadi's cousin and a member of Islamic Jihad, came to visit his pregnant wife, Ismath, and their two-year-old son, who were living there. Salah had long been on the Israeli security forces' wanted list, living in the underground and staying constantly on the move. The little boy was playing, and Fadi was having a conversation with Dalah. Hanadi and her sister went into the house and came back with coffee.

The events that occurred in the next few minutes were described by Hanadi in the interview to Al-Arab al-Yum, which was published the day after her brother was killed: "We were sitting together. Everything was normal, natural. Salah, who was a wanted person, hadn't seen his wife and his son in a long time. The army pursued him all the time on the charge that he was a fighter, a commander in the Jerusalem Battalions. They went into his house in Silath al-Haratiyah many times, looking for him. He started to play with the boy and kiss him. We were drinking coffee. Then we saw a white car with Arab license plates drive up slowly and stop next to the house. I thought they were friends of Fadi. Suddenly two men got out of the car and started shooting at Salah. I saw Salah lying on the ground. Then suddenly another car pulled up and people started shooting from it, too.

"We all lay on the ground. Salah's wife threw herself on the boy, to protect him. My brother Fadi fell on the floor and I saw that he was bleeding. I grabbed his hand and started to drag him to the sofa, to hide him behind it. I was screaming, `Fadi! Salah!' I heard Fadi barely speaking, saying `Save me. Save me.' Then one of the soldiers came and attacked me. He threw me with force onto the floor, pulled Fadi's hand out of mine and told me, `Get into the house or I'll kill you.' I shouted to them, `Leave me alone, I want to save my brother. He's wounded, bleeding.'

"Fadi was still breathing. Salah lay motionless. I saw that he had been hit in the head. Three of the soldiers spoke fluent Arabic. One of them asked me, `Where is Fadi's weapon?' I said, `I don't know. He doesn't even have a weapon.' I saw my brother lying there. `Allah akbar aleikum, he'll die,' I said. They made me lie down facing the ground and one of them said, `You bitch, you terrorist, we'll kill you along with them.' They aimed their weapons at my head. Then one of them said to the others, `Drag them [Salah and Fadi] and put one on top of the other.' Those words drove me out of my mind. I said, `You're terrorists, dogs, leave them alone.' I tried to get up, but they knocked me down again. They dragged Salah and Fadi a few meters and then shot them again. They killed them in cold blood.

"The purpose of that operation was to liquidate the fighter Salah and his cousin Fadi. They could have arrested them, because they surprised us and surrounded the house, so none of us could have escaped. Why did they start shooting straight off? Even after Fadi was wounded they could have arrested him, but they went on shooting to make sure he was dead. When we got the bodies back, I saw that they shot him in every part of his body. That completely finished my father. It paralyzed him. He was getting ready for his son's wedding, and instead he was informed that Fadi was dead. That's a blow he will not recover from. I am very sad. Since the moment I saw my brother's blood, I have felt very bad. But the goal of liberating Palestine is bigger and more important than my private pain. And I have to be happy that I received my beloved brother as a shaheed [martyr]."

`They tried to flee'

The Israel Defense Forces spokesman: "Salah Jaradat is a relative of Anas Jaradat, who was head of Islamic Jihad in Jenin and who prepared and sent the perpetrators of the terrorist attack at the Karkur junction, in which 14 Israeli civilians were killed and 28 wounded; and the attack at Meggido Junction, in which 17 Israelis were killed and 42 wounded."

Troops from the Duvdevan undercover unit arrested Anas Jaradat in Jenin on May 11, 2003. The following, according to the IDF spokesperson, are the circumstances in which Salah and Fadi Jaradat were killed, about a month later: "During activity of a Border Police undercover unit aimed at arresting Salah Jaradat, a senior Islamic Jihad activist who was involved in an attempt to infiltrate a booby-trapped car into Israel, the wanted individual tried to flee from the place along with Fadi Jaradat, who was also wanted, as an accomplice of Salah Jaradat. After Salah Jaradat pulled a pistol in an attempt to attack the force, the force carried out the procedure to arrest a suspect, at the conclusion of which Salah Jaradat was killed. Fadi Jaradat was wounded in the course of the activity, after refusing to stop and surrender. Fadi Jaradat received medical treatment from the IDF's medical forces, but died of his wounds afterward."

The Shin Bet security service version is slightly different: "Salah Jaradat was killed in an encounter with an IDF force on June 12, 2003. In the period preceding his death, he served as head of Islamic Jihad in the Jenin area, and was engaged in planning and executing terrorist attacks. Fadi Jaradat was killed in the course of the activity to arrest Salah Jaradat."