Twenty Years After Deadly Suicide Attack in Jerusalem, Eyewitness Says Wounds Still Open

© AFP 2023 / MENAHEM KAHANAMembers of the Jewish Orthodox burial society (Zaka) stand near the covered bodies of victims of a suicide bomb attack at the entrance of a cafe in central Jerusalem 09 March 2002
Members of the Jewish Orthodox burial society (Zaka) stand near the covered bodies of victims of a suicide bomb attack at the entrance of a cafe in central Jerusalem 09 March 2002 - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.03.2022
On 9 March 2002 a Palestinian terrorist detonated himself in the midst of a crowd in a buzzing cafe, just 50 metres from the prime minister's residence in the centre of Jerusalem. Eleven people were killed and more than 60 were wounded.
Naor Yossef, a native of Jerusalem, who is now in his 50s, remembers well that cold night in March of 2002, when he arranged to meet his friend, Uri Felix, at Cafe Moment in the heart of the capital.
Back then, Cafe Moment was one of the most popular meeting places in the city. Located just 50 metres from the prime minister's official residence, it served drinks and good food. It boasted a buzzing atmosphere, and was always packed with people, especially on Saturday nights.
The ninth of March, 2002 was not an exception. "It was almost 11pm when I reached the Cafe," recalled Yossef. "I was supposed to meet Uri and his fiancee Danit, who were already inside. But when I drove by I saw that there was a huge queue and I called Uri to tell him that I would not be standing in that freezing weather to get inside."

Deadly Attack

The two agreed they would meet somewhere else, and Yossef took a U-turn to leave the place. That decision has saved his life.
At 22:30 a Palestinian terrorist entered Cafe Moment and exploded himself in the midst of the diners. Uri and Danit were killed on the spot. The two were 25 years old when they died.
Apart from the couple, nine others were killed, and more than 60 were injured.

"I heard about the explosion on the radio. I tried calling Uri but he didn't pick up, and when I reached the place it was already cordoned off. The next time I saw him was at his own funeral, when he was buried along with Danit, just two months before their wedding," recalled Yossef.

Deadliest Month

March 2002 was probably the deadliest month of the Second Intifada, a popular Palestinian uprising that kicked off in September 2000.
During that month, 105 Israeli civilians lost their lives in acts of terrorism perpetrated by Palestinians; 26 IDF soldiers were also killed. To curb that threat of terrorism, Israel launched its Defensive Shield operation that aimed at destroying the hubs of extremists in the West Bank, from which most radicals had been coming.
Within two months of the operation's launch, Israel had managed to fulfil most of its goals. Many terrorists were killed, while others were arrested. Their infrastructure was destroyed and the country moved on. Despite the interior of Cafe Moment being totally destroyed during the explosion, it was reconstructed. It got new owners and a fresh name, but eventually closed its doors.
Now, 20 years down the line, the building which once housed Cafe Moment now offers luxury apartments, but the names of the 11 victims who died at the venue are still engraved on a monument in the vicinity of the venue.
"Uri was an amazing young man, full of energy and motivation. I will always cherish the memory of him. Twenty years after the tragedy our wounds are still open," said Yossef.
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