Jour­nal­ist Mike Kel­lys newest book, The Bus on Jaf­fa Road: A Sto­ry of Mid­dle East Ter­ror­ism and the Search for Jus­tice, chron­i­cles the after­math of the Hamas sui­cide bomb­ing of a com­muter bus in down­town Jerusalem on Feb. 25, 1996. The book traces the cap­ture of the key bomb-mak­er and the efforts by the fam­i­lies of two Amer­i­cans to hold Iran account­able for financ­ing the bomb­ing and train­ing the bomb-mak­er – only to dis­cov­er that the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment was try­ing to block them. He will be blog­ging here all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series.

On the morn­ing of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001, not long after the twin tow­ers of the World Trade Cen­ter had col­lapsed in a pile of twist­ed rub­ble that was sev­en sto­ries high, I leaped from a Hud­son Riv­er pier in Jer­sey City, New Jer­sey, to the deck of a tug boat. An hour lat­er, after cross­ing the chop­py Hud­son on the tug, I walked into the smoky land­scape that came to be known as Ground Zero.” Lit­tle did I know that my Hud­son Riv­er trek would even­tu­al­ly lead me to a street in Jerusalem and more rubble.

Ter­ror­ism is per­son­al. Yes, we speak of ter­ror­ism in sweep­ing, imper­son­al terms – of body counts of the dead and wound­ed, of the names of groups that claim respon­si­bil­i­ty for an attack some­where, of the geo-polit­i­cal issues that may change in the after­math. But ulti­mate­ly, ter­ror­ism is about los­ing some­one – of a sud­den, mur­der­ous death tak­ing someone’s life and leav­ing a fam­i­ly with an eter­nal hole in its col­lec­tive soul.

I knew this, of course. Cer­tain­ly, I instinc­tive­ly sensed it. (We all do, don’t we?) But it took time for me to embrace the full dimen­sion of how per­son­al ter­ror­ism could be. 

As a jour­nal­ist, I have cov­ered my share of ter­ror­ist inci­dents. But in the years after the 9/11 attacks, and as I traced the sto­ry of ter­ror­ism from Ground Zero, to South­east Asia, to the West Bank and Gaza and Israel, to Iraq and to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., I felt I was miss­ing some­thing. Yes, I had writ­ten about the larg­er issues of ter­ror­ism – of the num­bers of dead and injured, of the ris­ing num­ber of ter­ror­ist groups, of the dif­fi­cul­ties fac­ing polit­i­cal lead­ers in Amer­i­ca and else­where in deal­ing with this phe­nom­e­non. But I felt I need­ed to go deeper.

And so, I went back to a cor­ner on Jerusalem’s Jaf­fa Road, where a sui­cide bomber from the Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ist group, Hamas, det­o­nat­ed a bomb aboard a com­muter bus on the morn­ing of Feb. 25, 1996, killing 26 peo­ple and wound­ing more than 40

Two young Amer­i­cans died in that bomb­ing, Matthew Eisen­feld of West Hart­ford, C.T., and Sara Duk­er, of Tea­neck, N.J. They were in love and talk­ing of get­ting mar­ried. They are togeth­er now, eter­nal­ly buried, side-by-side, in a Con­necti­cut ceme­tery. Years lat­er, I decid­ed to return to their sto­ry. In the unfin­ished lives of Matt and Sara, I found a deep­er sto­ry of unremit­ting pain and the still unfin­ished search for jus­tice by their families. 

It was a sto­ry that took me to the streets of Jerusalem, to the Gaza Strip and to a dusty West Bank refugee camp where a 19-year-old Pales­tin­ian man (a boy actu­al­ly) was recruit­ed as a sui­cide bomber. From there, I fol­lowed the sto­ry to the White House, to the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice, to Con­gress, to the FBI, to the State Depart­ment and to a fed­er­al cour­t­house. But ulti­mate­ly, it was in the liv­ing rooms and kitchens of the fam­i­lies where I found the heart of this sto­ry – and the fact that each life tak­en by ter­ror­ism becomes a deep wound in the life of a family. 

This is the real sto­ry of ter­ror­ism – a sto­ry all too often overlooked. 

For more infor­ma­tion about The Bus on Jaf­fa Road as well as a video and an excerpt, please check out www​.mikekel​ly​writer​.com.

Relat­ed Content:

A jour­nal­ist for more than three decades, Mike Kel­ly is the author of two books and many prize-win­ning news­pa­per projects and columns for the Bergen Record in north­ern New Jer­sey. His assign­ments have tak­en him to Africa, North­ern Ire­land, Israel, Pales­tine, and Iraq. He cov­ered the 9/11 attacks, the cleanup of Ground Zero, and the 9/11 Com­mis­sion hear­ings in Wash­ing­ton, DC, and has devot­ed much of his time to cov­er­ing terrorism.