Saturday, March 28, 2015

Remembering The Passover Massacre

Passover Massacre 2002: An Israeli child struggles for his life.
There would be no Passover questions, no 
hidden matzah. Photo: Reuters
By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem---From April 2004 - Upated March 28, 2015 .... It was 13 years ago and the days before Passover in Israel were not much different than today.

With only two real differences. Iran is close to acquiring a nuclear weapon. US President Barack Obama, who has not missed an opportunity to attack Israel and it's Prime Minister, is allowing Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Obama is also now demanding that Israel withdraw to suicidal 1967 borders. To make peace with Palestinians (Hamas) who have turned down every peace offer made to them.
To make peace with those who gave us the Passover Massacre.

Thirteen years ago, Israel was under cloudless skies, sun drenched streets, birds chirping as the Spring weather began to smile. The summer's intense sauna was ahead of us, and the winter's steady, freezing rain has just passed.  Israeli shopping centers and Internet chat rooms were abuzz with Israelis discussing Passover recipes, cleaning tips
 vacations up north.

My new born daughter Amanda and I had just arrived at my in-law's home for Passover dinner in Netanya.

As we stood around the carpeted living room sharing compliments and jokes as last minute Passover table preparations were being made, we heard a crack of thunder.

This was not unusual. There was a slight drizzle coming down as we parked the car minutes earlier.

Thunder storms are still generous in Israel's March before we enter the seven months of endless days of sun.  Then we heard an ambulance siren. Again nothing usual about that either, there are an abundance of nursing homes mixed in with the hotels marking Netanya's seafront. A second and third siren screamed passed our building. 

The TV was turned on and we heard the first reports of what is known today as the Passover Massacre.

In one of the most brutal terrorist attacks sustained by Israel, an Islamic suicide terror bomber from the Hamas terrorist organization walked into Netanya's Park Hotel on March 27, 2002. He strode passed the reception desk and calmly walked into the main dining hall. As elderly Jews and children were sitting over matza and chicken soup, the terrorist detonated a lethal charge, murdering 30, and wounding 140. 

The dead included babies, grandmothers and six married couples.

It was 7:30 p.m. and I had to make a judgment call, leave my family at the start of this festive family meal or cover another terror attack in Israel.
I struggled with the decision, my family kept saying don't go. But I really had no choice.

When I arrived on the scene, which was two blocks away, there were about a dozen ambulances caring for the wounded.

Five dismembered and blood soaked bodies lay covered with blue and grey blankets outside on the hotel's sidewalk. Many of the guests who had survived the terror attack and were being rushed to nearby hospitals were still dressed in their holiday best; the women in festive dresses, the men in white shirts and dark pants.

Shreds of glass were sprinkled throughout the ground. The hotel lobby and the second floor of the hotel had all of its windows blown out. The only thing moving were the torn, white window curtains twisting in the cool wind.

A large pool of water created by the hotel's safety sprinkler system and broken water pipes filled the reception area.

But this was not ground zero - broken glass and water were only a prelude to the horror which was about 50 feet passed the front desk, the burned and
blood stained remains of a festive Passover dining room. White tables and
chairs were thrown several feet into the air, landing against the hotel wall
Unopened bottles of Passover wine and colorful flowers now littered the

An eerie, death filled quiet had settled in where moments before there was laughter, life and hope.

People were walking out of the hotel in a silent daze, all frozen in shock.

One elderly man walked slowly down the street with no apparent direction
wearing a blue dress suit with blood spilling out of his grey hair.
"I saw little children, bodies. And I want to say something to the Arab
leaders in Beirut. This is not resistance. This is murder. This is terrorism
it's most purest form" Natanya Mayor Miriam Feyerberg was telling the TV

Among the dead and wounded in the bombing were entire families, Israelis and
foreign Jews visiting from abroad for the holiday. The force of the blast devastated the dining hall, knocked down the facade of the hotel lobby,
shredded the paneled ceiling inside and crumpled cars parked on the street

Nichama Donenhirsch, a guest at the hotel, said that as she and her family
fled, they saw a little girl, about 10 to 12 years old, lying dead on the
ground, her eyes wide open as if in surprise.

Some of the wounded staggered out of the lobby, which was plunged into
darkness by the explosion. Others were taken to ambulances in stretchers, including a young boy who had an oxygen mask pressed to the face. One elderly man was covered by a blue blanket, blood dripping from his face. An elderly woman, her face covered with blood, sat on the sidewalk, attended to by several people.

The Park Hotel is located directly opposite the city square and on a hill overlooking the beach. There are several other hotels in this residential area of Netanya.

The mutilated bodies of murdered Israel men, women and children, who minutes earlier were celebrating a Passover meal, lay lined up outside the Park Hotel in Netanya.

As police arrived they started to create a perimeter, a safety area as police sappers began searching for additional explosives. About one hour after the attack took place, Israeli security forces discovered that explosives had been placed inside one of the many ambulances at the scene.

Immediately all of the ambulances and rescue workers were evacuated.

Mayor Miriam Feyerberg spoke with me and stated that Israelis must remain strong. That we all must continue with our lives, go to work, continue shopping, visit restaurants, otherwise the terrorists would win. 

"In recent days, these terrorist groups have begun describing their actions as acts of
resistance', but resistance is not blowing up children and babies,"
Feyerberg said. "As the Arab leaders are talking peace in Beirut, their
associates are committing some of the worst acts of barbarism ever witnessed
in present history. The Israeli government will not swallow this. The same
people who destroyed New York's World Trade Center are the same one's
responsible for tonight's atrocity." 

When the bomb exploded tonight, the Mayor had been attending a Seder - with mothers of the victims of last summer's (2001) bombing in Tel Aviv.

Over 62 people were rushed to Laniado Hospital, 15 in serious condition
among them a 45-year-old man and a 5-year-old boy, both with head injuries, who were later moved from Laniado to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.

Hospitals were overwhelmed, setting up triage in their synagogues and
shuffling the less seriously wounded to their cafeterias. As is usually the
case, the bomb contained nails and other metal pieces to enhance its lethal

Another 33 of the injured were taken to Meir Hospital in Kava Sava, two of them in serious condition.

Israel accused Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat of doing nothing
to rein in terrorists. Raanan Gissin, a Sharon adviser, said the attack in Netanya "will require us to reevaluate our overall policy. We are still working to achieve a cease-fire to which we are fully committed, but if the Palestinians have decided to choose the road of terrorism ... then we have to decide what measures we will take," Gissin said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell had urged Arafat to go on television and
demand an end to attacks against Israelis. The attacks endanger any
negotiations toward a Palestinian state, Powell said.
"This sort of activity and the tolerance of this sort of activity will
destroy the very vision the Palestinian Authority stands for and Chairman
Arafat says he's committed to," Powell said in Washington.

The 2002 massacre in Netanya came just hours after Saudi Crown Prince
Abdullah presented a new peace initiative at the Arab summit in Beirut,
offering Israel normal relations with the Arab world in exchange for a
complete withdrawal from the territories it occupied in the 1967 Mideast war

Israeli police had been on high alert for possible attacks during the
Passover holiday, with more than 10,000 officers deployed in potential
trouble spots.

The country's police commissioner, Shlomo Aharonishki, said it was
impossible to prevent all attacks. "Even with more policemen and a broader
deployment, we cannot block the centers of the cities,'' he said. "This attack is more evidence of that.''

Police and IDF roadblocks had been set up throughout the country with
increased patrols within both commercial and residential areas after the
Passover Massacre.

The mood in Israel had turned from festive Passover joy to depression and anger.

Many Israelis who once held out hopes that a breakthrough peace agreement might still be within reach, were eating matzah in March 2002 with salt in a more realistic and pragmatic environment.

It takes two willing parties to negotiate a peace agreement and Israelis have no plans to make a second Exodus here in the Middle-East.

After the Passover Massacre bombing, President Bush called on Arafat once
again to do all in his power to stop the escalating cycle of bloodshed.
This callous, this cold-blooded killing must stop. I condemn it in the
strongest terms. I call upon Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to do
everything in their power to stop the terrorist killing because there are
people in the Middle East who would rather kill than have peace," Bush said
during a stop in Atlanta. 

In Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Colin Powell formally labeled an Arafat-linked militia a terrorist organization yesterday. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a branch of Arafat's Fatah organization, has claimed responsibility the week before for a suicide
bombing at a Jerusalem shopping mall that killed two and injured more than

If Hamas, Hezbolah, Islamic Jihad and Fatah believe that they can wear down
the Israeli people - then don't know the Israeli Sabra and his resolve. As
Americans became stronger after September 11th, Israelis have also closed
political and religious ranks and prepared for measures which will prevent
future terror attacks. Those measures in the Spring of 2002 took the form of
the IDF's Operation Defensive Shield.

Today, Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz announced during the government
cabinet session that the closure imposed on Judea, Samaria and the Gaza
Strip will last until after Independence Day. Mofaz added that security
authorities have decided on a series of preventative measures to thwart
terror attacks, including increased pressure on terror hubs, particularly in

The army and security services have once again gone on high alert in
anticipation of the Passover holidays. Defense sources report 50 warnings of
possible terrorist attacks, some in revenge for the assassination of Hamas
leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin two weeks ago.

The IDF has imposed a closure on the Gaza Strip for the duration of the
holiday. The Israeli border passes at Karni and Erez have closed down to
workers, but will enable the passage of merchandise. The Erez industrial
park will continue operating during the holiday. Authorities repeat that all
humanitarian aid will continue to flow into the West Bank and Gaza.

Thousands of policemen, border police, IDF troops and civil guard volunteers
will safeguard the borders, entertainment places and recreation sites over the holiday. Security in synagogues, hotels and West Bank settlements will also be beefed up with troops and technological auxiliaries.

Israeli police are beefing up security in shopping malls, market places and
other crowded places. Police also intend to set up more road barriers and
intensify its search for illegal Palestinian workers.

As Israel readies for this 2004 Passover, the news headlines are filled with
"Russia Condemns Israel's Threat Against Arafat" and "US Tells Israel Not to
Harm Arafat." The Passover Massacre did not take place in Washington or

Israel in it's war against terrorism, killed Hamas master terrorist Achmed

Yassin was responsible for the murders of 377 Israelis in at least 425
terrorist attacks over the past three-and-a-half years of the Palestinian
Authority's war against Israel. Among the most devastating attacks Hamas has
claimed responsibility for were the Park Hotel Passover Massacre in Netanya
on March 27, 2002; 29 killed, a suicide bombing of the number 2 bus coming
from Jerusalem's Western Wall on Aug. 19, 2003; 23 killed, including three
children and two babies; a suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium discotheque
in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2001; 22 killed, mostly teens; a suicide bombing of
Sbarro's in Jerusalem on Aug. 9, 2001; 15 killed, including five members of
the same family - three children and their parents; a suicide bombing of the
Matza restaurant in Haifa on March 31, 2002; 15 killed, including two
fathers each with his two children and the list goes on.

On Passover night we traditionally ask at the Passover dining table: 
"Why is this night different from any other night?"

We must now remember - it's not.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Israel President Rivlin Appoints Netanyahu With Forming New Government

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency
Jerusalem, Israel — March 26, 2015 … Part of the following was communicated by the President’s Office of Israel to the Israel News Agency.
President of Israel Reuven Rivlin has appointed outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu MK, with the task of forming the 34th Government of Israel, at a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.  The President signed the official letter of appointment in his office with Prime Minister Netanyahu, before making public statements.
“In democracy, majority rules, and the majority has made its voice heard clearly in this election,” said President Rivlin. “The role of the President in the election is to serve as a trustee of the public.  Having consulted with representatives of all the elected parties, I hereby announce that more than sixty-one Members of Knesset, have recommended the outgoing Prime Minister, Member of Knesset Benjamin Netanyahu, as the chosen candidate for the task of forming a government.”
“Sir, you receive today the appointment of forming the government. You have been awarded the trust, of this dear people, ‘the dwellers of Zion’.  With the current challenges which lie before us, upon you rests the heavy responsibility to build a stable, and as inclusive as possible government, and as soon as can be achieved.  We stand behind you, as you embark upon this important, and complex task.
Three critical missions lie before the incoming government and Knesset – the coalition and the opposition alike.  The first is the issue of the relationship between Israel and the United States, the most important of our allies.  The second is to return stability to the political system, and the rebuilding of public confidence in it.  We must not go back to elections in another two years.  And the third is healing the wounds, mending the painful rifts, which have gaped open in the past years, and widened further in the course of this recent election.”
The President continued: “Citizens of Israel, we have endured a difficult election period.  In the heat of our differences, it seems our sense of hearing has been dulled.  From every direction, things were said which ought not to have been said.  Not in a Jewish state, and not in a democratic state.  Fanning the flames serves no one.  The fire doesn’t only heat, it threatens to engulf in flames.  Today is the time to begin to heal these wounds.  It is a time to begin the task of mending the rifts.  We must be prepared, for more difficult times which may well come.  In order for us to be able to fight for our home, we must continue to build it together, all the citizens of Israel.  This responsibility rests on all our shoulders, and it rests on your shoulders, Mr. Prime Minister.  Together with all the Israeli people, I pray for your success.  I pray that your hand should be steady and your spirit strong.  Your success, is our success.  Your achievements, are our achievements.”
The Prime Minister responded: “I accept upon myself, with a deep sense of responsibility, the task of forming the government, which has been bestowed upon me.”
“I am moved, and aware of the magnitude of this responsibility.  I view myself as Prime Minister of each and every citizen of Israel.  I will act to mend the rifts which have opened up between different segments of society during the election.  We must put the election behind us, and focus on that which we have in common.  This is the way of a Jewish, democratic state, which maintains the rights of its citizens regardless of their faith, race or sex.  So it has always been, and so it always will be.”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Netanyahu Visits Wounded Israel Border Police

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — March 12, 2015 … Part of the following was communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office to the Israel News Agency.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Border Police Headquarters in Jerusalem and met with the Border Police officers who were wounded in last Friday’s terrorist attack and the officers and security guards who were involved in neutralizing the terrorist.
Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino, Jerusalem District Police Commander Moshe Edri, Jerusalem Border Police Commander Amos Yaakov and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also attended the meeting.
 Prime Minister Netanyahu made the following remarks:
“I came here today to note the activity of the security forces on duty in Jerusalem, and to commend the fighters who, in recent weeks, have – time and again – foiled attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks in our capital city.
In the end, the test is upon the person himself, the same police officers and the security guard who, at the decisive moment, simply did the work.
 The eyes of the entire world are on Jerusalem, our capital city. There are those who are trying to undermine it. There are those who are trying to ignite a religious war here. The sensitivity, wisdom and responsibility of the commanders, soldiers, security personnel and citizens is critical in order to maintain security in the city and prevent the same conflagration that extremist Islam is igniting throughout the Middle East.”
Netanyahu concluded: “This mission is very complex and I would like to thank those who are involved in the matter – the Police Commissioner, the Mayor of Jerusalem, the Israel Border Police commander, the police personnel, the volunteers and all of the fighters.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Israel News Agency Covering US Congress, Netanyahu Speech -

By Israel News Agency

This is the second of two photos Joel Leyden shot at Congress moments before Netanyahu spoke. 
As print media, we were told not to use our cameras. But Leyden did grab this piece of history before being told not to by the House / Senate Logistics team.
How was it being there? Totally awesome. 

Proud to be an Israeli! — in Washington, District of Columbia.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Obama Advocates Free Speech At Selma But Forbids Jews Same Right in Washington

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency
Jerusalem, Israel — March 7, 2015 … US President Barack Obama spoke today in Selma, Alabama. Obama marked 50 years since 600 protesters speaking out against discrimination and demanding greater freedom and security faced off with Alabama state police .
The same Barack Obama used every PR asset in his office to silence Jews who arrived in Washington 4 days ago. Jews who came to protest  against a terror state – Iran – which is developing a nuclear weapon. Iran which has vowed to annihilate every Jew in Israel.
Obama called upon his Vice President and Secretary of State and every member of the democratic party to boycott a speech by a Jew spoken on behalf of all Jews. We are not talking about an enemy state, such as Iran which uses mock US Navy ships to fire at, but the elected Prime Minister of the most trusted ally of the US – Israel.
Obama, in trying to silence and discredit the Jew from Jerusalem and a Jew who survived Auschwitz, went as far as having his national security adviser Susan Rice describe Netanyahu’s speech  as “destructive” to the relationship between the United States and Israel.
In a recent news poll 84 percent of Americans have described the possible Obama deal with Iran as a ‘bad idea’. The US-Israel relationship has never been stronger!
Why would Obama want to silence Jews warning the world of a “bad deal” being made with Iran? Was it for the same reason that Franklin Roosevelt dismissed the Jews around him, warning him of a Holocaust in Europe?
Free speech is fine in Selma,
but for Jews in Washington – not.
King Obama does not like to be criticized. And many think twice before saying one word in friendly disagreement with Obama. As for the Jews – the Jews of Israel who face thousands of missiles and a nuclear threat by Iran – they do and will continue to speak up.
Obama cried foul. He said that Netanyahu had “breached protocol”.
Netanyahu never breached protocol. In fact, Netanyahu advised the White House of his speech to Congress before the speech was given and even the New York Times admitted that there was no breach.
But even if there was a breach of protocol, what is more important – protocol or nuclear weapons in the hands of Islamic terrorists?
Who were these Jews who came to warn the US and the world of a second Holocaust?
They were many.
They came in the thousands to the AIPAC conference. Over 16,000 Jews stood in solidarity with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace prize winner Elie Wiesel.
Obama was proud today to be among fellow blacks in the deep South speaking out for freedom and security.
Obama should respect Israel’s Prime Minister and Elie Wiesel when they speak out for freedom and security.
“As prime minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons that would be aimed at the State of Israel,” Netanyahu declared before his speech to Congress.
“This effort is worldwide and I will go anywhere I am invited in order to enunciate the State of Israel’s position and in order to defend its future and its existence.” 
In finishing his speech at Congress, which was standing room only and had over 26 standing ovations, Netanyahu looked up and pointed to  Elie Wiesel in the gallery: “And I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Not to sacrifice the future for the present; not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.”
“But I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over.”
The Jews of Israel will abide by Obama’s words today in Selma: “We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won.”
We are not fighting against discrimination.
We are fighting for our very survival.
We will not be passive.
Further material by Joel Leyden can be found here: