In the five years since her passing, I have missed my Safta (grandmother) deeply. When I am in a moment of struggle, I often imagine the wise words she might have offered; I think of the joy she would feel from the accomplishments of my children; and I miss her 6:00 a.m. birthday calls from Israel for every member of my family.
Today, however, I am grateful she is no longer with us. The thought of my Safta having to relive the worst nightmare of her life -- as Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, one of the women who planted the bomb that killed her son, has resurfaced -- is not something I could bear. It's not something my dad and his two siblings should witness. That Odeh has resurfaced after years of hiding her true identity and now has hundreds of followers and supporters who are unaware of (or worse, don't care) what she did is sheer agony. That she served only 10 years of her life sentence before being part of a prisoner swap was always painful for us. That she moved to the U.S. and became Associate Director of the Arab American Action Network, an organization which does many things including trying to combat stereotypes of Arabs, all while hiding her past is ironic and hypocritical. That she is now being called an "icon" and a "pillar of her community" by her supporters is alarming. That these supporters plan to flock to her trial on Wednesday as she is prosecuted for concealing her past criminal record in her U.S. immigration and citizenship application is deplorable.
To her supporters I ask: At what point will you acknowledge her past and her crimes?
Ayesha Oudeh, Rasmieh Yousef Odeh's sister or "comrade," has spoken about both of their involvement in the bombing at the Supersol in Jerusalem that killed my dad's brother, Edward Joffe and his best friend, Leon Kanner. She has spoken about it in detail in front of cameras for all of us to see in the documentary Women in Struggle. Ayesha Oudeh even had a smirk when describing her clever plan. She said, "Rasmiyeh Odeh was more involved than I was [in the grocery store bombing] ... I only got involved during the preparation of explosives. We wanted to place two bombs to blow up consecutively. I suggested to have the second bomb go off five or six minutes after the first bomb so that those who get killed in it would be members of the army and secret service, but it did not explode. They diffused it 20 seconds before it exploded." The two women also planted two other bombs at the British Consulate in Jerusalem. One was found and detonated and the other only caused structural damage.
To Odeh's supporters I ask again: Do you condone this kind of violence?
I long for peace in the region and believe in a two-state solution. I know that there is tremendous pain on both sides. Many people on both sides have lost loved ones as we have. If Rasmieh Yousef Odeh was tortured in prison as she claims, I find that horrific and unacceptable. I do not condone that kind of violence. The turmoil in the region, the complexity of the history and the stories of the Palestinian and Israeli people are not black and white. But this particular story is black and white.
On Friday, Feb. 21, 1969, my dad's brother, Edward Joffe, and his best friend, Leon Kanner, went to the supermarket Supersol at the intersection of Agron and Hamelech George in Jerusalem to make some purchases for a botany department excursion. As they approached the meat counter, an explosive device, a biscuit can filled with five kilograms of dynamite, which had been placed there by Rasmieh Yousef Odeh and Ayesha Oudeh, was suddenly detonated, and Eddie and Leon were both instantly killed.
And so again I ask the supporters of Rasmieh Yousef Odeh: At what point will you stop defending her?