Twenty years after deadly Palestinian terror attack at Jerusalem’s Sbarro restaurant, survivors donate delivery room in memory of murdered family members

There is hardly an Israeli over 30 who doesn’t remember what happened in the center of Jerusalem on August 9, 2001, two decades ago. Fifteen people were murdered in a Palestinian terror attack on the Jerusalem branch of the Sbarro pizza restaurant in the center of town. The victims included seven children and a pregnant woman, and 130 others were wounded.

A third of the victims were Mordechai and Tzira Schijveschuurder, both children of Holocaust survivors, along with three of their children. Two other daughters, Leah, 11, and Chaya, eight, were critically injured. 

The family with the unpronounceable name was Dutch. During the Holocaust, Tzira’s parents were in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Two of the dead, 15-year-old Malki Roth and Shoshana Greenbaum, who was pregnant at the time, were US citizens. Chana Nachenberg remains hospitalized today in a permanent vegetative state; she was 31 years old at the time of the bombing, and her daughter, who was two years old at the time, was one of the few in the restaurant who came through the disaster without injury.

At the time of the bombing, the Jerusalem branch of the Sbarro restaurant chain was located at the corner of King George Street and Jaffa Road, one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the region. 

Ahlam Tamimi, who was charged as an accomplice, scouted for a target before leading Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, the suicide bomber a 22-year-old Palestinian from a well-to-do family – to the Sbarro restaurant. They arrived just before 2:00 pm, when the restaurant was filled with customers, dozens of women, children and babies, and pedestrian traffic outside was at its peak. Tamimi departed before Al-Masri, thought to be carrying a rigged guitar case or wearing an explosive belt weighing five to 10 kilograms, containing explosives, nails, nuts and bolts, detonated his bomb. 

Chaya Schijveschuurder recalled: “The last time I saw my brother Avraham Yitzhak, he was lying on a stretcher in an ambulance. He had a bandage on his face. He was four years old. Now our parents are not alive either. But soon the Messiah will come and all the people that have died, and all the people killed in wars and terror attacks, will come back to life. We were hungry, so Mommy said we could go to a restaurant to eat. In that restaurant, you have to pay first and only afterwards you sit down to eat. When we were at the cash register, we suddenly heard an explosion. I ran out as fast as I could. I didn’t look at anything. I just ran out. A medic, I don’t know his name, took me to an ambulance and that is where I saw Avraham Yitzhak for the last time. I said to him, ‘Avraham Yitzhak.’ But he didn’t say anything. After that they took me on a stretcher to the hospital, and I had to have an operation to remove the screws that entered my liver and leg. I saw a sign on the door that said ‘Operating Room’ and started to cry. After that I didn’t see anything.” 


Tamimi, one of the key masterminds and participants in this gruesome attack, was released in October 2011 in exchange for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and is living openly and freely in Jordan, which has refused to hand her over for trial in the US. Al-Masri died in the course of the attack. 


Now, on Monday, Chaya and Meir, the now-adult children of the Schijveschuurders who survived the attack, met the staff who provided them with primary care at Bikur Cholim Hosital (which is run by Shaare Zedek Medical Center). The emotionally moving took place at Shaare Zedek at the dedication of a delivery room in memory of the family members who were murdered. 

The two siblings still remember the critical moments during which their world was turned upside down, closed a circle in the delivery rooms of Shaare Zedek. No eye remained dry with the moment of unveiling and the picture of the mother. 

The dedication ceremony with the participation of members of the Sachivshorder family was held in the presence of the director-general of the medical center, Prof. Ofer Marin; Shaare Zedek president (and at the time of the attack director-general) Prof. Jonathan Halevy; and the staff who treated the family immediately after the attack.

Hannah Samja, a nurse at Shaare Zedek, then a head nurse in the emergency room at Bikur Cholim, which is located about 200 meters from the scene of the attack, took part in providing initial treatment for the victims of the attack. “I still remember the sound of the explosion. It is an event that took place not long after the Versailles ballroom collapse where we also took a significant part in treating a large number of wounded in a short time. Meeting them today gives us a great sense of satisfaction.”

“My wife Nehama is a midwife at the hospital, and she herself gave birth at Shaare Zedek. My sister Chaya also gave birth at the hospital. Over the years, we have wanted to thank the staff and we very much appreciate and thank the hospital for the opportunity to commemorate the 14th mother and the rest of the family in the ‘natural delivery room,’” said Meir at the ceremony.

“Twenty years have passed since the most horrendous attack the city of Jerusalem has ever known,” said Merin. “Shaare Zedek staff had a significant part in treating the wounded in the attack and for the team this is also closing the circle. There is no better way to perpetuate the memory of the family than to attach the dedication to creating life. I would like to thank you on my behalf and on behalf of the hospital staff for your contribution.”

Halevy added: “You are closing the circle today at the largest obstetrics delivery center in the country, where more than 22,000 babies are born each year. We bring life into the world.”

“Nehama and Chaya, who had babies here at Shaare Zedek and brought life, symbolize how important and exciting the event is today. The special contribution of Meir and Nehama excites us greatly and there is no doubt that such a contribution is closing a circle for us as well.” added Prof. Arnon Samuelov, a senior physician in the maternal and neonatal ward at Shaare Zedek.


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