Israel Story

Sbarro—20 Years Later

On Aug. 9, 2001, 22-year-old Izz al-Din al-Masri blew himself up at a Sbarro branch in Jerusalem, killing 15 Israelis and injuring over 130. This particular attack is still etched in the collective memory. This week, we visit those most affected by the tragedy.

December 31, 2021

Israel has, unfortunately, witnessed many terror attacks throughout its history. But few are as memorable as the Sbarro suicide bombing. Why? Perhaps it was the five members of the Schijveschuurder family who were killed together, or the seven children who lost their lives in an instant. Perhaps it was the centrality of the pizzeria on the corner of King George and Jaffa streets in downtown Jerusalem, or the vile and unrepentant glee expressed by the attack’s mastermind, Ahlam al-Tamimi. Whatever the reason, the memory of this particular act of terrorism remains—to many Israelis—uniquely vivid and painful. Two decades after the day that shook the nation, we set out to explore how those who lost their loved ones have coped with the gaping hole left in their lives.

Prologue: “The Blast.” On the morning of Aug. 9, 2001—the day of the attack—host Mishy Harman, then 18, was enlisted into the IDF. He was therefore far away when, shortly before 2 p.m., all hell broke loose at the pizza joint he often frequented. On Aug. 9, 2021, he returned to the site of the blast.

Act I: “The Victims.” Sbarro was so crowded on that fateful Thursday afternoon that 18-year-old shift manager Tehila Maoz decided to open a third cash register to move the line ahead. Michal Raziel, Malki Roth, Shoshana Greenbaum, Yocheved Shoshan, and many others had the horrible luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Over the summer, Danna Harman visited the grieving parents, siblings, and spouses left behind, and asked what happens in the aftermath of such a violent and shocking tragedy. How does life continue once the middle-of-the-night funerals, the days of shiva, and the unstoppable crying all come to an end—once the media coverage wanes and the country moves on to the next story? Where did they park their grief? Their anger? Their confusion? And how do they make sense of it all?

Act II: “The Perpetrator.” Many thoughts raced through Elhanan Miller’s head as he made his way to Aqabah, a small village not far from Nablus, to visit the family of suicide bomber Izz al-Din al-Masri. Why was he, an Orthodox rabbi and the neighbor of one of the Sbarro victims, even doing this? What was he hoping to hear? As a journalist, he could justify the need to hear all sides of a story. But as a human, as an Israeli, things weren’t so simple.

Yochai Maital produced this episode. Zev Levi scored and sound-designed the episode with music from Blue Dot Sessions. Sela Waisblum created the mix. Thanks to our dubbers—Noa Bar, Gal Klein, and Dor Gil—as well as to Nuha Musleh, Daniel Estrin, Eliana Sagarin, Sarah Zalta, Wayne Hoffman, Kurt Hoffman, Sheila Lambert, Erica Frederick, Jeff Feig, and Joy Levitt.

The end song, “Atzuv Lamut Be’emtza Ha’Tammuz” (“It Is Sad to Die in the Middle of Tammuz”) was written and composed by Naomi Shemer and sung by Nurit Galron.

Listen to the episode here, or download it from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or Spotify. You can hear all of Israel Story’s episodes in English here and in Hebrew here.

More Israel Story
See all