On this day: Rachel Levy killed

March 29 2002: Suicide bombing in Jerusalem


Just days after 25 people were killed as they sat down for seder in the Park Hotel in Netanya, a 17-year-old Israeli girl went on a routine trip to the supermarket. Her visit to the Kiryat Yovel neighbourhood of Jerusalem that Friday afternoon coincided with that of another teenage girl, one named Ayat al-Akhras.

Al-Akhras was one of two Palestinian suicide bombers to strike that day and is thought to be the youngest ever. When she detonated the explosives hidden on a belt around her waist, she ended the lives of Levy and Haim Smadar, a 55-year-old security guard. Twenty-eight others were injured.

Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades later claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack. Levy’s death captured international attention, not least because of the similar ages of the killer and victim.

In the wake of the atrocity President George W Bush said: “When an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is induced to blow herself up, and in the process kills a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the future, itself, is dying -- the future of the Palestinian people and the future of the Israeli people.”

A documentary about the attack and its impact on both girls’ mothers, To Die in Jerusalem, was made by HBO in 2007.

In total, there were 55 Palestinian suicide attacks on Israel and 220 victims in 2002 – the bloodiest year of the second intifada.

What the JC said about female suicide bombers: In the race for popular support in the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas and Islamic jihad understood that they, too, would have to bend the rules. They, too, would need to include women as weapons in their lethal arsenal...When an apparently normal young woman turns herself into a human bomb, there is no complicity between her and her male handler. In a society steeped in fundamentalism which relegates women to a status inferior to that of men, double standards don't disappear even within the context of martyrdom.

See more from the JC archives here.

    Last updated: 10:46am, March 29 2011